Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
NEIL’S HARBOUR, CAPE BRETON, NOVA SCOTIA — On June 1, Scott Hatcher turned the lighthouse in this community of 300 into an ice cream shop. How sweet is that? In his first six weeks, Hatcher went through 85 tubs of ice cream and half a guestbook.
He’s having a total kick serving up cones and sundaes to visitors from around the world who veer off the main route of the Cabot Trail to drop in on Neil’s Harbour. Hatcher comes across as a happy-go-lucky Islander who has a keen understanding of his fortune to grow up in one of the most beautiful and laid-back places in North America.
“I wake up every day and thank God,” he says. “There’s a lot of beauty in the world but every day here in Cape Breton is special. We have so much beauty here it’s amazing.”
Hatcher says he has seen a lot more Canadians visiting this summer than in previous years and that’s helped the tourism industry make up for a drop in Americans. The village’s volunteer fire department had previously sold ice cream out of the lighthouse from 1999-2003 and Hatcher thought it was a good idea to do it annually. The community is in the process of purchasing the lighthouse from the Coast Guard, and its municipal council asked residents for business proposals on what to do with the 113-year-old landmark. Hatcher’s plan won, even though “I never owned or ran a business before this.”
“Really, the rent we pay is just to cover the insurance costs,” he says.
Cabot Trail Views Aren’t All That’s Sweet
Aside from ice cream in Neil’s Harbour, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the cliffs of the Cabot Trail. Neil’s Harbour is located on the Coastal Loop, about a 10-minute drive off the main route if you’re heading north from Ingonish on the east side of Cape Breton. Drive past Neil’s Harbour and you’ll reach White Point, where a 20-minute hike will take you to a large cross that marks the burial ground of an Unknown Sailor. The spot is also known for its views of two mounds of rock and earth out in the water. The formations are nicknamed the Two Tittles, a term that could be mistaken as a reference to a woman’s breasts. It’s a name that likely wouldn’t fly anywhere else. There would be a protest over the political incorrectness of the term or gasps of disapproval. In Cape Breton, people go with it. (There’s even a Two Tittles B&B at the head of the hiking trail.) That refreshing attitude is one reason why a lighthouse built in 1899 can find a new purpose simply because a young man comes up with a clever idea for it.
The parlour serves Scotburn ice cream from the Maritimes as well as homemade fudge. It will be open from June to October. Hatcher’s brother, Tim, and girlfriend, Skye MacDonald, help him run the store, which also offers Jones Soda drinks that feature Tim’s picture on the labels (how he got his mug on the bottle of a company based on the other side of the continent in Seattle is one of the things you’ll have to find out when you visit). Scott Hatcher, who is also a musician, wants to record an album in the building because he says the acoustics are so good.
“It’s still operating,” Hatcher says of the lighthouse. “When the light comes out at night, this place looks pretty sweet.”
More About the Lighthouse Ice Cream Parlour
Location: Neil’s Harbour, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Prices: $2.50 for one scoop, $1 for each additional scoop, $5 for a sundae