The Giant’s Causeway is a World Heritage Site that was created 50 to 60 million years ago during a period of intense volcanic activity. The size and shape of the columns is determined by the conditions and speed at which the lava cooled.
It was “discovered” in 1692 by the Bishop of Derry and became immortalized in water colour paintings of Susanna Drury in 1739. Originally there was debate as to whether the columns were the creation of men with hammers and picks, nature, or even a giant.
The Legend of Finn MacCool:
“Finn is having trouble with someone across the water. The Scottish giant Benandonner is threatening Ireland. An enraged Finn grabs chunks of the Antrim coast and throws them into the sea. The rock forms a path for Finn to follow and teach Benandonner a lesson.
Bad idea – Benandonner is terrifyingly massive. Finn beats a hasty retreat, followed by the giant, only to be saved by our hero’s quick-thinking wife who disguised him as a baby. The angry Scot saw the baby and decided if the child was that big, the daddy must be really huge.” (Source – Ireland.com)
On our trip to Ireland my buddy and myself visited the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Over 350 years ago local fishermen were going across to the island to fish for salmon. In 1755, the first rope bridge was installed to allow the locals to go across to fish without relying on boats in the weather.
It was a nice hike and the rope bridge was a fun experience. The views were amazing and it made for some excellent photography as shown below.
Trail to Carrick-a-Rede (Source – Robert Brown)
Ruins across from Carrick-a-Rede (Source – Robert Brown)
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge from distance (Source – Robert Brown)
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (Source – Robert Brown)
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (source – Robert Brown)
“Of all the countries bordering on the Atlantic coast of the American continent, there is none more grandly favored by nature than the Canadian Province of New Brunswick, whose picturesque shores possess a wonderful charm and attractive- ness ; and in no portion of this magnificent summer domain is there a more delightful spot than St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, where ideal conditions exist in beauty of environment, salubrity of climate and healthfulness of locality. With pure salt sea air, the life-giving breath of the pine, wondrous scenic splendor, and every facility for the comfortable housing of visitors — it is an incomparable resting-place and retreat from the cares of business and the heat and dust of the city.” (As taken from the tourist pamplet of the Canadian Pacific Railway, 1902)
I was in St. Andrews by the sea, New Brunswick on my first trip to the east coast and I found it to be just as it was described in that pamplet from over one hundred years ago. I have not had the chance to stay in the Algonquin Resort yet but having studied its rich history I am looking forward to a visit in the future.
The resort was actually built by the St. Andrews Land Co., an American company in June 1889 with 233 rooms. The original building burned down in 1914, but wings built in 1908 and 1912 survived. The original building was replaced with a similar design but with a concrete structure.
One of the original attractions of the resort was its saltwater baths. Salt water was pumped up from Passamaquady Bay to rooftop water tanks. The guests bathtubs had four taps, two for fresh water and two for saltwater. The air at the Bay of Fundy was considered to have healing properties as did the local “Samson Spring”.
Van Horne visited St. Andrews, staying at the Algonquin. He enjoyed the area so much he purchased Minister’s Island and built the Covenhoven Estate which still stands today. In 1899, Van Horne retired to Covenhoven, and in 1903, his former company Canadian Pacific Railway purchased the Algonquin, and built golf courses beside it. In 1970, the ownership was taken over by local interests, and later by the government of New Brunswick. The CPR continued to manage it until 2013 when Marriott was chosen to take over.
Arthur’s Seat is one peak in a series of hills behind the Queen’s residence in Edinburgh, Scotland. Once it was a private park for the royal family and some like to think it was the ancient home of the mythical camelot. Now it is a hiking park, easily accessed from the Royal Mile.
The first time I got to Edinburgh I was planning on climbing to the top but I was still suffering from a chest cold, and I was having trouble catching my breath. I put it off but came back to Edinburgh near the end of my trip and got the chance to climb it.
Of course I took the wrong route and after walking for an hour, I was told I was on the long path to the top, and still had a long way to go. I did get to the top eventually and by taking the round about route I got to capture more photos of the surrounding city.
The view from the top of Arthur’s Seat was amazing, and I made full use of the Canon SLR and long range lens. I am not huge on heights, but I find that tall hills or even small mountains are stable enough for me to feel comfortable.
On my initial trip through New Brunswick with my friend James we went out of our way to see the longest covered bridge in the world. It connects Hartland to Somerville, New Brunswick across the Saint John River for 1282 feet. It was built in 1921-22. It was referred to as a “kissing bridge” as young couples would stop halfway to steal a kiss before continuing the rest of the way across. This actually caused controversy with local church groups. A side walkway was added in 1945. It is a National Historic Site.
There is also a small gift shop and monument on the edge of the river on the Hartland side.
After we got to see the covered bridge we headed back across the bridge and over the main highway to another attraction that was the reason we had gotten off the highway in the first place. The Covered Bridge Potato Chip began producing chips in 2009, though the family has been growing potatos since the 1920’s.
The potato chip factory had a neat little tour set up where there are videos on the potato production history in New Brunswick and a chance to see the chips actually being made. As you pass by the production line the guide actually grabs you a bag of hot chips right off the end of the line. Back in the store they have different toppings to try on the chips. We each bought a few bags to take back with us, including lobster flavoured chips..and red and whites. That was 4 years ago and not long after I began seeing them for sale in ontario as well, which has been handy.
Mineral hot springs were discovered in Banff, Alberta in 1885 by Franklin McCabe and William and Thomas McCordell. They staked a land claim hoping to profit from potential tourism to the hot springs, but they were convinced to sell out to Van Horne and the Canadian Pacific Railway. Van Horne purchased the rights for $675 to each of them, though he believed the potential in land development was worth closer to one million dollars.
Van Horne used his connections with the Canadian government to get the area declared a national wildlife park, one of the first in Canada. He also got permission to build his resort at the park, which opened in 1888 serving 280 guests.
Architect Bruce Price was hired to build the resort. Van Horne realized when the hotel was complete that the guest rooms faced the wrong way, and the chefs in the kitchen actually had a better view. This was corrected by building a rotunda in front of the kitchen.
The Banff Springs hotel started out as a summer resort catering to tourists who took to the Bow River to canoe, take guided tours in the mountains, golf, or visit the hot springs.
The resort proved so popular that in 1911, architect Walter S. Painter was brought on to build a new chateau. It was built with rundlestone, which changes from blue stone to brown when exposed to sunlight. The Rundle chateau opened in 1914 and had U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt as a guest (I have no idea where/if he rode a moose but it seemed fitting)
Additions were added in 1925 and 1926, which is when the original wooden building was lost in a fire. In 1939 King George VI, with his wife Queen Elizabeth visited with the Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King at the Banff Springs Hotel (this photo confused me at first as I didnt know his wife was named Elizabeth also, like the current queen their daughter). In 1969, the resort opened up for the winter season for the first time.
Presently, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel employs around one thousand employees (2016) serving the guests in 778 guest rooms. There has been no regular train service to Banff since 1990, but the “Rocky Mountaineer” stops there periodically.
Since this blog is primarly a tool to help me improve my skills as a writer I have decided to start a new series. I am inspired by the great railway hotels that were built across this expansive nation of Canada and which show up in some of the most iconic cities and tourist destinations.
Late in the 1881 the Canadian Pacific Railway, hired William Cornelius Van Horne as president to increase progress on the railway construction and by 1883 the increased progress got the line to the Rocky Mountains. On November 7, 1885 the last spike was driven at Craigellachie, British Columbia. It was 4 years behind the original schedule but 5 years ahead of the schedule given to Van Horne when he took over.
In order to build a market for tourist rail passengers across Canada, the railway offered dining service on its trains across the country. In the mountains however, the heavier dining cars were not practical as the early locomotives could not pull them up steep inclines. This is where the original stations were built to allow the trains to stop along the route to offer dining to guests.
The original three stations built were:
Fraser Canyon House – which was built in 1887 and was in use until 1927 when it burned down. It was rebuilt as a CPR bunk house that was in use until the 1970’s.
Mount Stephen House – built in 1886 and in use until 1918, when it was turned over to the YMCA that used it until 1963.
Glacier House – built in 1887 and in use until 1925.
The tourists were so impressed by the scenery at the dining halls that they wanted to spend more time there, and additional facilities were built to accomodate them. Architect Thomas Sorby was hired to build the hotels.
Once the locomotives became more powerful and routes through the mountains were added; these hotels fell out of use.
The first of the “Dream Castles” as envisioned by Van Horne would be the Banff Springs Hotel, in Banff, Alberta. I am going to stick to the hotels that still exist to this day and can be visited. A couple of the hotels are no longer hotels, but the buildings have been re-purposed and still exist to see. I am probably missing some, but from my research they are as follows:
1888 – Banff Springs Hotel 1889 – The Algonquin
1890 – Chateau Lake Louise 1893 – Chateau Frontenac
1908 – The Empress Hotel 1911 – Prince Arthur Hotel
1912 – Chateau Laurier 1914 – Pallister Hotel
1915 – Hotel MacDonald 1917 – Digby Pines Resort
1922 – Jasper Park Lodge 1927 – Lord Nelson
1927 – Hotel Saskatchewan 1928 – Hotel Nova Scotian
1930 – Chateau Montebello 1930 – Lakeside Inn
1932 – The Bessborough 1939 – Hotel Vancouver
1946 – Lord Beaverbrook
Some of these hotels I have had the pleasure of visiting over the years, and others I am looking forward to seeing in the coming years. I have not planned out every entry, so I may cover more then one hotel in a given blog. I have found a series of books by Ron Brown (no relation that I know of) about Canada’s railways which have been informative.
The blogs will come out as I can get to them, as I want to make sure they are well researched. I will create a special page for all the Railway Hotel Blogs on here to give easy access. My normal travel blogs will come out regularly as well.
I thought I would do a short blog on Peggy’s Cove. It is a beautiful area in Nova Scotia, one of the more common postcard perfect views. It is also a tourist trap, and the day I visited the actual lighthouse and gift shop was over flowing with tourists. My brother and myself did a quick drive by and then took some time to stop and get out to explore the surrounding rocky shore which made for some great photos. I would definitely recommend visiting this area at least once in your travels, and take the time to explore the surrounding area which is the best part of the experience.
After exploring the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, I crossed the causeway to Cape Breton Island, and Meandered around the island exploring some sights I had been looking forward to seeing. The landscape of Cape Breton Island reminded me of being in the Scottish highlands. When I was exploring the Scottish National Museum the year before there was an exhibit that showed how geologists believe that based on rock formations, the island of Cape Breton actually broke off of a shelf that was near Scotland and Scandinavia.
The first stop in my journey was to the Glenora Distillery, as I had enjoyed Glen Breton whiskey back in Ontario. The set up of the distillery grounds was well laid out and reminded me of a couple of the smaller scotch distilleries I had seen. I took the tour of the facilities which was interesting if very similar to others I had been to in Scotland and Ireland. They have a nice tasting room and I got to try a couple vintages that they do not sell in Ontario.
I wanted to explore the Cabot trail, but I ran out of time and had to cut my drive short as well. I turned over towards Sydney and got there for dark. There was a music fest on that night and I looked to attend only to find out that it was an all ages event and right full of teenagers, so I went to a local pub instead for a late dinner. I could not find a hotel room anywhere so I ended up trying something I had never done before which was parking in a walmart parking lot and sleeping there, Not something I would recommend when you are driving a pickup as delivery trucks came at all hours. I did chat with a couple who had an rv there, who said it worked well if you had curtains.
The next morning I went for breakfast and made my way to Glace Bay to attend the Miner’s Museum when it opened up. I really enjoyed the museum as they had an informative display on the history of the town and mine. I found it particularly interesting how the company town’s worked where every aspect of the employee’s lives were controlled by the company.
The guide we had was a former miner who worked during from around 1950 onward in a more modern mine. The one we got to explore was an older mine from the early 20th century. He explained how his mine experience was relatively safe but how his father had almost died in a collapse his first week, and then actually died young due to miner’s lung. His father took over for his father at 15 because he had been injured himself. If his dad had not taken the position the family would have been evicted.
After exploring the mine, I traveled to Fort Louisbourg. I arrived at the fortress in the middle of a driving rainstorm. The guide was explaining how the British had captured the fort in similar conditions. The waves were crashing against the ramparts and over the causeway. It was hard to imagine troops actually rowing boats up to the rocky shore into enemy fire. It was an impressive looking place, and had been restored quite well when I was there 4 years ago. I got a few photos but I had to shoot with my back to the wind, and my jacket protecting my camera so my angles were very limited.
After the fort, I basically had to rush back to Truro to meet my brother who was in the process of moving out to Nova Scotia to work in the wine industry there.