Signs proclaim PICTOU, 170km from Halifax, as the "Birthplace of New Scotland" on the basis of the arrival in 1773 of the ship Hector, loaded with settlers from the County of Ross, the advance guard of the subsequent Scots migrations. To maintain the connection, the town has its own middle-of-August Hector Festival (Web: www.decostecentre.ca ), a five-day affair featuring Scottish traditional dancing and the playing of the bagpipes. Pictou has also spent years building itself a replica of the Hector, an expensive and time-consuming project because they stuck to the original shipbuilding techniques. The boat was finally launched in 2000 and now either bobs around the harbour or sallies forth along the Nova Scotian coast. The dock where the boat was built forms part of the Hector Heritage Quay Interpretative Centre (mid-May to mid-Oct Mon– Sat 9am–5pm, Sun noon–5pm; July & Aug Tues– Thurs 9am–7pm & Sun 10am–5pm; Web: www.townofpictou.com ; $7), which gives the historical lowdown on the original voyage, complete with nautical sound effects. It's all excellently done and spruces up Pictou's unassuming centre, where the narrow streets slope up from the harbour dotted with stone buildings of Scottish demeanour.
There are several quality inns and hotels to choose from. One of the best is the ornately decorated Consulate Inn, 115 Water St (Tel:902/485-4554 or 1-800/424-8283, Web: www.consulateinn.com ; Price: $81-100), housed in an elegant early nineteenth-century mansion that once served as a US consulate and with ten comfortable suites and guest rooms. There's also the Customs House Inn, 38 Depot St (Tel:902/485-4546, Web: www.customshouseinn.ca ; Price: $81-100), which has eight spacious rooms with exposed brick walls and hardwood floors, all in a stately redbrick down on the waterfront. A third good and central choice is the Willow House Inn, 11 Willow St (Tel:902/485-5740, Web: www.willowhouseinn.com ; Price: $81-100), whose four suites and two guest rooms, in a well-kept timber house built in 1840, are kitted out in a fetching version of period style.
The best of Pictou's restaurants is Fougere's, 91 Water St (Tel:902/485-1575), where both the seafood and the steaks are delicious; mains here average around $20. Alternatively, and amongst several rather average town-centre cafés, try the filling snacks of the Stone House Café, just up from the Hector Quay at 13 Water St.