Serendipity is a wonderful thing. A chance meeting while walking a heritage trail in the town of Bay Roberts in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, resulted in me meeting Glenn Littlejohn.
Glenn explained how, as a boy, he used to play with friends on Fergus Island, where Bay Roberts residents would let their sheep graze over the summer. Visitors tend to snap images of the island because it bears a striking resemblance to a sleeping Newfoundland dog with outstretched paws.
He was on the town council for 14 years and served as mayor of Bay Roberts from 2005 to 2011. Who better to answer questions for the latest With a Local column?
Why do you think people should come to Bay Roberts?
Bay Roberts dates back to the early 1600s as a settlement on the north shore of Conception Bay.
The Western Union Cable Building is a National Historic Site. It featured the hotline for Roosevelt and Churchill in World War Two—a very important communication link at that point in time.
It’s very scenic. The historic trail takes you to the east of Bay Roberts, where you can see the origins of the town settled by the English and the fishery. The fishery was important in establishing the town as a regional service centre.
Over the summer the Madrock Theatre Troupe puts on productions and they are a laugh-and-a-half.
What is your favourite place in Bay Roberts (and why)?
My favourite place in the town is the heritage trail. I guess it’s because it’s peaceful, scenic and overlooks the ocean. It’s a place I can go to gather my thoughts.
When you get to Mad Rocks you’re not only looking out over Conception Bay but also across the Atlantic Ocean to our friends in England!
If you were going to take a guest to dine, where would you choose and why?
I would go to Madrock café (723 Water Street; tel. +1 709-786-4047).
The owners noticed there were more and more individuals walking the heritage trail and established it about 15 years ago. Their idea was to serve coffee and muffins and ice cream, and to see how it went. It’s expanded into a 365 operation.
You get a little bit of the local flavour. It’s in an old saltbox house and the owners are from the east end of Bay Roberts. Their fish cakes are to die for!
Last year they won a contest for their toutons, which is a Newfoundland speciality and basically fried dough. They’re known for having the best toutons in Newfoundland and Labrador.
They have traditional food, including pea soup, and it’s a wonderful place with great atmosphere.
If there is a bar or cafe that you could take guests to, which would it be and why?
If I was going for a drink, I’d go to Kelly’s Landing (182 Water Street; tel. +1 709-786-0244).
The owner has a lot of memorabilia about sport in the town. There’s a lot of pictures on the wall. If you want a bit of local history and to be entertained Donna does a wonderful job there.
It’s a pub in the traditional style of England, it’s more a bar. But when people go in there’s walls of memorabilia and it’s a walk through the sporting history of the town over the past 20 to 25 years.
What is your favourite legend or quirky bit of history associated with Bay Roberts?
There’s legends of ghosts and fairies in the east end of Bay Roberts. The Toutons and Tunes walk, with a local guide, gives you a chance to hear them on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.
In Bay Roberts in the late 1800s there was a murder because of mummering. Mummering is a Christmas tradition here that continues [people dress up, mask their identity and go from house to house].
And, of course, there’s the sleeping Newfoundland dog [Fergus Island] having a nap in the afternoon sun.
If guests can stay in the area for an extra day, what do you recommend they do and see?
Cupids is the oldest English settlement in Canada. That’s about 15 minutes’ away. John Guy settled there in 1610.
Next to Cupids is the little, picturesque and historic community of Brigus. Hawthorne Cottage, the home of the northern legend Bob Bartlett, who took many explorers to the Arctic, is there.
The Brigus Blueberry Festival is the biggest of its type in the province and held in mid-August.
There are some great places to eat in Brigus and Cupids.
Take a look at the Bay Roberts website, www.bayroberts.com.
Find out more about Newfoundland and Labrador on the www.newfoundlandlabrador.com website.
See www.explore-canada.co.uk for more about travel and tourism in Canada.