The town of Pictou is located in the east coast Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Pictou lies on the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the north-central part of the province.
Pictou can be reached by car or bus. Acadian bus lines operates between Pictou and neighboring communities in the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Ferries operate between Woods Island, on Prince Edward Island, and the community of Caribou in Nova Scotia. Caribou is the neighbor of the town of Pictou. The closest airport is in Halifax, 170 km away from Pictou. The nearest VIA Rail train station is in Truro, roughly 75 km away from Pictou.
The Pictou area was originally inhabited by the Micmac people. The region was visited by French fur traders and missionaries before coming under British rule. Pictou’s claim to fame is that it was the first landing point of Scottish settlers arriving in the Maritimes in the late eighteenth century.
The settlement was founded in 1773, when two-hundred colonists from the Scottish Highlands landed at the site. The ship that carried the migrants was the Hector. Today signs around town boast that Pictou was the “birthplace of New Scotland”. The name of the province, Nova Scotia, means “New Scotland“ in Latin. This is a reference to the large numbers of Scots who settled in Nova Scotia after the Hector’s voyage. A large proportion of Maritimers and Nova Scotians today claim Scottish heritage. Highlander influences are still part of local culture.
Pictou’s performing arts centre is located at 85 Water Street. During the summer the center hosts ceilidhs, pipe bands and Scottish Highland dancing showcases.
One of Pictou’s key tourist attractions is a replica of the ship Hector. The building of the ship was expensive and time consuming because locals insisted that it be built using original shipbuilding techniques. The boat was launched in 2000. Today it can usually either be found floating in the town harbor, or at the Hector Heritage Quay.
Northumberland Fisheries Museum lies along the waterfront, at 71 Front Street. The museum includes a replica of an 1805 lighthouse, a fisherman’s bunkhouse and an operating lobster hatchery. Local festivals include the Hector Festival, a five day event in August that features traditional Scottish dancing and bagpipes. The Pictou Lobster Festival, in early July, celebrates the end of area’s fishing season.
Pictou has a number of inns and hotels in town. The Consulate Inn, at 115 Water Street, is a lavishly decorated mansion that dates from the nineteenth century. Before its present use as a hotel, the building served as the U.S. consulate. Another nineteenth-century mansion turned hotel is Customs House Inn, at 38 Depot Street. Willow House Inn was a clapboard house built in 1840.
There are a number of good eating options in Pictou. Murphy’s Fish & Chips, at 89 Water Street, has a reputation for some of the best fish and chips in Canada. Mrs. MacGregor’s Tea Room, at 59 Water Street, serves Scottish and British-style food, such as oatcakes. Sharon’s Place Family Restaurant, at 12 Front Street, serves fresh haddock and other home-cooked food at low prices. Tak’s Thai Kitchen, located at 85 Caladh Avenue, adds some variety to Pictou’s culinary repertoire.
The community of Pictou is mainly notable for its historical significance in terms of the colonization of Nova Scotia. Today, many in Pictou continue to celebrate their Scottish heritage. Pictou is a good place to visit for anyone who wants a taste of rural Nova Scotia’s Scottish roots.
Pictou website: www.townofpictou.ca