Fair Alistair’s (Beinn Alasdair Bhain) – 2.2 km (1.36 mi) return, 30 min, moderate, elevation 335m (1090ft)
Access: Take highway 19 to Mabou, and turn on Mabou Harbour Rd. Next turn to Mabou Mines Rd and drive up to a small parking lot.
Fair Alistair’s trail is by far one of the most glorious trail in the entire Cape Mabou Trail network which offers 17 of trails, and in terms of the views also one of my favourites in Nova Scotia. On a clear day you can see all the vistas, and even PEI. The view from the summit offers plunging cliffs, beaches, meadows, forests, and of course vast Atlantic Ocean.
There are 3 trailheads to the Cape Mabou Trails:
from the Inverness end through Sight Point Road (south of Inverness) – a narrow and rough road
the 2nd from Cape Mabou near Glenora close to windmill off Glenora Falls Rd
the 3rd which is the most popular on Mabou Mines Road about 12 km from the village of Mabou and this is the route we took
We headed 5km down from Mabou on Harbour Road until we come across a dirt road on our right – Mabou Mines Road (Google maps photo below). We turned on Mabou Mines Road and drove all the way to the trailhead winding through the Mabou Highlands, past Mabou Mines and MacDonalds Glen.
If you just want to see the panoramic view without hiking any further, it is going to be 1,1 km one way, but if you are to do the entire loop you will trek for 6 km (return). The ascent to Fair Alistair to the lookoff is the best part of the entire hike.For some people it can be steep, but if you are fit you should get to the top in 20 min. The map pinned to the tree showing all available the trails in the area is a bit hard too read, especially its hand written markings and names. The piece of paper was not sealed anymore, so you can imagine its condition. My suggestion would be, have your own map.
The trail leads first through an evergreen forest, and then the surroundings change. The trail becomes narrow, but since it’s not a busy hike, it is not a big deal. The forest looks dry and unhealthy here, and it’s due to a spruce bark beetle invasion.After a short walk the view opens up entirely. What a scenery!
We tried to continue MacPhee Trails JCT, but it was muddy, and on that day I didn’t bring a machete with me to break the trail’s underbrush, so we decided to continue north on a trail no. 4, which was skirting the mountain. From the top we saw a hut from afar (picture below), and just before we entered a forest road, we walked past a private summer house on our left.
Before that we had to cross the open gate. Soon after we reached the trailhead of MacKinnon’s Brook Lane/ Cul Na Beinne (“Beyond the Mountain”) – trail number 2. From there we continued on a Beaton route, serving as a shortcut which offered nothing but walking on boring wood’s roads. This was very dull trek, and I don’t recommend it. I can’t speak objectively of a trail number 2 (MacKinnon’s Brook Lane). It is a longer option for sure, and the photos online show Cape Mabou that it leads along a small brook, which we were actually able to hear at the trailhead. Keep me posted if you decide to come back that route, and if it’s worth it. Overall the whole loop trail took us 2.5 hours.
It was mid July 2015 when we hiked, and on atop we encountered lots of annoying flies, unlike on other trails in Cape Breton.
The Cape Mabou Trail Club publishes an excellent map of the trails system. You can purchase the map for about $5 (2015) at local businesses in Mabou or Inverness
Bring insect repellent with you, otherwise the flies will ruin it for you just as you get to the top
I suggest you don’t do entire 6km loop as on the way back there is nothing interesting to see. If you come back you can save time and get to other trailheads and still see some more viewpoints in Cape Mabou Highlands
Pets must be leashed
Camping and fires are forbidden on that trail
Locals mentioned that after the rainfall the trail can get very muddy, so pick a dry day for hiking to enjoy to the fullest, or wear proper footwear