Date Posted: June 7, 2017Reading time: 5 minutes
We’re taking a weekly look at something or some place we love in Nova Scotia! Follow along each week this summer as we celebrate well known favourites and local hidden gems.
Every year, I look forward to golfing season, and with the spectacular weather lately, Cabot Links had been calling my name. So, in an effort to relive what was an amazing experience last fall, I grabbed a few buddies and headed out last Thursday for a guys weekend of golf, food and beer.
Located in Inverness, Cape Breton, Cabot is renowned as Canada’s only authentic links golf course, inspired by the traditional, timeless links golf courses of Scotland. Living up to every bit of its reputation, the course overlooks the ocean from atop beautiful tall cliffs, so that players can take in picturesque coastal views while perfecting their golf game.
I spent the ’90s watching Whistler grow up and the Inverness/Cabot trajectory reminds of that arc. There are two obvious tell tails of this popularization; the first is of course the origin of the golfers I ran into over the weekend, including a banker from the UK, some honeymooners from Alberta, a stag party from Toronto and a big money/big attitude party from New York. But for me, the richer development for the town of Inverness and the resort is most definitely the staff. When I was the marketing manager for Whistler Blackcomb in its zenith of the late ’90s, our best in-resort ads had only three or four words on them, but all 3,000 of them were unique. All 3,000 were mobile and all 3,000 where proudly displayed. They were the name tags simply engraved with: Kyle-Sydney, Australia; Sarah-Burnaby, BC; Casper-Munich, Germany and Mark-Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The cohort of 20 somethings that are the front-line faces of Cabot Links are just as proud of both their hometown and their summer hometown. They are from Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston, Fredericton, Enfield, England and most importantly, from Cape Breton. As someone who is very interested in the sustainable growth of our province, Cabot is the perfect business model – a place that adds to the beauty of the province, provides recreation and gives youth, from near and far, a place to work and play.
When we arrived at Cabot Thursday afternoon, we quickly checked into our rooms at the Cabot Links Lodge. Before hitting the green, I admit we took a little time to marvel at our accommodations. Our 2-bedroom villas overlooked the course and the ocean, almost making you feel outdoors yourself with floor to ceiling windows. Picture this calm, coupled with a sleek, modern interior, a full kitchen and private deck, and you can probably understand our brief hold up getting ourselves out of there.
Having played Cabot Links on multiple occasions before, we decided to start our weekend playing the newer sister course, Cabot Cliffs, ranked #19 in the Golf Digest World Top 100 Courses upon its official grand opening last year. Like Cabot Links, Cabot Cliffs is entirely a walking course, with no golf carts to be found. So, between club swings and walking between holes, a game at Cabot Cliffs is a great workout, and the lack of carts buzzing around makes you feel all the more connected to the landscape and surrounding wilderness.
After a great afternoon on the course, we cleaned up and went for dinner at the resort’s Panorama Restaurant to enjoy fresh catch-of-the-day while looking out over the ocean and the rolling hills, synonymous with Cape Breton. Here, we also enjoyed a few beers from local microbrewery Breton Brewing. With Nova Scotia being home to the most microbreweries per capita in Canada, and with many new ones popping up rapidly all over the province, I’m making a big statement when I say that Breton Brewing is among my top five favourites.
Feeling full and relaxed after dinner, and with an early morning tee off the following day, we decided to get a good night’s rest on Thursday. But on Friday, after another spectacular day on the course, we headed to the Red Shoe Pub down the road in Mabou for some seafood chowder and some live music, Cape Breton style. Owned by the iconic Canadian Rankin Family, the Red Shoe is a great spot for those looking for some authentic down east tunes, and even some traditional folk dancing that will have you up on your feet and stomping. We didn’t catch any Rankin family members themselves, which you often can, but a father daughter duo – one on piano and one on fiddle – kept the crowd on their toes, wide-eyed and grinning. An older man playing the spoons on select songs was also an upbeat, quirky addition, cracking jokes in between songs, telling stories and encouraging the crowd to clap along.
The following two mornings, we headed up the road from the resort to Downstreet Coffee Company, a charming café with delicious baked goods, java and even local handcrafted ceramics, before hitting the course, making sure to alternate between playing Cabot Cliffs and the original Cabot Links.
On our way back to Halifax on Sunday, as we drove Cape Breton’s famous Cabot Trail along the coast, I couldn’t help but feel waves of extreme gratitude. How is it that this beauty exists right here in our own backyard, accessible for all to see and experience?
Whether golfing, hiking, cycling or just relaxing and enjoying fresh seafood, Cape Breton really is a traveller’s paradise. And, if you take the time to chat with some of the locals on your adventures, you’ll be guaranteed a laugh, and made to feel right at home.
Continued from the blog originally posted by Mark Gascoigne on July 14, 2016.