About the Iona Area

Highland Village Barra

Fàilte gu Cridhe Gàidhealach Albainn Ùr

What to see and do in Central Cape Breton

Experience Nova Scotia's Gaelic culture Highland Village Museum or at one of many community events. View some of the most breathtaking scenery that this Province has to offer on the shores of the mighty Bras d'Or. The Iona Peninsula is well worth the visit. The Iona Peninsula is located in the centre of Cape Breton Island, almost completely surrounded by the magnificent Bras d'Or Lakes - Canada's Only Inland Sea. The Bras d'Or is a 1,098 km2 (424 sq. mi.) basin* that is one of the finest sailing and boating venues in the world. They separate Cape Breton's Highlands and Lowlands. The Bras d'Or coastline abounds with wildlife and is particularly noted as a breeding area of the magnificent bald eagle.

History of Iona

The Iona area is rich in Gaelic heritage. It was first settled in the early 1800's by MacNeils from the Island of Barra in Scotland. Donald 'Og' MacNeil spotted Iona during his service with the British Army. On a trip back to Barra, Donald 'Og' told his family and friends of the advantages of the Iona area; "Besides the fuel in the forests, water in the ground, and fish in the sea, you will find there more shelter from the North wind, better and earlier ripening harvests, and good fishing ground." Donald 'Og' came back to Canada to fight in Louisbourg in 1758 and Quebec City in 1759, where he died. His message was followed. In 1800 four MacNeils from Barra arrived at Iona. Several years later two of Donald 'Og's own sons also settled here. Today, the MacNeils' and MacKenzies, the MacLeans and MacDonalds, and the Gillises and Campbells "All Call Iona Home."


Nearby Amenities

In neighbouring Eskasoni First Nation you will find Eskasoni Cultural Journeys and the Goat Island Trails. Here you will be able to learn about, and experience, the Mi’kmaq culture and story. 

Looking for an outdoor adventure, try a guided Kayak Tour through EcoGael Adventures. Experience the wonder of the Bras d’Or Lakes infused with Gaelic stories and song from your guide Colin Watson.

If you are looking for somewhere to stay while you visit Iona you there are a couple of options - The Iona Heights Inn, Hector's Arm B&B, Grand Narrows Hotel, and Time Out Campground and RV Park. For more information see accommodations links below.

Maybe you are looking for somewhere to eat? Located adjacent to us is the Folk & Frolic Pub or a quick snack Jill’s Chocolate Café. Other local options include Darby’s Old Church Kitchen, the Wheelhouse Café, and the Beaver Cove Take Out. See the Food Service links below. If you are visiting on a Friday you can stop by the Royal Canadian Legion in Iona for Friday Night Suppers & Cèilidh, from 6-7pm. This often sells out so you might want to call and book a ticket in advance.

Looking for something a little more relaxing, why not pack your own lunch and have a picnic in McCormack Provincial Park. This is location about three minutes from the Village.

Visit near by Christmas Island and take in one of the Gaelic language events hosted by Fèis An Eilein. For more information on the area check out the our new Experience Iona website. (experienceiona.ca).



Bras d' Or Lake

The Highland Village overlooks the beautiful Bras d’ Or Lake, an inland sea that was designated as a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve in 2011.The surface area of the Bras d'Or Lake is 1,100 km2 (424 square miles). The land area that makes up the watershed is an additional 2,500 km2 (965 square miles). The total area of the Bras d'Or Lakes watershed is 3,600 km2 (1,390 square miles). For more on the lake and its UNESCO status visit the Bras d’Or Lakes Biosphere Reserve website


Accommodations and Food Service in Central Cape Breton


Iona Heights Inn – Dan Franklin (1-844-733-4662)

Grand Narrows Hotel Bed & Breakfast, Grand Narrows – Elaine MacNeil (902.622.1330)

Hector’s Arm Bed & Breakfast, Iona – Angie Fowler (902.622.1229)

Time Out Campground and RV Park, Estmere – Annette LeBlanc (1.902.756.3220 / 1.844.228.9109)

Food Service

Folk & Frolic Pub, Iona (902.622.2190)

Jill’s Chocolate Café, Iona (902.209.6788)

Darby’s Old Church Kitchen, McKinnon’s Harbour (902.725.2500)

Wheelhouse Café, Grand Narrows (902.622.1313)

Fynn’s Beaver Cove Foods, Beaver Cove (902.871.2180)