There were several side trips offered from Sydney on our cruise of the St. Lawrence last fall. We had already visited two of these sites on a driving trip of the area and would recommend them both.
In the fall of 2007 we drove around the northern tip of Cape Breton Island through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This was a circular drive that took most of a day. It was cold, gray, and very windy. I remember stopping at viewpoints, and either struggling to get the car door open or having it wrenched open by the wind! Wonderful rugged scenery!
Our favorite site in the area was the restored Fortress of Louisbourg. This was a little like visiting Williamsburg, VA.
The original settlement, called Havre a l’Anglois, was started in 1713. This fishing village grew to become a major commercial port and a strongly defended fortress. The fortifications eventually surrounded the town and took 28 years to complete. By the mid-1740s Louisbourg was one of the most extensive and expensive European fortifications constructed in North America. The fort cost France 30 million French livres to build, though the original budget was four million. There were two and a half miles of wall surrounding the entire fort. The location of the fortress was chosen because it was easy to defend against British ships attempting to blockade or attack the St. Lawrence River.
It was erected on low-lying ground, designed mainly for sea-based assaults. With weak land-facing defenses, and being far from France or Quebec for military reinforcements, it finally proved indefensible and was captured by the British in 1745.
The site of the fortress was designated a National Historic Site in 1920.
In 1961, Canada began reconstruction of one quarter of the town and fortifications to recreate Louisbourg as it would have appeared in the 1740s. Guided tours are offered and there are lots of demonstrations to explain what life would have been like during that time.
The Dauphin Gate was the busiest of four city gates. It lead to fishing compounds around the harbor and to the main road leading inland.
You are free to wander and poke around to discover 18th century life for yourself.
King’s Bastion Chapel
The Frederic Gate was the waterfront entrance.
These paintings show Louisbourg at it’s height, in the 1740s.