Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse

Address: Lighthouse Road, Neil’s Harbour, Victoria County, Nova Scotia

Recognition Statute: Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse – Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (S.C. 2008, c 16)

Designation Date: 2015-02-12


  • 1899 to 1899 (Construction)
  • 1899 to 1899 (Established)

Neil’s Harbour lighthouse will be the third lighthouse in our lighthouse series. Neil’s Harbour is a small settlement located between Ingonish and Dingwall on Cape Breton’s Cabot trail. Blessed with a sheltered cove, excellent conditions for drying fish, and close proximity to abundant fishing grounds, Neil’s Harbour was a popular fishing base for both Scottish and French settlers in the 1700s. Neil MacLennan, an enterprising merchant based in Westmont, would sail to the protected cove with his vessel laden with dry goods to trade with the fishermen. MacLennan became such an integral part of life at the cove that the fishermen began calling it “Neil’s Cove,” and over time the name became Neil’s Harbour. 

Between 1871 and 1891, the population of Neil’s Harbour and nearby New Haven swelled to 430, due to an influx of Newfoundland fishermen looking for better fishing grounds. To mark the entrance to the harbour, the Department of Marine established a lighthouse in 1899 on the outer edge of the headland that protects the harbour. The following description of Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse was published that year:

The lighthouse is an enclosed wooden building square in plan, with sloping sides, painted white, surmounted by an octagonal iron lantern painted red. It is 34 feet in height from its base to the ventilator on the lantern. The lighthouse stands on the ground elevated 46 feet above the high-water mark and is 65 feet back from the edge of the bank.

The light is fixed red, elevated 73 feet above high water, and visible 8 miles from all points of approach by water. The illuminating apparatus is dioptric of the seventh order.

The work was done by Mr P. McFarlane, of Baddeck, under contract for $725.

Angus A. Buchanan, who also served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, was hired as the first keeper of the lighthouse on August 14, 1899, as an annual salary of $150. In 1910, Keeper Buchanan was given a hand-operated foghorn that he was required to sound in response to signals from vessels during periods of limited visibility. George Sweet, Jr. replaced Buchanan as keeper in 1911 and was in charge of the lighthouse for the next twenty years. 

On November 2, 1956, a 200-watt electric light bulb replaced the oil lamp that had been used in the lighthouse, and six days later, Walter Bragg, who had been the keeper of the lighthouse for over twenty years, was out of a job. 

In 1964, a time clock was used to turn the light on and off, and a standby twelve-volt, battery-operated light was used in case of power failure. 

For several years, Scott Hatcher operated an ice cream shop in the lighthouse during the summer. Scott went away to school in Halifax, but after finding city life wasn’t for him, he returned to Neil’s Harbour. The village’s volunteer fire department had previously sold ice cream out of the lighthouse starting in 1999, but Scotty Hatcher took over the operation in 2003. Scott’s brother, Tim, and girlfriend, Skye MacDonald, also helped run the shop. 

In 2015, Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse was declared a heritage lighthouse under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act that was passed in 2008, and ownership of the lighthouse was transferred to Neil’s Harbour-New Haven Community Development Association. Renovations of a heritage lighthouse must meet strict heritage building requirements, and a heritage lighthouse may not be demolished unless there is no reasonable alternative. The development association has been running the ice cream shop since 2016.

Neil’s Harbour-New Haven Community Development Association entered the lighthouse in “This Lighthouse Matters,” a crowdfunding competition sponsored by National Trust for Canada and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society in 2015. Twenty-six lighthouses in Nova Scotia competed for online votes in three different categories: High Tide, Ebb Tide, and Low Tide. The top three vote-getters in each category were given monetary awards that totalled $250,000. Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse came in second in the Low Tide category and won $10,000. Using the prize money, rotten wood in the lighthouse was replaced and a leak in the lantern room was repaired. 

Keepers: Angus A. Buchanan (1899 – 1911), George Sweet, Jr. (1911 – 1931), Walter Bragg (at least 1936 – 1956).

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse should be respected:
— its location on Neil Head in Neil’s Harbour, Nova Scotia;
— its current, as-built form and proportions, based on the standard design of square, tapered, wooden towers;
— its square, wooden frame structure with tapered sides rising from a square base;
— its straight cornice that supports a square gallery;
— its simple metal railing surrounding the gallery;
— its octagonal metal lantern with six glazed window panes and a pyramidal roof and vent;
— the white maple leafs painted on the two non-glazed window panes;
— its white clapboard siding;
— its sole entry, pedimented door;
— its interior layout, featuring a ladder and trap door which give access to the light;
— its stone foundation;
— its traditional colour scheme, consisting of white for the tower and cornice, and red for the lantern and gallery railing; and,
— its visual prominence in relation to the water and landscape.



Louisbourg Lighthouse is the second lighthouse in our lighthouse series. It is an active Canadian lighthouse in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia. The current tower is the fourth in a series of lighthouses that have been built on the site, the earliest was the first lighthouse in Canada.

Construction began on the lighthouse in 1730 to assist navigation to the Fortress of Louisbourg. It was completed in 1734. A fire in 1736 destroyed the lantern but the stone tower was unharmed and a new lantern was installed in 1738. Lighthouse Point played a decisive role in both the Siege of 1745 and 1758 as, once captured, it provided a commanding gun battery location to bombard the fortress. This lighthouse was badly damaged in 1758 during the Final Siege of Louisbourg and abandoned by the British after they demolished the fortress. Stonework ruins from the first tower are still visible at the site.

A new square wooden lighthouse with a black stripe was built by the government of Nova Scotia in 1842. The lighthouse was a large 2+12-story wooden building supported by a massive masonry base. It included the keeper’s dwelling in the base of the light. A fog horn building was added in 1902. This lighthouse was destroyed by fire in 1922. The foundation remains visible today and has been excavated and stabilized by Parks Canada archaeologists.

An octagonal concrete lighthouse decorated with neoclassical architectural features was built in 1923. The tower is a twin of the Georges Island Lighthouse in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Louisbourg lighthouse was destaffed in 1990. The lighthouse is a popular lookoff point and in 2008 became the start of a coastal walking trail, the Louisbourg Lighthouse Trail. Interpretive plaques mark the ruins of the previous lighthouses.

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Captivatingly Beautiful Cape Breton Highlands Winter!!

Captivatingly Beautiful Cape Breton Highlands Winter!! : Tourists flock to the Cabot Trail in summer and fall. It’s also a mystical winter wonderland that few take the opportunity to explore throughout winter . Skiing, hiking , ice fishing, snowshoeing, and camping are among some of our winter activities. Here’s a few pictures from our Cabot Trail in winter cover from Davey and Sky. Come stay and explore. Click the “book your stay” link below.

Captivatingly Beautiful Cape Breton Highlands Winter!! BOOK YOUR STAY @ Back Home Bed and Breakfast


Your stay will be highlighted with the clipper room. Upon arrival, there will be a chilled bottle of beverage awaiting you. Admission to the day’s Cape Breton Eagles game is free of charge for two guests. Before heading out the next day, we will fuel you with a delicious homemade breakfast by Delores.

The dates available are as follows:

All remaining regular season games are available!!

GREAT DEAL $150 BOOK DIRECT: call 902.562.5555 or 306.262.6966 Located 8 minutes from Center 200 at 2000 Gabarus Highway, Dutch Brook, Nova Scotia

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Kitchenfest !

The island-wide traditional Gaelic music festival is back for year 9 as Colaisde na Gàidhlig | the Gaelic College presents Féis a’ Chidsin!, KitchenFest! back at its usual calendar spot, July 1-9, 2022.

The annual celebration gives locals and visitors alike up close and personal insight into this distinct and vibrant living culture, bringing the kitchen-céilidh feel to the forefront. Concerts and ceilidhs, pub nights, and square dances, celebrate beautiful Unama’ki/Cape Breton’s glorious scenery, music, food, and people with this perfect summer season kick-off – one big island-wide kitchen party!

Book your stay at Back Home Bed and Breakfast while taking in the Kitchenfest activities.

For more Kitchenfest information follow the link KITCHENFEST or to click to view the schedule of events

Here is a google map link of the Kitchenfest venues map courtesy of Back Home bed and Breakfast.