This 175 mile ride has great water views, curvy roads, a ferry ride, and a visit to the Glenora Distillery. Highlights include Ainslie Lake, Route 395, Margaree Harbour, Route 219 along the Northumberland Strait, Inverness, the Glenora Distillery, Mabou, Route 19 “Ceilidh Trail,” Shore Rd, Route 252, Portage Rd, and the Little Narrows Ferry.
The ride begins with Route 105 west along the shore of the Bras D’Or. In Whycocomagh, turn right on Route 252. Stay right on Route 395 and ride north along the east shore of Lake Ainslie. The lake is the largest natural freshwater lake on Cape Breton. The Southwest Margaree River starts at the lake and flows north to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The lake is named for George Ainslie, the Lt. Gov. of Cape Breton when it became part of Nova Scotia.
Turn right on Route 19, travel a few miles, and then turn left on the Cabot Trail. Ride the Trail north to Margaree Harbour. Just before the Trail crosses the harbour, turn left on Route 219. This marks the beginning of the Cèilidh (pronounced Kay-Lee) Trail. A cèilidh is a traditional Scottish and Irish social gathering. it usually involves dancing and playing Gaelic folk music. The communities along the Cèilidh Trail are famous for this traditional music. Performances can be enjoyed at many venues (video). Look to your right for a great view of Margaree Harbour and the distant highlands.
Ride south to the junction with Route 19 in Dunvegan. Turn right and proceed to Inverness. Get gas at the Ultramar and then ride south 6.5 miles and turn right into the Glenora Distillery. From their website: “Our water comes from MacLellan’s Brook; the purest and cleanest source of water in Cape Breton. MacLellan’s tumbles out of the Mabou Highlands, runs through Glenora Distillery’s grounds, and can be found in every whisky we produce. After the construction of the distillery in 1990, initial production yielded 20 barrels of the first single malt whisky produced in North America.” Hours are 9-5 and 20 minute tours leave on the hour ($7.00 per person, Samples given at the end of tour.) The pub is open for lunch 12:00-3:00 with daily Ceilidhs: 1:00-3:00.
Leave the distillery and ride south on Route 19 to Mabou and on to the coast at Port Hood. Follow the coast south and then turn right onto Shore Rd. Shore Rd is a nice little sweeper road with good views of St. Georges Bay. When Shore Rd ends, turn left on Route 19 and ride north back to Port Hood. The Clove Hitch Bar and Bistro is a good place for lunch (closed on Tuesday.)
Return east on Route 19 to Mabou. Turn right on Route 252 and ride some nice sweepers to Whycocomagh. Turn right on Route 105 and get gas at the Irving/Tim Hortons.
Turn left on Orangedale Rd and then left again on Portage Rd. I was impressed with Portage Rd during scouting. It has nice curves, good pavement, and good water views.
Turn left on Route 223 and ride north along the Bras d’Or to the Little Narrows Ferry (free.) Take this short cable ferry ride to the north shore of the lake. Continue on Route 223 to Route 105. Turn right on Route 105 and return to the hotel.