Anyone who has ever done a long distance walk knows how easy it is to plan. Basically you just plan to get to your starting point….and that’s it!
You know that for the next 30 days or so all you have to do is get up and start walking…..and nowhere is the infrastructure better than many of the Camino’s in Europe and in particular Spain.
It was after walking the most popular camino route in Spain, the Camino Frances, that Bryson Guptill was inspired to set up the Island Walk. He must have had a “Field of Dreams/Kevin Costner” moment and believed “if you build it, they will come!”
We read an article in The Globe and Mail in September describing the walk and with international travel limited, we decided to dig into the details. After several phone calls with Bryson and some excellent information on the Island Walk website, we flew into Charlottetown and started walking on October 2nd. Much of the tourist infrastructure in PEI is closed or closing down at that time of the year and we were afraid that arranging accommodations, pick-ups and drop-offs might be too difficult to manage but we decided to give it a go, in large part because of Bryson’s assurances that somehow things would work out for us. And he was right.
We arrived back into the capital on November 1st having met some wonderful people, seeing incredibly beautiful scenery, and overflowing with lasting memories of our experiences along the way!
There are a few differences from a Spanish camino. You cannot expect to move along the route every day that you walk… you will have to stay a few nights at the same location and arrange pick-ups and morning drop-offs, but our accommodation hosts recognized our needs as walkers and they made it work! As a bonus, our packs were much lighter on many days as we didn’t have to carry all of our gear every single day.
There is no historical significance nor is there any religious reason for the walk, (although the church in Tignish is not to be missed) but spending a month on the island is the ultimate medicine for anyone’s soul. There is no doubt that the scenery is breath-taking, however our fondest memories are of the people we met along the way… the warm, friendly, and hospitable islanders. (And the friendliest cows we’ve ever met!)
Some of these kind and generous folks treated us like family and we will never forget them. First up in that category are Lily and Clayton who hosted us at Lily’s Garden in O’ Leary. They were so generous and so kind, with Clayton making himself available for pick-ups and drop-offs everyday as well as helping us with groceries. We had such a wonderful time with them on our northbound journey that we returned for a second stay on the southbound leg. Another person that deserves special mention is Anne Arsenault, who made arrangements for accommodations at the Tignish Heritage Inn. She pointed us to the local grocery, and did a “beer run” for us that was greatly appreciated given that the liquor store was not within easy walking distance. She even delivered a homemade Thanksgiving dinner to us at the Inn that was absolutely delicious. (We still talk about her fabulous pumpkin cheesecake.) Hospitality and great food were also the theme at the Bishop’s Rest BnB in Mount Stewart. We stayed in the lovely suite on the top floor of the house and our hosts Sarah and Ben brought the meals to our room as the dining room was closed due to Covid. We eat out a lot in Toronto and we think we eat pretty well but the food so skillfully prepared by Ben knocked our socks off.
~ Don and Heather Muir
In St. Peter’s Bay, Rodger and Sarah are running a gorgeous, recently renovated B and B called the Points East Coastal Inn. They were so very warm and so helpful and the breakfast there was outstanding. The Siren’s Beach Motel in North Lake was closing when we arrived there but Liz and her son kept it open for us and made sure we were comfortable. Liz did our laundry and ran us around in her truck which was greatly appreciated given that she was trying to get the motel closed before heading back to her own home for the winter. James cooked for us at the North Lake Boathouse next door to the motel despite the fact that the restaurant was actually closed for the season and he absolutely spoiled us. So much food and it was so delicious! Finally, in Murray Harbour we stayed with Mary and Tony and their beautiful dog Danny at the Olde Anchor B and B. Mary had arranged to pick up prepared meals for us as most of the restaurants were closed when we were there and she and Tony supplemented our ready made meals with some incredible home cooking. Mary’s breakfasts and packed lunches were wonderful and greatly appreciated. They made us feel so welcome, even inviting us to join in on an evening with their friends….local fishermen with hypnotizing tales. Lastly, Mary went above and beyond the call of duty in picking us up and dropping us off over the course of the six days we stayed with them. We were sad to say goodbye.
Last but not least, this note wouldn’t be complete if we failed to acknowledge the support and encouragement Bryson provided to us personally. Thank you so much Bryson for making the PEI camino possible!