A Return to Amherst, old verses new.

In 1976, my family moved from Dartmouth, back to my father’s boyhood home of West Bay, Cape Breton.  I was seven year old and I only remember a turn off in the road with a sign saying Amherst, and the other pointed to Cape Breton.

Soon after our move, my uncle Ainslie MacKay, sold his Pharmacy in Dartmouth and purchased a business called the Border Motel, in Amherst in Nova Scotia. To help transition uncle Ainslie, into his new roll of motel owner, my father accompanied him and he took my sister and I along. I seem to recall being excited I would get to travel on the “other road”  towards Amherst, we had by-passed on our way to Cape Breton. I had no idea, the “border” stood for the provincial line between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Welcome to Amherst
Welcome to Amherst “a top 50 small town in visit in Canada” #seewhyweloveit

I remember three things very clearly;  we drank a lot of pop my uncle had stored in the cellar, I learned the proper way to fold and hang a towel over the towel rack in the bathroom-( I still do it the same way today) and last, out back of the hotel, there was a high grass marshy area with a muddy stream. It was the most foreign landscape I had ever seen.

Wind Mill Farm Fort Lawrence Road
Wind Mill Farm Fort Lawrence Road

This trip home for the holidays, I am on a mission to find this motel.

Walking through the door of the Nova Scotia Welcome Center, I greet the attendances, then hit them with a question. “Do any of you know where the old Border motel was located?”  Lucky for me, the winter attendance’s are of the age to remember forty years ago.  One of the gentlemen speaks up, “yes, it is on the old highway 2,  five minutes from here”. Old photo of the Border Motel

It seems the topic is worthy of conversation. They continue saying how it use to have a restaurant that was popular. The second attendant adds, “the twinning of the Tran Canada Highway, crushed the areas tourism. People no longer stop, they whip right through”

“Who owns it now? I ask, he replies, “an eccentric millionaire”. Then adds. ” the building is still standing but it’s in bad shape” I tell them I want to go see it anyway, its a middle-aged thing, “I recall a woolly looking grassy back yard.” They nod and say “that hasn’t changed,” part of the Tantramar Marsh.

I explain, “I want to know Amherst a bit more, I don’t remember any of it from my summer here as a youth”. It has been washed away by traveling through so many times over my life.. They mention “Fort Lawrence is completed.”  I was there in March and there was a sign stating it was an active archaeological site. I showed a picture of it in my story Make Any Drive A Road Trip.. This time, it is tourist ready.  Here are some of what you can find in the Fort Lawrence area;

  • Fort Lawrence and Beaubess National Historic Site.
  • Mount Whatley Road, House a National Historic Site
  • Jacob Bourgeois Nationally recognized person plaque
  • Windmill farm
  • The Lighthouse with the Nova Scotia welcome sign




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Since I already covered some of the historical buildings and politically important locations of Amherst In Honour of Canada’s 150th. 



I don’t feel like going on a historic house tour and there is no sense going to the bird sanctuary this time of year.  I have one more idea, and I ask; ” any craft breweries in the area?” I am handed a card with the name of a brewery. I thank them all and I head out the door. I want to go see the location I came here for; the Border Motel.

Amherst old Border Motel

I circle the front yard then proceed to follow the walkway under the overhang looking in the windows. The rooms are filled with boxes most of the ceiling has caved in the doors are all locked.  Some windows are boarded up. In another room I see an old TV  and possible a bed but most of the acoustic tile ceilings has collapsed.

border motel Amherst.JPG

I walk around the back and see the matted grassy field. It is just as I remember. DSCN9084 My examination of the place, has left me feeling nothing. It is a decrepit run down place.  My memories are of a busy hotel of modern up keep. I shall not need to visit again.  I am off in search of  something more vibrant and I think I can find it at the brewery 46 Anson road, at the Trider’s Craft brewery.

Located in an industrial building, It is hard to distinguish it from the other units except for the lined up of vehicles outside.  I push open the door gently, not sure if I am entering into a restricted area. There is a lady behind a counter. She welcomes me in, says she is Ashley,  and tells me, the glass wear is on sale, then continues waiting on the next customer.

” Any discounts on a six pack?” I ask,  she says, “no, that was last week.”  Figures I would miss it. I make my selection from a beer cooler and she cheerfully rings up my purchases.  I leave with a wave and a Merry Christmas

Triders Craft Brewery In Amherst Nova Scotia
Triders Craft Brewery In Amherst Nova Scotia 46 Anson Road, unit 3
Truders craft brewert Amherst NS Ashley
Triders Craft Brewery In Amherst Nova Scotia 46 Anson Road, unit 3 Ashley behind the counter serving

I am ready to leave Amherst, I come away with two bottle of craft beer to put in my sister and brother-in-laws sock. My fond memories from my youth intact. Amherst is a great town with lots of historical homes but a new culture of trendiness is returning.

Happy Travels and happy Holidays from Maritime Mac

Amherst Nova Scotia Points of Interest

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16 thoughts on “A Return to Amherst, old verses new.

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  1. My parents owned this motel from the time I was about 2 (1977) until I was in Grade 5. It had a restaurant added on and then got renamed The Chignecto Motel and Restaurant. I haven’t been to Amherst in many years, but heard they flattened it not long ago. My We moved to Cape Breton when I was in Grade 5, as mentioned, and the motel switched to another owner, who then either sold it or had it sold to another guy who used it as storage. As it got more run down, the city apparently stepped in and said fix it or we flatten it. And that’s how that happened. Thanks for the pictures. I had many years there growing up that are truly unforgettable.

    Allen S.


    1. wow Allen, thanks for reaching out. My uncle was Ainslie MacKay, Your family must have bought it from my uncle, He owned it in 1976 when I was was there for the summer. What a coincidence. Keep in touch


    2. Hi Kelly. Yeah I touched base with my parents last night and they remembered Ainslie right away. Thanks for posting those pictures. I hadn’t been by there in a long time and kept putting it off and now that it’s been torn down, it’s actually a weird feeling. Appreciate the blog!


    3. That is very cool. I love blogging. Several people have reached out to me about this piece. they remember the hotel and the restaurant. Hello to your parents from Kelly MacKay- Ainslie’s Niece


  2. I actually lived at the Border motel with my family in the 60’s. My Father Mother and sister. My Father at the time also owned the main bus terminal located in downtown Amherst. I fondly remember taking the school bus ever day which would drop me off on my way home at the bust terminal / restaurant where I would sit at the counter and read comics off of the stand as I had my dinner. I played in the creek close to the motel and behind the mote. Saw beavers build dams there I remember the drop down hill to the fields behind the motel. My friends lived at a farm not far away to the north west which we would walk to and play in their barn with trapezes and swing from hay to hay bails. We as kids also went to Fort Bosejour and play around and one time I went down in the well and dug up old coins from the dirt at the bottom. I remember to the south across the creek there was a gas station which eventually closed. But no before I got my Tony the tiger tail. When winter was there we had tons of snow and my father would pull us on a toboggan in the parking lot behind the family station wagon. Those were the days. Amherst is very fondly in my memories and I plan soon to visit it again after all of these years.

    Allan Care – not the other Allan…lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just got of the phone with my sister whom I will share the link with. She remembers the motel very well. MY father was ex military. Canadian navy out of Halifax. I have some other images of the motel somewhere and if I can find them will try to post them. If I do make the trip I will try to contact you while I am passing thru. Most likely in the summer time.


  3. And you know what is kinda funny. We moved from Dartmouth Nova Scotia to Amherst just like you did. But we did it in the 60’s. To the border Motel. Who would of seen that?

    Liked by 1 person

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