Within these walls

I walked the ruins of Louisbourg on a cold day in August, gazing across the sweeping landscape, across what had once been streets bustling with activity, now quiet, the faint rectangles etching out the buildings of this former town, their edges barely delineating a crumbling existence.

I looked back to the reconceived structures and then to the water, where supplies took too long to arrive, the dream slowly dying when too little became too much. They held on until they were overrun; the life of Louisbourg as it once was slowly fell apart.

I don’t know if the goosebumps came from the mist streaming in off the Atlantic or the ghostly chill of the place itself, but they were there nonetheless. My visit occurred in 1999, and I still remember that sense of “feeling the history” quite vividly. 2013 marks the 300th anniversary of the founding of Louisbourg, then the capital of Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) and the celebrations at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada continue through what remains of the visitor season.

Similar experiences also await to the north and the west, at the many forts and other historic sites that dot the landscape of what was once Lower and Upper Canada. Exploring the Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site of Canada and the spectacular heritage architecture of Québec City is magical. There remains a symphony of strength here; a decadence of beauty and strategy. History is everywhere you look, and there are many mesmerizing vistas to behold. A photographer’s dream, Québec City is one of the most attractive urban centres in the country, set against the breathtaking backdrop of the St. Lawrence River.

Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada, in Kingston, Ontario, has a vibrant interpretive program, with drilling re-enactments and plenty of stories about nineteenth century British military life. There are many cavernous tunnels to explore and dramatic views looking down to Lake Ontario. Fort Henry is the kind of site that children and adults enjoy equally. Some say it’s haunted, by the way.

Canada as a nation is relatively young compared to others, but it has a long memory and a very old soul. These are just a few examples of the places that create lasting memories as well as a new appreciation for life then and now in this great country.

For more information:

Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada:


Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site of Canada: 


Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada:


Parks Canada:


One thought on “Within these walls

  1. Hi LouAnn:

    Thank you for posting this as it brought back many wonderful Louisbourg memories. As a former curator at the Fortress, I had many amazing experiences that enabled one to briefly live in the 18th century. Louisbourg also developed my fascination for evocative and experiential museum and heritage experiences which continue to completely engage me. I also appreciate reading your other posts as they help me to remain current in museology while living in the far north.

    Best wishes,

    Derek Cooke
    Heritage and Culture Coordinator
    Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre
    Whitehorse, Yukon

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