Heading out of Port Hawkesbury, you’ll work you way ’round the western side of the island, eventually ending up in Mabou – home of the Rankin family and their Red Shoe Pub, and the Glenora Inn & Distillery – Canada’s only single malt whisky producer. Rumours abound of free samples at the distillery – but keep in mind, you don’t need a whiskey-fueled crash.
Inverness is the next sizable town you’ll ride through, then at Dunvegan you take a left off the main drag to the Shore Rd. You should be noticing the area’s Scottish heritage at every turn – you’ll even see Gaelic road signs in Cape Breton. In some areas, Gaelic was still spoken as a primary language into the 20th century.
Things are getting hilly now, and in Margaree Harbour, you’ll take a left onto the Cabot Trail. It continues to get better and better from here, with stellar curves and views that no camera can do justice. If you don’t mind a bit of gravel riding, the side road down to Meat Cove at the northern end of the trail will reward you with particularly beautiful views.
Continuing down the eastern side of the Trail takes you through Ingonish, along Cape Smokey’s edge, and eventually down to the Trans-Canada. Follow that through Bras D’Or into North Sydney, then make your call – head back to Port Hawkesbury via the alternate route along Bras D’Or Lake on the Grand Narrows Highway, or keep on trucking into Sydney on the 125, for the fun stuff that’s in the eastern side of the province.
If you stay on the main leg of the DYR, you’ll head in the direction of Glace Bay (stop off at the Miners Museum), then head south on the Long Beach Rd., when you reach the end of the Donkin Highway.
Following this route will eventually land you on the shores of the Mira River, within striking distance of Fortress Louisbourg. There’s a lot to see here at this historical reconstruction of one of the New World’s most important military installations, the scene of epic battles between English and French during the 1700s. This is an absolute must-see and something that requires a full day to really appreciate.
Now that you’ve been there, bought the T-shirt (or the tricorn hat), point your bike towards Marion Bridge and the Gabarus Highway. This is a beautiful road, but deserted – there’s no food, no gas, you’re out there, so be sure to be fully fueled before you tackle it. Before long you’ll be in St. Peters, then in Port Hawkesbury, and back in the real world – unless you decide to run the DYRs in reverse on the way home …
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