Were it not for the Normaway Inn’s indifferent concern for something we left behind after two quite lovely nights there, we’d give the place five stars. In a rush, we forgot an $80 laptop computer cord under the desk of our room. We called a day later, heard it had been retrieved and were assured it would be sent to us promptly at our expense. Hearing nothing further a few days later, we emailed the innkeeper, who said he had the cord and would send it right off. Now, a week later, our computer is still down. Mea culpa for forgetting the cord, but it seems reasonable to expect better service from such an otherwise responsive business.
That said, what a pleasant, relaxed and unpretentious retreat this is, with timeless structures of white clapboard with green trim situated on 200-some acres just off the Cabot Trail on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. Nearing the end of a breathtaking five-day counter-clockwise drive along the trail, we entered an alley of pines, not unlike the poplars lining approaches to Loire chateaux if less haughty. Horses graze on the grounds, near the inn’s fifteen pine cabins and one with three suites. The inn offers an exquisite setting for hiking and for fishing in the salmon-packed Margaree River and not far—surprisingly enough for an area so far in the north--from secluded, uncrowded beaches warm enough for swimming in July and August. The Normaway also rents well-maintained mountain bikes.
The cabins, though lacking kitchens and air conditioning and dated in decor, offer seclusion and spaciousness, usually plenty big enough for a family of four or more and some come with porches and Jacuzzis. But the three big corner rooms on the first floor—numbers 1, 2 and 3, which cost around $200 a night--are the better choice for a couple. With a highly polished wood floor, a well-fitted window air conditioner, an old claw-foot bathtub with a shower, and the best of reproduction antique dressers, seating, desks and beds, our room, No. 2, readily met the standard of the best bread & breakfasts. Five rooms on the second floor are similarly attractive, but tucked within the inn’s gables, they are small, cramped and dark.
The Normaway Inn also has a restaurant that it makes some effort to encourage guests to use. It is not a hard sell: Adequate restaurants off the premises are 15 and more minutes away. But the cooking, in spite of an uninspired, largely seafood-focused menu, is quite good. From the window of Room No. 2, we saw why. In the back of the inn, we spotted the chef making frequent visits to his garden there, nursing his vegetables and selecting those for his guests.
To make much of the inn’s relaxed response to our need for the computer cord might border on petty. For five stars, however, we would expect something more for an otherwise most welcoming visit.
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- Also Known As:
- The Normaway Inn & Cabins Hotel Margaree Valley
- The Normaway Inn And Cabins
- The Normaway Inn & Cabins Margaree Valley, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia