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Getting back to nature at the Liscombe Lodge
This morning, I left the beautiful Keltic Resort in Cape Breton and began my day of driving south, for the most part retracing my steps to another evening at the Liscombe Lodge in Liscombe Mills, Nova Scotia. I was looking forward to staying in one of the cozy Chalets again, and I was thrilled when I got there to find I’d been given Chalet 4A, the same one I had on Thursday evening.
I spent most of the drive envisioning the fire I would light in the wood-burning fireplace that night!
Along the way, I made a stop at the Glenora Distillery. The rain was coming down hard and fast by the time I pulled up the gravel road to the very Scottish-feeling countryside surroundings.
Glenora is the only single-malt distillery in North America, and everything is patterned after the successful scotch whisky distilleries in Scotland, to the point where all the equipment – the mashers, the casks and the evaporators – were brought over from Scotland.
Tours are $7 per person and typically last 25 minutes, according to the website, but mine was over in just 15 minutes. It’s true – there’s nothing terribly exotic about the whisky-making process, but I don’t know if it was worth the 2.5 hours it took me to drive there. However, they do make a damn good single malt, so if you’re a fan of whisky, I’d skip the tour and just buy a bottle instead. You can even pour your own bottle, straight from the cask!
However, a nine-minute drive away is a place that really turned my crank: Cabot Links, a golf resort nestled in the rolling hills of Inverness, Nova Scotia.
In development for what locals half-jokingly refer to as “forever”, Cabot Links features 48 rooms designed by Nova Scotia architect Susan Fitzgerald and Interior Designer Alexandra Angle, overlooking Canada’s only authentic links course, which is one of the oldest Scottish-designed types of golf courses.
The on-site buildings are almost Scandinavian in design, looking like they’d be right at home on the outskirts of Oslo. But they also blend in unobtrusively with their surroundings, a theme that carries over to the Resort’s rooms that feature historic images of the famous Bluenose, hand-woven bed throws, and some very cool fixtures, like the leather-belt-wrapped mirrors.
As a pure golf resort, Cabot Links also has a curious atmosphere: everyone here is in vacation mode. There are few families, no kids, and definitely no business travellers. Because of that, most of the guests I saw were already joking and laughing on check-in, playfully fighting amongst each other as to who would buy that first round of beer.
This is a property I’ll be watching very closely, indeed.
A good friend of mine asked me the other day, “Is everything as wonderful as it seems on the blog? Where’s the dirt?!” Here’s the down-low truth: there is no dirt so far on this trip. The only thing that has driven me nuts so far is the somewhat misleading highway signage and my rented Nissan Altima’s penchant for displaying numerous maintenance warnings (Oil! Cabin Air Filter!) every time I turn it on.
When I arrived at the Liscombe Lodge in the late afternoon, I was exhausted. I had developed a cold the night before, and my day of running around and driving the backroads of Nova Scotia had left me zapped of my energy. Let’s face it – I did it to myself, pulling off the road to take photos in the pouring rain and stressing about a wrong turn that saw me overshoot an exit by 40 kilometres.
But then I met Lori.
She isn’t your typical mother of four. Bright, bubbly and effervescent, the first thing she asked me was what I wanted to do. When I suggested a hike around the numerous trails that line the Liscombe Lodge, she lit up and immediately suggested we do the granddaddy of them all: a massive 9.6 kilometre hike around the Liscombe River.
And – because I believe in not saying ‘no’ to an experience – I said yes. I really didn’t have a choice; Laurie was so energetic about the hike – and convinced I’d get great photos – that I agreed readily.
So off we went at 4pm, venturing into the wilderness. Not the fake city-style wilderness; the real, honest, “there’s no-one-around” wilderness. The Deliverance wilderness. And at first, the trail is deceptively easy, covered in a bed of gravel.
But the gravel ends abruptly, and the real fun begins.
I’d never do something like this on my own – nor would I recommend it. But with Lori, who has done this hike hundreds of times, in control, I felt relaxed and comfortable. She also took my off-colour jokes in great stride, which helps a lot when you’re climbing over stones and rocks for nearly four hours!
Our reward: some of the most picturesque scenery you can imagine, coupled with an ever-changing landscape of colours, textures, florae and fauna.
Of course, this route is for advanced hikers or folks with a guide like Lori. It includes crossing streams on fallen planks and tree trunks, negotiating large rocky outcrops, and even includes crossing a fantastic wooden suspension bridge. None of it is particularly strenuous; if you’re in good shape, you’ll have no problem. Rather, it’s where you place your feet that counts.
Sure, it’s active. You’re also at the mercy of mother nature, to a degree – like when the skies decided it would be a good time to open up and pour rain for half an hour, which actually felt refreshing. And yes, you’ll get wet and muddy. I went in up to my ankles at one point thanks to my poor navigational skills, and a wayward branch had me headed for the mud below at one point.
And I had an amazing time. It was the highlight of my day – and here’s why: I felt free. Absolutely free. I am fascinated by the explorers that settled this great country hundreds of years ago, and this is the kind of terrain they had to navigate. And they did it without GPS or Google Maps.
In this world obsessed with Facebook and Twitter and whatever the next technological flavour of the month is, it is nice to get away from all of that, even if only for a short while.
We emerged from the trail and onto the highway for the short walk back to the Liscombe Lodge, and there, out of nowhere, was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. The clouds, which had looked so ominous and foreboding just moments earlier, were now completely uniform.
The sky became awash in a burnt amber glow that suddenly overtook the entire skyline in the blink of an eye. It wasn’t subtle; it was one of those moments when you become acutely aware that something very special is happening right before your eyes, and you’re powerless to do anything but stand there and watch.
And so we did – caked in mud, soaking wet, and probably looking like we’d been dropped off at the side of the road and left for dead. But we never saw another car during the entire 10-minute spectacle. Which isn’t surprising. Moments like this usually don’t have any distractions.
But it wasn’t until that sun disappeared over the horizon in a flash of brilliance that I realized how important the location is to the Liscombe Lodge. Sure, it’s in the middle of nowhere. Your cell phone doesn’t work, and there’s hardly a soul around to be seen.
And that’s just how their guests like it.
Knowing I had a cold, during dinner, General Manager Karen Wenaus had one of the staff pop down to my Chalet to light my wood-burning fireplace for me so the room would be nice and toasty when I returned. It’s not some perk that’s just afforded to visiting writers; it’s something they do willingly for any guest who requests it.
Returning back to a toasty-hot room after a delicious dinner of cedar-plank salmon and live entertainment? It’s pretty difficult to top that. But that’s the great thing about Liscombe Lodge; they keep trying to do just that.
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