Mabou is a great place to visit. Do you want to hear some great scottish music, learn how to square dance, hike to the top of a mountain that overlooks the Gulf of St. Lawrence and enjoy great pub food? You can do it here!!
Of course, everyone knows that the Rankin Family hails from this little place. These folks are fiercely proud of their heritage and this small village welcomes everyone. As you might guess, music is a very big part of life in this area and you can find 'live' music every night of the week.
And of course, the village is on the Ceilidh Trail (Route 19) which is located on the west coast of Cape Breton. You'll find it about 59 kilometers (37 mi) from the Canso Causeway which is where you enter Cape Breton. Check my map of the Ceilidh Trail to see the location.
View The Ceilidh Trail in Cape Breton in a larger map
There are lots of place names throughout this area and many names that are similar. So be sure to stop at the Visitor Information Centre as soon as you arrive on Cape Breton Island and get a map.
One afternoon a couple of summers ago I was driving through and decided to stop and just listen for a moment. What did I hear? A fiddle!
I followed the fiddle to The Red Shoe Pub and then sat there for a few hours enjoying a young girl playing her fiddle with her Dad accompanying her on the guitar.
I asked who she was and was told it was a young girl from town who was auditioning for a summer job playing fiddle at the pub. Don’t know if she got the job but she sure entertained me.
There is live music all summer long here. Their pub food is pretty good too!.
There is even an Annual Ceilidh on the Wharf! This takes place at Mabou Coal Mines. The ceilidh is always the 2nd Sunday in August features lots of local entertainment. Yes, it is actually on the wharf.
Check out any of these 'weekly' live music events in the area:
Family Square Dance
West Mabou Hall
Every Saturday from 10:00pm - 1:00am
Brook Village Adult Square Dances
Brook Village Hall, Brook Village, Route 252 off route 19 Every Monday 9:30pm - 1:00am
Ceilidhs with Karen & Joey Beaton
Every Tuesday 7:30 - 9pm
Mabou Community Hall
Glencoe Mills Family Square Dances
Every Thursday from 10pm - 1am
Glencoe Mills Hall
The West Mabou Beach Provincial Park is a great place to explore. It is 530 acres of protected parkland and is an absolute treasure. I hiked there one evening as the sun was setting. It was beautiful.
You can access the park by taking Little Mabou Road as you are driving north on the Ceilidh Trail. You'll see the signs just before you enter the village.
There are a wide range of walking/hiking trails in the park. You'll see signs near the parking area. I did the Western Coastal Trail when I was there and it was gorgeous.
The large sandy beach makes it very inviting and the water is warm. The sand dunes are very special and are protected so please do not disturb them. There is a change house, vault toilets and a picnic area. That is the extent of the services so come prepared if you plan to spend the day at the beach.
The hiking trails of the Cape Mabou Highlands are a 20 square kilometre system of coastal and inland trails near the village. There are about 15 trails in total and they vary from easy to very difficult.
The mountain top views of the coastline and the highlands are breathtaking.
The Cape Mabou Trail Club maintains the trails. They publish an excellent map of the trails system. You can purchase the map at the post office and the Freshmart grocery store.
I hiked the trails many years ago and have not been able to get back, although I do have some great photos of the highlands. Unfortunately, the trails have been battered by the elements in the last several years especially the spruce bark beetle.
The trail club works hard to open and maintain the trails each year. My suggestion is to pick up a map and speak to the locals about the condition of the trails. The views are outstanding so it is definitely worth the trek.
You can access the Mabou Rivers Trail section of the Celtic Shores Coastal trail at the West Mabou Road. You'll see the trailhead easily from route 19. This trail stays close to the village so you have easy access.
This is a multi-purpose trail so you could hike it or cycle it. You could actually do a day trip to Port Hood which is about 17 km one-way or you could cycle to Inverness which is about 20 km one-way.
A unique little place to visit in the village is the Mother of Sorrows Pioneer Shrine. It is in a beautiful miniature church.
It is open year-round for all to visit as they wish.
I don't think it matters if you are religious or not...........this little place is a resting and calming place to visit!
The shrine was moved from its original location in 1967 and was officially dedicated as the Mother of Sorrows Pioneer Shrine in 1968.
The shrine has an interesting history which is told through photos and plaques in the shrine.
The shrine was actually founded in 1960 by Brother Gregory Van Buuren who was a Member of the congregation of the Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in Holland.
To this day this congregation holds ties to the shrine.
I was drawn to a small wooden carving behind a glass cabinet when I was there. When I looked closer I saw that it was actually a relic. Dating from the 15th century it is a carved wooden Piëta from an unknown artist in Holland.
It is the property of the congregation in Holland and is at the shrine as a symbol of the bond.
Exploring Mabou Harbour Road is wonderful and is probably one of the most scenic drives in the area. Simply take Mabou Harbour Road and follow the road to the coast. You can access the road from the middle of the village.
The views of the cliffs and the beaches are beautiful. Not everyone can hike into the highlands but this drive is accessible to everyone. Go to the end and you'll find the harbour. Be sure to check out the lighthouse on the dock. The front door to the lighthouse is very nice.
If you do plan to stay in the village for a night or two (and I recommend that you do) I suggest that you stay at the Mabou Rivers Inn. You'll see the sign for the inn as you are entering the village.
The folks here are very welcoming. I have stayed here twice and I loved it each time.
You'll have access to the inn from the Mabou Rivers Trail.
Breakfast is included with your room. The coffee is great and make sure you try the porridge bread for your toast. The cinnamon rolls are also awesome and they are made right there!
They also make pizzas.