Digest>Archives> April 2002

Munroe Point Lighthouse: A Cape Breton Haven

By Jeremy D'Entremont


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Located in St. Ann’s Bay near the North River and the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the Munroe Point Lighthouse and adjacent rental cottage are only 45 minutes from Sydney and 60 minutes from the nearest airport. Last year the owners of the property, Gordon and Ingrid Boutilier, decided to rent the cottage out on a weekly basis to cover the costs of erosion control and upkeep. The cottage was enlarged before the Boutiliers acquired it, eliminating the old “widow’s walk.” But it’s a “very comfortable space with three walls of glass for fabulous vistas,” says Ingrid. “It faces northeast and on a clear day — with imagination — you almost see Newfoundland!”

St. Ann’s Bay attracted French settlers as far back as 1629. French Jesuit fathers started a mission to the Indians there and named it Ste. Anne. The mission was abandoned by 1641 and eventually all the French settlers left. A few families made the St. Ann’s area their home, but it saw little visitation from Europeans until 1820 when a band of Scottish explorers led by Presbyterian minister Norman McLeod established a settlement. The countryside surrounding St. Ann’s Bay is said to be reminiscent of the Highlands of Scotland, so perhaps the new arrivals felt at home in the area.

Part of this settlement became known as Munro’s (or Munroe) Point after three brothers who built a home there. The controversial McLeod eventually went with many of his followers to New Zealand. Other than a few old wells and foundations, few reminders survive of the early settlements at St. Ann’s Bay. Later arrivals built up the logging and fishing industries in the area, leading to the establishment of the Munroe Point Lighthouse in 1906. Local industry soon declined, and the lighthouse was automated in 1952 and was only active into the early 1960s.

Things are pretty quiet around St. Ann’s Bay these days, according to Ingrid Boutilier. “The Bay used to be a thriving community with lots of juicy tales about shipbuilding, logging down the North River and fishing. Now it is so quiet that you can hear the whoosh of the birds’ wings before you see them.”

Besides the early settlements, there is other exciting local folklore. “Rumor has it that Blackbeard used to use North River as a hiding pace in those romantic pirateering days,” says Ingrid. “This was terribly exciting for our daughter Morgan in her younger years. She went treasure hunting a lot. She usually came back with raspberries or blueberries!”

Eagles, osprey and seabirds fly by at eye level at Munroe Point. A pathway leads through the woods to a sandy beach. There are fossils in the cliffs, trout and salmon streams, two world-class golf courses and many more attractions close by, including the Historic Fortress of Louisbourg and the Alexander Graham Bell Museum.

The Boutiliers are looking into the possibility of installing a working light in the 32-foot lighthouse, something that would add a finishing touch to their little paradise.

The Munroe Point Lighthouse and cottage are private property and are not open to the general public. Anyone interested in renting the cottage should call 902-562-5947 or email lighthouse902@hotmail.com.

This story appeared in the April 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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