The west coast of Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island at Cabot Links is strikingly similar to Scotland.

James Blanchard served as United States Ambassador to Canada in the mid 1990’s after a term as Michigan’s Governor. As Ambassador, the former Congressman didn’t stay ensconced in the embassy in Ottawa. He loved traveling the great white north, and returned recently to Nova Scotia.

“Halifax is like Boston 100 years ago but with the modern conveniences,” says Blanchard. “Nova Scotia is a piece of old Scotland. The people are friendly. I love it.”

Nova Scotia claims to be the Celtic heart of North America. Its’ traditions date back to the 18th century, evidenced by Gaelic road signs, traditional music and dance.

“There are fantastic fiddlers,” says Jim MacInnes, president of Michigan’s Crystal Mount Resort, who grew up on Cape Breton Island, a 3.5-hour drive from Halifax after a direct Delta flight from Detroit. He returned for his 60th birthday party, staged there at Bell Bay Golf Club, featuring local fiddlers and pipers. MacInnes was so infused with Nova Scotia’s Scottish heritage he designed Crystal Mountain’s centerpiece building in tribute and filled Kinlochen’s bar with rare Scotch whisky, especially Glenora. The very Scottish and timelessly picturesque Glenora Inn and Distillery, in Cape Breton, offers on-site lodging, whisky seminars, and the unique opportunity to see – and taste – “the juice of the barley” at North America’s first single malt distillery.

Cabot Links Golf Club

And Nova Scotia couldn’t be “New Scotland” without an authentic links golf course. Cape Breton’s new Cabot Links is just that: a rugged, rolling, sandy, seaside affair against the Gulf of St. Lawrence. With the challenge of its’ pot bunkers, treeless exposure to the ocean winds, and grassy tumbling terrain, Canada’s only true links course is a reminder that golf should feel like a sport and be an adventure in nature.

MacInnes is also a fan of the Highlands Links Golf Course, a World Top-100-ranked course inside Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where the famed Cabot Trail winds motorists along a scenic coastal road he calls “breathtaking.”

Moose Crossing on the Cabot Trail

From the trail, you’re likely to see native moose, bear, bald eagle, lynx and pilot whales, but restaurant columnist Larry Olmsted was most interested in the lobsters. “They’re plentiful and available in shacks and fine dining restaurants,” says Olmsted. “Bountiful fresh seafood makes thick, rich Nova Scotia chowder a signature dish. It’s filled with scallops, clams and fish.” All you need is a fisherman’s woolen sweater and a spoon.

For a Celtic connection, without crossing the Atlantic, visit GolfNovaScotia, part of      

Michigan-based travel writer Michael Patrick Shiels may be contacted at or via

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