CA, Nova Scotia: The Fortress of Louisbourg, the place where the past is present

Friends or foes? The guard took us by surprise, blocking up the entrance.

Huh?..

Where are you coming from?

From Toronto, was our short answer.

No enemies are allowed inside!!

He suddenly started laughing, definitely by the look of our faces. A second later it struck me this is French land.. such a welcoming people LOL

Fortress of Louisbourg

Very well organized, the first bus in the morning took us from the Visitor centre right to the entrance of the fortress.

Louisbourg Fortress - Dauphin Gate

There were only three land gates and a couple of wharves to give entry to Louisbourg, and Dauphin Gate is still used as the main gate, for tourists this time. A cheerful animator dressed up as a French soldier tried to give us a sense of authority right from the entrance, or rather making a fool of us, as pretty much of everyone else.

Louisbourg Fortress - A vigilent guard

Located on the eastern side of Cape Breton Island, in the province of Nova Scotia, the fortress of Louisbourg offers today what has been reconstructed out of the original fortress built in the 18th century. The original settlement named Havre à l’Anglois was made in 1713 as a fishing village due to the valuable cod fisheries off the coasts. After ceding Newfoundland and Acadia to the British, France’s only possessions were the islands of Cape Breton, and Price Edward. In 1719 they began fortifying the fishing town of Louisbourg, with a purpose to defend the port against naval attack.

Louisbourg fortress Dauphin demi bastion

The first attack in 1745 found Louisbourg an important trading centre, known the best for its cod fishery. Although the harbour was well defended, a series of low hills from the main land were dangerously close to the fortifications, reason the fortress was captured by the British Empire after 46 days of invasion.

Louisbourg fortress - The King bastion

After three years, the town was restored to the French by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. But that didn’t hold too much, as in 1758 Louisbourg was besieged a second time. Britain’s American colonies were expanding and Louisbourg was a highly sought-after target.

Louisbourg fortress Kings storehouse

This time British army attacked the fortress with 13,100 troops supported by a 14,000 crew on board 150 ships. The French didn’t have any chance, and they were captured in seven days. Determined that Louisbourg would never again become a fortified French base, the British demolished the fortress walls. The fortress, which took more than 24 years to be built, was all ruins now.

The modern town of Louisbourg grew up as a small fishing port, but none of the fortress structures survived the next two centuries.

The Fortress of Louisbourg was named a national historic site in 1928. In 1961 Parks Canada began a reconstruction project of the fort. Almost all of the buildings on site are reconstructions built between 1960 and 1980, using some of the original foundations. A huge work, based on thousands of documents, maps, and plans from old archives, a lot of effort in obtaining evidence about the life from the years preceding the first siege, led to reconstruction of approximately one-quarter of the original town and fortifications.

Two-thirds of the interpretative staff is dressed up in authentic reproductions of colonial clothing.

Dressed up lords, servants, children, guards, they are all trying to bring a genuine flavour of the living life as they would in 1744. The buildings are furnished with a wide variety of furniture and daily-life objects. Some of them are the originals from the 18th century, but the majority are reproductions.

While the high-class would play and dance in formal parlours, the servants would cook, and sew, and do the house chores, fishermen and sailors would hang around to the local pub, or do their duties.

So many buildings to see, and so little time. You could spend a whole day walking around, with so much to learn; an astonishing way of presenting the fortress, and still having a lot of fun with the amazing and jolly guides.

I thought our visit back in 2013 was somehow special, as it marked the 300th anniversary since the founding. If you have a chance, you can try one of their 18th century recipes: not that you would like it, but just for fun😊

Louisbourg fortress - trying a Turnip soup, a 18th century recipe

Tip(s) of the day:

  • Ask as many questions as you want, all the staff looks knowledgeable;
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as the site is quite big, and not much shade between the buildings;
  • Take water and sunscreen with you, especially during the summer months.

~ visited in July 2013

23 thoughts on “CA, Nova Scotia: The Fortress of Louisbourg, the place where the past is present

  1. A great visit to be sure. We have been here twice. We also were taken aback by the guard’s challenge the first time. We bought a soldier’s ration of bread from the bakery and it was a hard chew. I think your numbers got mixed regarding the date of the 2nd siege. Thanks for the memories Christie. Hope all is well. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you Allan, I have corrected it, just 200 yrs apart LOL I remember we tried a piece of bread also, but definitely not something we could eat. We had so much fun with the turnip soup we dared to order, we couldn’t eat that one either🙂
      We are in lockdown again, not that it has been lifted in the past 4 months or so.. who is counting anymore..
      Hope all is well with you too, take care, Christie

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I also like to learn a bit of history about the places we visit. It was an interesting stop over for us, hope you will have a chance to get there one day, the whole coastal side is amazingly beautiful. Christie, xx

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    1. How amazing is that Anita, I bet you have great memories from your childhood. I loved Cape Breton when we went there, although only for few days. I wish to get back one day and do a road trip around the province, as I love all those little coastal towns and villages. And the seaside😊

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  2. I’ve never been to Louisbourg, I love that they act out this history. They do that in Lower Fort Garry in Manitoba too, and probably many others. Maybe this summer we’ll be able to travel to the Maritimes and see this site since I doubt we’ll go overseas anywhere. Thanks for the tour Chirstie! Maggie

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    1. This was our first site of this kind we visited, and the only one. I am glad to hear there are some others, I would love to go to Manitoba one day. Hopefully they would open for tourism, if only this whole pandemic situation will end soon. I know all Maritimes were closed for tourism last year, hope they will open this year! Thank you for your kind note, xx

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  3. What a great visit, Christie. Thank you. The amount of work that must have gone into the reconstruction is amazing. Visiting the Fort sounds like a bucket list item. Loved the action of the French guard. 🙂 –Curt

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    1. Haha, such a vigilant soldier, for sure, he put everyone on guard right at the entrance.
      Considering the whole fort was tore down, it is indeed an extraordinary amount of work to built it back, even for only a portion of it.
      Glad you enjoyed it🙂

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  4. I also really enjoyed my visit to Louisbourg which took longer than I thought. It’s better to try and get there when it’s not so crowded, it makes it easier to feel like you’re travelling back in time with the many costumed guides. I also failed the password test, nothing to do with the desktop, I was not shot immediately because I spoke French, or so I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe, you were their friend, so the reason they let you in so easily😉
      It wasn’t bad when we visited the site, as everyone was spread all over, but we came across with the crowd at the time of their little shows.

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  5. I admit I am a bit of a history buff and am intrigued by towns brimming with heritage and relics of the past. You can learn, admire and satiate your curiosity at such marvelous places and Louisbourg is certainly one among them.

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    1. A cute little town on the Atlantic shore, with an interesting history, has definitely captured our attention as well. Thank you for stopping by, glad you have enjoyed the post.
      Christie

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