Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, Louisbourg, Nova Scotia
Listen to Karen
As the largest reconstruction project in North America, when you step through the Dauphin side gate; don’t let the French Guard challenge you; you are stepping into 1744 when the French held the fortified city and you are visiting one quarter of the actual fortress size. Truly a bustling town, costumed interpreters; soldiers, servants, labourers, richer entrepreneurs providing the services to the town and the military leaders and elegantly costumed wives all have their story to tell and how they fit into keeping the town alive and functioning. Just outside the imposing main gates of the fort is the harbour with ships coming and going bringing supplies and soldiers to the fortress defending the French colony from the British.
This is the story of Canada, the struggle between the French and British and who would control a land rich with resources and an immense country for new immigration. The struggle played out at Fortress Louisbourg as the fort changed hands numerous times, finally being captured by the British in 1758 and they systematically destroyed the fortifications and the town fell into ruin.
As with all living museums, the history is rich and there is a lot to see and lots of activities to take part in which brings the history alive. You can visit the reconstructed buildings which began in the 1960’s and continues today as Parks Canada excavates the site to restore from the original stonework. There are the stone storehouses for food, goods, ammunition and the King’s Storehouse for the flour, butter lard and molasses. The soldiers bring The Kings Baston Barracks to life; in 1744 they slept 2 to a straw bunk, cooked themselves and ate in these cold stone barracks. The ration of daily rum helped keep them warn in this cold, foggy isolated place far from home.
Meanwhile, the Governor, representing the King’s majesty lived lavishly in the Governor’s Apartments located in the King’s Baston where the cannon is fired in the court with pomp daily and you can experience firing a musket. Back out in the town, visit the stables, the bakery, blacksmith and the lime kiln, lime mortar held the walls of Louisbourg together. Visit the tavern where you can get a bite to eat.
Visit the large homes where the elite of the town lived in luxury, the officers and business owners tended to by servants who cooked, tended the gardens, cleaned, and kept the fires burning in the large hearths.
The Ruins Walk, a 2.3 km walk takes you past the reconstructed buildings to view some of the stones of the original ruins. Information is provided (you can download an app or read the information panels) to see the site of the hospital, the convent, powder magazines and site of several cemeteries. The walk takes you along the harbour and much of the time Louisbourg is surrounded by fog and cold.
Parks Canada also provided many activities to make your visit fun. Numerous children’s events teach the dances of the day, tend the garden, and feed the sheep and goats. Daily a prisoner is taken to the stocks with much noise and fanfare as the soldiers walk the prisoner through town. You can walk the town yourself, take a guided tour and there is also a motorized guided tour as well.
So much to see and take in, you need several days at least, and you can stay at Fortress Louisbourg in the Wake up in the Past Camping Program, where you can spend the night after everyone goes home! Or the town of Louisbourg provides present day accommodations with hotels and RV camping.