bedroom upstairs, and living quarters on the ground floor include a kitchen, fireplace, hot tub, and satellite TV, so you can watch The King of Queens while you soak in front of the wood-burning fire.
The next morning, we wake up to take in the view. Intensely green hills are immediately to the right. To the left, interchanging valleys and hills extend to the horizon. The only building in sight is a church with a single tiny white spire. The idyllic scene is spoiled only by a noise that I assume emanates from the ribbon of road running in front of the property. It takes me two days to realize that I’m not hearing traffic; there is almost no traffic. I’m actually hearing MacLellan’s Brook, a spring-fed stream that runs from nearby hills a mile and a half away down into the valley and then through the Glenora property, where pot stills made in Scotland by the Forsythe company are used to produce the Glen Breton line of whiskeys. The brook is named for the family who first owned the 900 acres of farmland, cattle pasture, and apple orchard where Glenora now sits. The 85-year-old grandson of the original owner still lives near the property.
As we set out from Glenora to explore the rest of Cape Breton Island, I begin to think that the 85-year-old MacLellan is onto something. Perhaps not in February, when 10 feet of snow may block his driveway, but in the warm months, Cape Breton is fetching. That’s particularly true along the Cabot Trail, a 185-mile stretch of environmental perfectness that’s lined with hiking trails and impossibly scenic cliffs overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Driving along the trail, we happen upon a female moose feeding by the side of the road. After getting out to take some blurry snapshots -- this cameraman was afraid of getting too close -- we make a U-turn and head back, at which point a male moose crosses the road directly in front of our car. Fact: A male moose always has the right of way.
So, moose, yes. A plethora of fine restaurants and a chatty populace, no. But if Cape Breton’s restaurants tend to offer too many buffalo wings -- Glenora’s main dining room, with its whiskey-laced entrées, is an exception -- you can always cook mussels.
After some effort, I find a fish market -- actually, it’s just a shack -- on a pier at the end of a dusty road off the main drag in the town of Inverness. There, I buy a couple dozen of the Best. Mussels. Ever. They are our dinner on our final night on Cape Breton, enjoyed from our chalet’s deck. The meal is washed down with a 2006 Côte de Bras d’Or Cayuga, a white wine, from the nearby Jost winery, which supplies Glenora with the ice-wine casks for its ice-wine whiskey.
With MacLellan’s Brook babbling off in the distance, I think back to my conversation with Campbell. Mussels and a bottle of vaguely French white wine consumed from the deck of a chalet certainly does not a Scottish vacation make. No, this is uniquely Nova Scotia, uniquely Cape Breton Island. With dinner finished, and with the sun setting and fog rolling in, we toast to the trip. The beverage of choice? Some good, proud Canadian whiskey.