Jutting out into Ingonish Bay and dividing the bay into two distinct parts, the North and South bay, is a rocky finger of land known as Middle Head.
Almost three kilometres long, its rocky cliff shorelines are constantly waging a battle with the sea. In places it is narrow and saddle-like and looks as if the ocean is winning the battle.
About a third of the way out is the site of the Keltic Lodge. From the lodge, a hiking trail extends out to the tip of the Head. Mackerel Rock, Shag Roost, Whale Rock, Steering Island, and The Sunker are some of the coastal features that make the hike interesting.
South and North Ingonish Bays are fairly large crescent shaped bodies of water found on either side of Middle Head. Ingonish Beach extends along the southern shore of Middle Head, almost closing off Ingonish Harbour.
Across from Middle Head on the north side is King’s Point. A few summers ago, we were lucky enough to spend a weekend at King’s Point. Looking across each day at the beauty of the scene was a good enough suggestion to write about it. In the distance and over the top of Middle Head is Cape Smokey. It’s a headland of over 900 feet and extends into the Atlantic. Several small coves are found around Middle Head—- Mink Cove, Seine Cove, Black Cove, and Corson’s Cove. Corson’s Cove is named after the early people who owned and settled Middle Head.
Henry Clay Corson and his wife Julia purchased the Middle Head peninsula in 1881 and moved there, building a large lodge, barns, stables, and even a sawmill. Many of the locals were employed on the estate. Many influential people often stayed at the lodge and even Alexander Graham Bell was a friend of the Corsons. Corson died in the early 1920’s. His wife managed to continue running the estate for some years.
In 1936 the Cape Breton Highlands National Park came into being. By 1938, the federal government expropriated the Corson estate and Middle Head. The original home and lodge was torn down after a few years of operation. Some of the materials from the Corson lodge were used in the building of the glebe house in Ingonish Beach.
In the early 1950s, the present Keltic Lodge was constructed and officially opened for the traveling guests. A glance at a map of the area shows how the boundaries of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park skirts around the villages of Ingonish and Ingonish Beach and includes all of the Middle Head peninsula.
Expropriation of private lands usually leaves a very sour taste in the mouths of the original owners. Corson’s widow fought for several years against the expropriation but in the end lost her fight. Workers and guests sometimes imply that the Corson ghosts still inhabit the Keltic Lodge. No wonder!
Several years ago, the National Park planned to extend its boundaries to the northern tip of Cape Breton to take in Bay St. Lawrence and the surrounding communities. The idea did not go over too big with the locals and the plans were dropped.
The Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a park “where the mountains meet the sea” and Middle Head is no exception. The view from anywhere on the peninsula is grand. In any direction inland, the mountains, Franey Peak to the north, Cape Smokey across the bay, and the mountains in the inner bay are a wonderful sight.
On our annual excursion around the Cabot Trail, usually in October, a stop for a cup of coffee at the Keltic Lodge is a must, not for the coffee, but to soak in the beauty of the surroundings.