Experience One Hundred Thousand Welcomes at Keltic Lodge in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

by | Jul 20, 2017 | Canada, Nova Scotia | 17 comments

Keltic Lodge Road Trip

We went to Keltic Lodge because my sister worked there in the summer of 1965. We wanted to see if it has changed. It has not. Go to Keltic Lodge if you want to experience timeless rustic luxury. My sister hasn’t changed either. She was vivacious and fun in 1965 and she still is. We had a great road trip.

If you are planning to drive the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Keltic Lodge is the perfect destination for your first day. Keltic Lodge is near the fishing village of Ingonish at the eastern entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Cape Breton Island is rated the #1 Island to visit in continental North America by Travel & Leisure Magazine.

The  Cabot Trail is one of the world’s most scenic destinations, with stunning ocean vistas, old-growth forests, prehistoric rock scarred by glaciers, and the mysterious Cape Breton Highlands.

Keltic Lodge is a full service resort. Although it is located within a national park, it is owned by the Province of Nova Scotia. It is open from June through October. Generations of college students have spent idyllic summers working at Keltic Lodge since it opened in 1940. We walked past the staff residences. The only difference is that the residences are now co-ed.


Keltic Lodge will greet you with One Hundred Thousand Welcomes, Ciad Mile Failte in Gaelic

Enjoy spectacular views at Keltic Lodge

Getting to Keltic Lodge: The Cabot Trail is a 185 mile loop around the norther tip of Cape Breton Island. We drove up the eastern side. We came to a junction where we had the option to follow the Cabot Trail or take a secondary road to Englishtown, a small fishing village. My sister suggested that we take the Englishtown route because it is shorter. She said that there is a ferry that connects Englishtown to the Cabot Trail. I did not listen to her and took the Cabot Trail route instead. Big mistake! There is tons of road construction on the Cabot Trail and we were delayed several times.


Would you build a summer home here if you could? I came across an information sign while wandering around the grounds:

In 1890 while touring Cape Breton with his good friend, Alexander Graham Bell, Mr. Henry Corson, of Ohio, spotted this peninsula from Cape Smokey. He decided to build his summer home here. In 1951, the Corson home was replaced by Keltic Lodge, now owned and operated by the Government of Nova Scotia

Would you get married at Keltic Lodge?

While taking photos, I came across a wedding rehearsal party. What a fabulous site for wedding photos.

If you don’t want to venture too close to the cliffs, you can enjoy the ocean view from these red chairs

This is the main lodge at Keltic Lodge

My sister said that the main lodge has not changed since 1965.

We had dinner in the dining room. Every table has an ocean view. After dinner, we went to bar where we were entertained by a fabulous Irish singer who now lives in Halifax.

You can stay at the main lodge or in a cottage

Buddy the pug, my sister’s dog, came with us on the road trip. The cottages at Keltic Lodge are dog-friendly.

I asked my sister if the cottages are the same as in 1965. After she looked around, she said that the cottages now have TVs and air conditioners. We didn’t turn on the TV and we didn’t need the air conditioner. We opened the window and enjoyed fresh ocean breezes. It was exactly the same as 1965.

We went for a hike on Middle Head Hiking Trail

After a long car drive, I wanted to go for a walk so we followed the path to Middle Head Hiking Trail. I asked my sister if it had changed since 1965. She said she didn’t know because she did not do nature walks in 1965. Whenever she had a day off, she hitchhiked to Sydney or Baddeck.


Everywhere we went, people stopped to pat Buddy. This little girl in the above photo loved Buddy.

I am not a birder but someone on the trail said that this is a bald eagle

The Cape Breton Highlands Links Golf Course is rated as one of the top in the world

We had a great time at Highlands Links and we didn’t hit a single golf ball.

Highlands Links borders Keltic Lodge. It is managed by Keltic and shares the same website. After 4:00 o’clock, you can rent golf carts and drive the course. That was our plan … but we ran out of time. We made it as far as the statue of Stanley Thompson, the architect of Highlands Links.

The Historic Sites and Monuments plaque next to his life-size statue of Stanley Thompson reads:

A pioneer of golf course design in Canada, Stanley Thompson introduced new types of layouts and created challenging world-renowned courses. His designs combined traditional Scottish elements with innovative plans that required a more strategic game, all the while preserving and exploiting the natural terrain and creating beautiful vistas.  The Highlands Links, considered a masterpiece, is testimony to his ingenuity and artistic vision.

The Keltic Lodge website reads:

In 1939 when the National Park Service hired Stanley Thompson to design and build what he later called “the mountains and ocean” course, he told friends that it was the best contract he ever had. He was given one of the country’s most scenic and awe inspiring national parks, and had just one mandate: take advantage of it. The result is an inspired piece of architecture that has proved to be one of Thompson’s finest design achievements.

This photo was taken by a golfer who had just walked the 18 hole course

Just before we left Keltic Lodge, we stopped for a few morning photos at Highlands Links. A friendly golfer offered to take our picture together. As we chatted, we discovered that his golf partner was my sister’s former prof from 1965! He came over and we caught up on a lot of news since 1965. We didn’t expect to meet someone at Keltic Lodge who knew my sister in 1965.

The heated pool at Keltic Lodge has a fabulous view

I love an ocean swim

Our final stop was Ingonish Beach, where my sister spent countless hours in 1965. She had the best tan ever.

You can see Keltic Lodge in the distance.

These kids were having a great time in the surf.

I loved watching these kids have fun doing the same things I did as a kid

Buddy was a bit timid about getting his feet wet

Buddy dipped his paws in the ocean

These boys were collecting rocks at Ingonish Beach

There is a little cafe at Ingonish Beach, with picnic tables in the shade

This beautiful quilt is hanging in the main lodge at Keltic Lodge


I imagined that the piper is piping the unofficial Cape Breton anthem: Song for the Mira


Song for the Mira is a contemporary folk song in the Celtic style, written in 1973 by Allister MacGillivray. Its lyrics speak of a longing for the serenity of the Mira River region of Cape Breton.

There are many versions of Song for the Mira on youtube. Celtic Thunder is one of my favourites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3as9K3CSJvg

Here are the lyrics:

Song For The Mira

Out on the Mira one warm afternoon,
Old men go fishing with black line and spoon
And if they catch nothing they never complain,
I wish I was with them again.


As boys in their boats call to girls on the shore,
Teasing the one that they really adore,
And into the evening the courting begins,
I wish I was with them again.


Can you imagine a piece of the universe
more fit for princes and kings?
I’ll give you ten of your cities
for Marion bridge and the pleasure it brings


Out on the Mira on soft summer nights
Bonfires blaze to the children’s delight
They dance round the flames singing songs with their friends;
I wish I was with them again.


And over the ashes the stories are told
Of witches and werewolves and Oak Island gold
The stars on the river they sparkle and spin;
I wish I was with them again.


Can you imagine a piece of the universe
more fit for princes and kings?
I’ll give you ten of your cities
for Marion bridge and the pleasure it brings


Out on the Mira the people are kind,
They’ll treat you to home-brew and help you unwind.
And if you come broken they’ll see that you mend
I wish I was with them again.


And thus I conclude with a wish you go well,
Sweet be your dreams, may your happiness swell,
I’ll leave you here, for my journey begins,
I’m going to be with them, going to be with them,
I’m going to be with them again.

This is a close-up of the highland dancers on the quilt

With Song for the Mira in my head, it was time to leave Keltic Lodge. It was a wonderful trip to discover that some things have not changed since 1965.

On our return trip, we took the Englishtown ferry

The ferry ride was wonderful. The channel is so narrow that it looks like you could almost drive or swim across. However, the current is strong. The Englishtown ferry is a cable ferry that runs 24 hours a day. It take a couple of minutes to cross. It costs $7.00.

There was no road construction on the Englishtown route. Englishtown is very picturesque.


Our next destination was Glenora Distillery on the west coast of Cape Breton.

More on the Distillery next week!

Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at BoomerVoice.ca
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray