With the largest number of lighthouses of any province in Canada, it’s no wonder lighthouse hunters from all over come to Nova Scotia to explore our rich historical landmarks.
Now one of Nova Scotia’s most famous beacons is allowing the public to investigate the interior of Yarmouth County’s Cape Forchu Lighthouse for the first time in decades.
“I think it’s been about 20 years in the making,” says Jennifer Wilkins, Cape Forchu's site manager about the iconic tower’s new Climb the Light Experience tour. “Very few people have climbed up into this tower and everybody has always wanted to and talked about it.”
Wilkins says the original lighthouse that was built in 1839 had often entertained visitors at the discretion of the various lighthouse keepers. However in 1962, when the old, octagonal timber tower was replaced by the more modern apple-core shaped version on site, casual tours and access became restricted.
Yarmouth’s most popular attraction, Cape Forchu provides stunning views as it soars 125 feet above sea level atop rocky, jagged cliffs and the ocean-surrounded Leif Erikson Trail.
Tours are approximately 30 minutes in length with knowledgeable guides providing trivia about the site as well as offering insight about what it was like to be a lightkeeper at Cape Forchu.
“We’ll go over some interesting facts about the lighthouse and answer a few questions and then we’ll take the climb,” says Wilkins, adding the 77 steps up a fairly steep, narrow circular staircase may restrict some climbers and all visitors must sign a liability waiver.
“Once we’re up in the lantern room, of course you have a fantastic view and plenty of time to take pictures.”
The Climb the Light Experience isn’t just a visual marvel either. Along with the guide’s expertise, the site is outfitted with plenty of fascinating information panels detailing Cape Forchu’s past and the rich historical importance of lighthouses to the area.
Taken over and operated by the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, the reopening of Cape Forchu has been an involved project for many locals and while organizers expect much interest from tourists this season, the tour has definitely been created out of passion — not profit-making.
“We have received a lot of funding in order to get the lighthouse up to par to have these tours happen and then the money from the tours and other donation money just goes into the operation of this site,” adds Wilkins. “Just the maintenance and upkeep of a lighthouse is serious money.”
Still, Wilkins says that she expects tours to be very popular this summer – particularly from locals and what she calls “lighthouse groupies”, many of whom are undoubtedly members of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society (NSLPS) — a group of enthusiasts aimed at encouraging the preservation and promotion of local lighthouses.
“I just think there’s a certain mystique and a certain aura about lighthouses — when you think about what they’ve done to protect the communities and the mariners and just the lightkeeper’s job,” says Wilkins of the famous landmarks’ widespread allure. “And let’s face it, they are beautiful too — they are all unique and they’re all different.”
For more information on the Climb the Light Experience at Cape Forchu, visit the website.