Biking the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Celtic Shores Coastal TrailStretch­ing 57 miles from the south­ern tip of Canada’s Cape Bre­ton Island to the town of Inver­ness, the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail in the province of Nova Sco­tia is a (most­ly) flat dirt path that is just beg­ging to be toured by bike.

Closed to cars, the trail is safe and rel­a­tive­ly easy to trav­el with plen­ty to see along the way, from ocean views to quaint towns to vast, open fields.

The Celtic Shores Coastal Trail is a unique way to expe­ri­ence parts of pop­u­lar Cape Bre­ton that sim­ply can’t be seen from the car. Before you hit the trail, dou­ble check your sad­dle­bags to make sure you pack the fol­low­ing items that will take your tour to the next level.

Bike Tools
This isn’t a tech­ni­cal moun­tain bik­ing trail by any means—it’s a most­ly dirt trail that fol­lows an old rail­road path—but the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail isn’t paved, and a flat tire or oth­er mechan­i­cal mishap is an easy way to put a kink in your plans.

There is a bike rental shop at the Inver­ness end of the trail, but plan to bring your own mul­ti-tool, spare tube, patch kit, hand pump, and oth­er bike tools to see you through any issues on the trail. If you’re trav­el­ing in a group, you can split the gear to light­en your load.

Cam­era
From the shores of the Atlantic to bridges with lots of char­ac­ter, from flow­ery mead­ows to the scenic Lake Ainslie—there are plen­ty of pri­mo pho­to ops along the route and you’ll want to pull over every so often to snap a pic­ture. Sure, you can get away with your phone’s cam­era, but when the views are this stun­ning, it’s worth bust­ing out your good cam­era (if you’ve got one).

Celtic Shores Coastal TrailDanc­ing Shoes
Here’s the secret to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail: the trail itself is awe­some, but it is best expe­ri­enced if you take the time to pop off the trail and vis­it the local com­mu­ni­ties along the route.

The trail pass­es through Judique, home to the Celtic Music Inter­pre­tive Centre—a spot well wor­thy of a detour to learn more about the cul­ture of Cape Bre­ton and per­haps to drop in for a half-hour step­dance les­son. You don’t tech­ni­cal­ly need your fan­cy shoes in order to learn a basic jig—whatever you’re bik­ing in should suffice!

Your ID
Be sure to bring your ID along with you-you’ll need to prove you’re the legal drink­ing age (19 in Nova Sco­tia) if you want to sam­ple the delec­table whisky (no “e” in the Cana­di­an spelling!) at Gleno­ra Dis­tillery in Mabou.

A vis­it to Gleno­ra requires a slight detour off the main trail, involv­ing a cou­ple of heartrate-rais­ing hills, but the effort is worth it to taste this liq­uid gold. Pop by for a tour between May to October—even non-whisky lovers will enjoy a break in the air con­di­tion­ing before head­ing back out on the trail.

Mabou, CanadaCash for Meals
After sam­pling the finest offer­ings at Gleno­ra, stop by the infa­mous Red Shoe Pub, also locat­ed in Mabou.

The Red Shoe Pub is a bit of an insti­tu­tion, as it is run by the Rankin fam­i­ly, a leg­endary fam­i­ly in the Cana­di­an music scene. The pub is known for its live fid­dle-heavy music and step danc­ing, so you’ll be able to apply some of your new­ly acquired moves while you wait for your meal to arrive.

If you’re unsure of what to get, you can’t go wrong with the seafood. It’s real­ly fresh.

A Tent (and Camp­ing Gear)
If you do the trail properly—that is, stop­ping in the local towns to soak up life with the locals—it’ll like­ly take you two days to tack­le, tip to tip. Camp­ing direct­ly on the trail is a no-go, but there are a few des­ig­nat­ed camp­sites in Port Hood and Mabou. For those pre­fer­ring to trav­el light, there are also B&Bs that you can book into.