Celtic Colours International Festival – Cape Breton

Mike and I left Newfoundland a little quicker than we wanted so that we could get to the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton.  I was sorry to miss parts of Newfoundland but I was very pleased to get to the festival.  It is called Celtic Colours to blend in the Celtic music and crafts theme with nature and the gorgeous fall colours of Cape Breton.  This year was the festival’s 20th anniversary.  I was so sorry that parts of the festival got disrupted very badly due to the remnants of Hurricane Matthew.  Mike and I took advantage of the music and some outdoor activities.  There were also displays, lessons and lectures on everything from rug hooking and quilting to clogging, step dancing and fiddling, even lessons on the Gaelic language.

The locales for the events were excellent.  There were dinners and concerts in the historic fort of Louisbourg.  Multiple churches saw concerts being held.  Firehalls, cultural centres, yacht clubs and of course theatres and arenas were all settings that were used.  They held events throughout the entire island of Cape Breton.  We spent most of the festival in the central and southern section and headed north after the festival ended.

We started in the tourist village of Baddeck.  We camped overnight next to the local yacht club. They had music playing in the yacht club both in the afternoon and in the evening.  It was very nice.  We decided to leave our car in Baddeck for the entire time we were in Cape Breton.  The car is excellent to have when we park the RV for multiple days and then want to get around without packing up.  Since we expected to spend most of our time moving around Cape Breton we thought it would be better without the car.  That allowed us to park easier, go down more roads and turn around much more easily than when we are not towing the car.judique

If you have been reading previous posts to this blog, you would know that, Mike and I spent Thanksgiving in the hurricane at a concert in the cultural centre in Eskasoni.  We then couldn’t make it to our evening event in the historic Highland Village of Iona because of washed out roads.  On Tuesday night we did make it to a church in Sydney River to hear “The Boys and their Ballads”.  The majority of the performers in the festival were from Cape Breton & Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ireland, Scotland and Australia.  On Wednesday we tried to get tickets to a few afternoon events in town but the power was still out in many areas of Sydney so lots of the sessions were cancelled.  Instead we drove to visit the Louisbourg Fort and then bought tickets for a show in the Louisbourg playhouse that evening.  It is a lovely little “theatre in the round” playhouse.  It was built as a replica of the Globe theatre for a movie that took place in the restored fort pretending to be Plymouth England.  Since it didn’t really fit the fort image, the playhouse was floated across the bay to the town.  Like the Globe, the theatre was originally open to the elements.  By the time we got to see it, the theatre had been “closed in” and comfortable seats replaced the benches.  As lovely as the setting was it didn’t help the concert.  Sydney wasn’t the only place with blackouts and the entire town lost power late afternoon.  People were admitted into the theatre only to sit in the dark with a few flashlights waiting for the power to be restored.  At one point the fire department was supposed to be bringing over a portable generator for the performers to hook into.  While they were waiting for this a fiddler entertained us.  Eventually someone from the township decided that it was really too dangerous to have a very dark theatre full of people with no light or electricity.  If the theatre ever needed to be evacuated it would be a real problem so they called the whole night off.  People very slowly exited the theatre and went home.  Of course, for Mike and I home was the parking lot across the street from the theatre were we had set up the RV.  It is so convenient.

baddeckWe did get down to the Port Hawkesbury area and saw a concert there.  We also went to a luncheon with fiddlers entertaining us.  We spent an afternoon learning to square dance Nova Scotia style.  My memories of square dancing involve callers but apparently they were a dying breed and haven’t been used, at least in Cape Breton, since the 70s.  Mike and I have been doing a lot of walking on this trip.  One event that we went to was actually an outdoor hike.  As you walked through the woods you first heard and then saw a lady sitting in the woods playing the harp.  A little while later you came upon a fiddler.  There was all sorts of entertainment right up to the summit where there was a gentleman playing the pipes and inside the hut at the top were cookies and story tellers and more music.  You had a chance to rest, eat and listen to local lore before starting the downhill trek.  We finished the festival with tickets to the final concert in Sydney.   Before we leave Cape Breton we are going to go around the Cabot Trail slowly and do some more hiking up there weather permitting.festival-hike-2

After Europe when Mike and I get back to Canada for a summer I would like to return to Celtic Colours.  It is a beautiful time of year to be in Cape Breton and the music and entertainment is excellent.  Also, if we planned ahead we would have our choice of more events.  We have many friends that we know would have loved this week and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Celtic music, arts and crafts and beautiful scenery.

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