The Irish Loop Continued

Witless Bay was originally named for the Whittle family. This is just one of the photogenic small communities scattered along the southern part of the Avalon Peninsula. You can also get a tour boat to the reserve from here. Tors Cove, which is 47 kilometres from St. John's, is a good place to see whales from shore.

Further along the shore, you will come to La Manche Provincial Park. The park is in a beautiful river valley that teems with wildlife and attracts many nature enthusiasts and artists. One focus of their interest is a beautiful marsh with a selection of delicate wildflowers. La Manche River, which runs through the area, offers good canoeing and wonderful sightseeing along a hiking trail that takes you to a spectacular waterfall. Another trail takes you to the abandoned townsite of La Manche. It's a breathtaking trip by foot from the highroad to the tip of the ravine which housed the settlement, and where a new suspended footbridge enables hikers to cross the ravine and continue a hike along the East Coast Trail. While little remains of the houses, the river cascades into a beautiful pocket sized harbour with grassy fields surrounding it - a perfect place for a picnic.

Another option for those touring the Avalon Peninsula is the Avalon Wilderness Reserve. You can obtain a permit to visit the 868 square kilometre reserve at the La Manche park office, or at other provincial park offices. For those interested in canoeing, fishing or hiking this is a worthwhile excursion. The reserve is also home to the world’s southernmost herd of woodland caribou.

Continue along Route 10 through Cape Broyle and visit the Devil's Stairway, an interesting rock formation where Satan is supposed to have left his footprints in the face of the cliff. You can also take a boat tour to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve from Cape Broyle.

Follow the highway to Ferryland and literally step right into the past at the archaeological dig. Sir George Calvert, who later became Lord Baltimore, established a Colony of Avalon in Ferryland in 1621. It was successful for a number of years until a series of cold winters and other hardships prompted him to seek a warmer climate in Maryland. Sir David Kirke took over the colony later in that century. During his time Ferryland's high rocky cliffs were fortified with cannon to protect the settlement from attack. After the town was stripped of its guns and fortifications it was unable to resist the Dutch, who landed in 1763 and destroyed it.

But they didn't destroy everything, and archaeologists have uncovered a large number of artifacts. Excavation with brush and trowel continues, and if you've ever wanted to see history being uncovered just stand 10 feet from the dig and watch. The items recovered are cleaned and catalogued and the most impressive finds are on display in the visitor centre nearby. Beothuk artifacts have also been found in the area, proving these aboriginal people inhabited this part of the coast.

One display on the site is an old-fashioned wattle fence that surrounds a garden where the vegetables being grown are the same sort as those grown over 300 years ago..

Another attraction is an old lighthouse. There's a rough road to it across the Downs, but it's best to walk out and see why Newfoundland painter Gerry Squires was so inspired by this area. There's still some farming on the Downs.

For an introduction to the famous Irish hospitality of the Southern Shore, visit the Historic Ferryland Museum in the old court house. The Southern Shore Shamrock Festival and Ferryland-Maryland Days are celebrated here in July each year, and there’s a dinner theatre based on local stories and songs. Keep an ear tuned for stories of faeries. There's a very strong Irish streak along this part of the Newfoundland coast that's reflected in the music. The pride in their heritage and their warm hospitality are just two of the natural strengths you'll discover in the people. Sit down and have a chat and a cup of tea and you'll wonder where the time has flown. Like many other visitors, you'll give in to the urge to linger just a little while longer.

A short drive down the coast will bring you to Aquaforte, whose harbour resembles a Norwegian fjord. Long ago a squadron of the French fleet ran aground to avoid bombardment by the English who waited at the mouth of the harbour. Some say they buried a treasure here and made their way on foot across the peninsula to Placentia.

From Aquaforte, continue on to Renews-Cappahayden. As the nearest harbour on the southern Avalon to the fishing banks offshore, Renews was already well known when in the fall of 1620, the English ship Mayflower stopped here for supplies during her epic 66-day voyage from Plymouth to the New World. Renews and nearby Fermeuse were unsuccessfully settled by Welsh colonists in the early 1600s, under a scheme promoted by Sir William Vaughan. A point of interest in the area is the grotto where Mass was celebrated secretly at night in the late 1500s when Roman Catholicism was suppressed by the Protestant English.

An unpaved road from Portugal Cove South takes you to two very different attractions. Unique fossils at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve date to 620 million years ago. Cape Race - This place has a direct connection to the Titanic disaster, it was here in 1912 that the stricken liner's distress call was picked up and relayed to other ships in the area and to other stations that passed the word down the eastern seaboard.

Back on Route 10, head west to Trepassey, a name that means ‘the dead’ or ‘the dead souls’ or a corruption of an old Basque word. Basque fishermen were prominent all along the Newfoundland coast in the 16th century. Trepassey was the seat of the unsuccessful Welsh colony. More recently it was the starting point for several transatlantic flights including the one, in 1928, when Amelia Earhart, as a passenger with William S. Stultz and Lou Gordon, became the first woman to fly the Atlantic. The caribou from the Avalon Wilderness Reserve cross the highway on the southern Avalon around Trepassey during their annual migrations.

This region is a popular base for the hunting of upland game birds such as the willow ptarmigan and for salmon and trout fishing expeditions. There are three excellent rivers in this area - North East Brook, North West Brook and Biscay Bay River. They offer a good run of fishing during July and August. Barren ground and isolated heath characterizes this area.

Beyond Trepassey, a short diversion off Route 10 will take you to St. Shotts, best known today for its huge deposits of peat. Hiking trails along the coast provide dramatic view of a coast that has claimed many vessels over the centuries, and the remains of a few are still visible.

Continue on The Irish Loop

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