Cape Breton wilderness resort offers eclectic mix of tents, pods and shipping containers | SaltWire

2022-06-15 19:21:06 By : Ms. Susan Luo

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ENGLISHTOWN, N.S. — As Rona Sherebrin waxes poetic about the peaceful nature of her Cape Breton retreat, the unmistakable and incessant sound of a barking dog is heard from her end of the telephone.

“Oh, that’s my next client – we have an appointment in a few minutes,” explains the Toronto-based veterinarian who also happens to operate an off-grid luxury cabin resort near the Englishtown ferry on the Cabot Trail.

Sherebrin and husband Glenn Rubinoff, a building design consultant, own what they call Sally’s Brook Wilderness Cabins. It’s located just a few hundred metres from the grave of Angus (Giant) MacAskill (1825-1863) who at seven-foot-nine was the tallest non-pathological giant in recorded history.

When the couple purchased the property five years ago there was nothing on the land.

“It had been farmland at one point, but it hadn’t been farmed for a quite a number of years so it had reverted to its natural state,” recalled Sherebrin

“The first thing we had to do was clear the driveway to make it driveable and we went from there. We had a vision of what we wanted so we spent a lot of time working on how we wanted to proceed so we started off with just one cabin.

“Our vision was to have a full retreat centre. We wanted to have a range of building styles."

They succeeded. In fact, the digs at Sally’s Brook are as different as it gets.

The newest cabin is called the Eagle’s Nest. It was constructed out of a converted shipping container. But don’t worry, it’s been refined since its days as a transportation vessel.

“I admit that we have a little love affair with salvage,” said Sherebrin.

“We actually saw an ad for a shipping container that in its previous life had been a mobile bank branch. It had all the mechanicals in place, it’s insulated and it had a lot of potential. We had already bought a shipping container for our solar operation, so we came up with the idea of stacking the new container on the other one because it afforded a better view. We talked to local contractors about feasibility and they said they could do it.”

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Now it’s done. The structure even includes a massive terrace making the outdoor space about the same size as the indoor space.

The Eagle’s Nest fits in if only because it’s so different from the rest of the accommodations on the eclectic property. That, and because it shares the same upscale touches offered by the cabins.

The largest cabin is called the Raven’s Roost. It features high ceilings, a wood stove and has a balcony that overlooks beautiful St. Anns Bay.

“That first cabin was a unique design but when we looked at adding a couple of more cabins we realized it was going to be difficult to build on the site given where we are on the (Kelly’s) mountain,” said Sherebrin. 

“So we looked at pre-fabrication designs and discovered the pods. We loved the shape of them, how environmentally friendly they were and that they had a high level of insulation. And they are a bit lighter on the environment.”

They resemble miniature Quonset huts, but are, of course, much more liveable on the inside. The two cabins are called the Puffin Pod and the Hummingbird Pod. Both feature solar electricity and all-season insulation.

If pods aren’t your thing and you are looking to rough it a bit more, then Sally’s Brook offers up a number of tents. These aren’t your traditional tents. These are Lotus Belle canvas glamping tents. They feature queen beds and organic 400 thread-count linens and fluffy duvets.

“I was very intrigued by the tents when I first saw them in a picture from the Arctic. I fell in love with them and knew I wanted them at Sally’s Brook. Now, they are up and are getting furnished," said Sherebrin.

Sally’s Brook could be considered somewhat remote although it is only a 20-minute drive to Baddeck and less than an hour to Sydney. One of the things that makes the property attractive is the privacy it offers. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a social resort. It is.

“We like the fact that all of our units are very private so we’ve placed them in spots where they are nestled in the forest, they’re not side by side,” said Sherebrin.

“It gives you that feeling of separation from regular life. You drive here, park the car and then you’re in the wilderness with the birds singing and the quiet. It’s really magical.

But with that said, the resort is designed for social occasions as well.

“Our vision is not something you see in Cape Breton or Canada for that matter, it’s more of a European concept which features small, individual private space and shared common spaces for things that you don’t need a significant period of private time like the Cookhouse and HotHouse,” explained Sherebrin.

“Our Cookhouse has a fantastic and amazing kitchen area that is essentially a huge chef’s kitchen with a big dining table, it’s a real gathering place. So when it comes to a friends gathering or family retreat, we can offer both personal privacy and communal social space for getting together.”

Like the Cookhouse, the Hothouse is as it sounds. It’s a sauna. It’s a groovy wood-fired sauna with a half-moon window. And it’s in the woods.

For now, Sherebrin and her husband are doing the long-distance commute. And with the weather improving, she’s looking forward to spending more time in Cape Breton.

However, she’s also needed in Toronto where, among others, a vocal dog gets impatient with her phone conversations.

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