Back to Your Roots

It may be spring in Nova Scotia but someone forgot to mention this to Mother Nature! One of our first tours of the season began early on a very chilly morning, thankfully the skies remained interesting but no rain or snow came.  The moody clouds and brisk wind set the atmosphere for the day to unfold.

Our first destination was Knoydart, a tiny community in Pictou County and part of our Culloden tour.  Every year, people gather in this spot to honor the soldiers who survived the uprising then ultimately fled Scotland to settle in Nova Scotia.  It is always held as near to April 16 as possible, the date of the Battle of Culloden, which lasted approximately 25 minutes and changed the course of history!

As people began to arrive, the road became lined with men in kilts and the skirl of the pipes could be heard.  On this particular day, the Governor General of Nova Scotia, the honourable J.J. Grant, was there as were descendants of Hugh McDonald, Donald MacPherson, and Angus MacDonald, survivors of Culloden and settlers in this area.

We followed the procession along a gorgeous path, to the memorial on the shores of the Northumberland Strait – what a back-drop!


Pipers, speeches and Gaelic graces and poems were presented in front of the cairn. It was wonderful to witness such preservation of Scottish roots, history and culture.  The douse of whisky on the memorial signified the end of the ceremony at the cairn, but more would continue in the local community hall with lunch, singing and socializing.

Following the festivities, we headed to Arisaig to visit St. Margaret of Scotland Parish cemetery in search of ancestral graves.  Although interesting, on this particular visit we didn’t find what we were looking for.

A short drive took us to Arisaig Lighthouse – what a beautiful spot!  We ‘picnicked’ on the rocks and marveled at the spectacular scenery.  The fisherman were in the nearby harbour getting ready for “dumping” day (when traps are dropped in the ocean) and it was quite a little hive of activity.

We meandered along back roads to the village of Thorburn where we met with local councillor Troy MacCulloch.  Troy and one of our guests, also a MacCulloch, were exploring family ties, and in an offer of true, genuine Nova Scotian hospitality, we piled into Troys truck for a backroad adventure into the wilderness to find the family gravesite!

The road to the site was blocked by windfall from winter storms, but a short hike soon found us at a beautiful, remote cemetery, high in the hills of Pictou County.

As he stood on the gravesite of his ancestors, our guest commented, “I feel connected somehow and I wonder what their lives must have been like.  I now feel the urge/pull to learn more”!

It truly was a day of visiting Scottish roots, feeling the draw of the homeland and embracing some of the rugged, historical beauty this area has to offer.

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