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The Glooscap Trail from Truro to Parrsboro, and beyond, has much to offer visitors. Amethysts, quartz and other semi- precious stones can be found along its shores. Headlands and fields reveal fossils of animals that inhabited the area thousands of years ago. Fossilized tree trunks stand high on cliff faces for all to see. Blueberries reign supreme. The brigantine Mary Celeste was built on its shore.
There's a gentleness to this part of unsophisticated maritime Nova Scotia. Villages are small and super-friendly. Ancestral hands till touch the land. Firewood is piled on porches ready for winter use. Mom & pop canteens serve home-cooking. It's an area where a highway detour might take you through an auto scrapyard and where folks always ask where you're from.
Let's be off on a ramble. Assuming that you've spent the night in Truro in order to enjoy the town's unique tree sculptures, it's time to explore the Glooscap Trail toward Parrsboro. You'll be driving Highway #2 which follows the shore of the Cobequid Bay and the Minas Channel. A popular diversion is Highway #209 that meets with Highway #2 at Parrsboro. #209 swings past Port Greville, Spencer's Island, Cape d'Or and Advocate Harbour. When leaving Truro, it's important to remember to drive across the bridge and to always keep Cobequid Bay on your left-hand side! If you don't follow this advice you'll find yourself heading toward Maitland and that's not the way you want to go. Watch highway signs closely or you'll do some serious backtracking! Look for signs for Great Village, Upper Economy and Bass River.
When approaching Great Village, the first thing that will impress is white clapboard houses, church and public buildings that evoke memories of long ago and earlier times. The community was the early childhood home to Pulitzer prize winning poet Elizabeth Bishop. Some of her best poems reflect life in Great Village during the early part of the twentieth century.
A number of first class artisans have studies in the Upper Economy and Bass River area. Watch for signs for the Joy Laking Gallery. Joy is one of Nova Scotia's best-known artists. She does wonderful watercolours and serigraphs. Not too far down the road you'll find The Little House Shop & Studio Gallery. Watch for Raspberry Bay Stone signs. The attraction consists of an interesting little shop that sells unique art, one-of-a-kind crafts and jewelry. Next door, the working studio of stone mason Heather Lawson & Gardens are open to the public and showcase Heather's work. Heather is possibly Canada's only professional female stone mason. One of her mediums is red sandstone that she has aptly named Raspberry Bay Stone.
Bass River is home to Dominion Chair Company & Old General Store. If you're looking for cheese, stop at That Dutchman's Farm in Upper Economy to see how Gouda is made. The farm has a cheese outlet and also operates a café that is open mid-June through August.
Depending on your time schedule, check out Wild Marsh with its driftwood beach & mud flats, drive to the Soleytown Look-Off for a panoramic view the Bay or hike up 700 foot Economy Mountain. Do drive into Five Islands Provincial Park for magnificent views of Pinnacle, Egg, Long, Diamond and Moose Islands.
Watch for Adrian's Lunch on Highway #2 a little west of Five Islands Provincial Park. This eatery serves the best lobster roll in Nova Scotia. Coffee's good too. If you're traveling shoulder or off-season, be aware that some restaurants and attractions open in June and close mid-to-end September.
Parrsboro, a small town with a big heart, is a regional centre with a population of approximately 1,500. As there's lots to see and do in the area, the community is a good place to stay for several days. Gillespie House B & B was built c1890 for merchant & lumberman David Huntley, in the Queen Anne style with Italianate features. The accommodation with its lovely interior wood trim is close to downtown and area attractions. Rooms are nicely decorated and a hearty breakfast is served.
One of your first stops should be at the Visitor Information Centre which is located at the Fundy Geological Museum The Centre has Internet access for those who want to touch base with home.
Parrsboro is in the heart of the fossil and mineral-rich and Minas Channel shore, one of the most desirable areas for finding semi-precious stones. Due to high tides, there are only certain times you can rock-hound. Find out when & where at the Information Centre. Locals like to have people off beaches three hours before high tide. Time your visit to the Parrsboro area to include at least two rock-hounding opportunities. Rock-hound once and you'll be hooked. Once is never enough!. One of the best places to look for stones is on the causeway which links the mainland and Partridge Island at low tide. Samuel de Champlain stepped onto Partridge in 1607. If you're lucky there'll be dulce gatherers on the causeway. Be sure to chat with them about their unique sea crop. They might even give you a taste of the salty, dried seaweed.
For an overview of the area and to understand the reasons for this rich fossil beds, semi-precious stone and mineral finds, visit the Fundy Geological Museum on Two Islands Road and Parrsboro Rock & Mineral Shop & Museum just a little past Main Street on your way to the causeway. In particular, the Rock & Mineral Shop & Museum has the world's smallest dinosaur footprints on display, along with a fabulous collection of large amethyst geodes, exotic sea shells and local mineral specimens. The collection belongs to well known Eldon George who has been written up in the National Geographic.
At the Fundy Geological Museum you'll learn that the fossils in Nova Scotia belonged at one time to Africa. With the shifting, drifting and upheaval of land masses, they ended up thousands of miles from their source. You'll also find out that due to continuous erosion of the cliffs by the restless seas, there are always new and exciting fossil discoveries being made in the Bay of Fundy, Cobequid Bay and Minas Channel.
Ottawa House By-The-Sea Museum & Historic Site and the Ships Company Theatre can be added to the list of things to see in Parrsboro during the summer. In keeping with theme, street decorations are wire dinosaurs that light up at night. As mentioned there's a giant statue to the Mi'Kmaq God Glooscap in the town's Square. The village has a great Main Street. Welcome mats are always out in Parrsboro. They can't be rolled up. They're painted on the sidewalk.
Last stop in Parrsboro should be a drive up Kirk Hill, just off #209, for a panoramic 360-degree view of the town, the Minas Channel and surrounding countryside. Blueberries are an important crop for Nova Scotia. Parrsboro and area are famous for fields and hills covered with wild blueberry bushes that are harvested for commercial use. During late spring the hills are white with blossom. In summer as berries ripen, hills and valley look blue. During the autumn, leaves on the low growing bushes change the landscape into a brilliant crimson carpet. Kirk Hill Road is gravel and steep. But what a wonderful view from the top! As one local said when telling us how to find Kirk Hill - just aim for the big tower that's on top.
Thousands of years ago ancient lava flows created headlands and islands from Truro to Parrsboro. Today erosion of the shore by the high tides continues to change the landscape. Famous Fundy tides can be seen at Parrsboro twice a day when its vast tidal river basin and harbour empty at low tide.
There are a few things to remember when planning a trip to Nova Scotia. Most attractions are seasonal. Retail stores are not open on Sunday. There's little signage and what is posted is unobtrusive. Make accommodation reservations in advance of your trip. Have a great time!
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