A hostel environment
BC family treks their way to Cape North to start a new life running a hostel in a former church
Bricin Lyons and his partner, Patricia Sauer, are welcoming travellers to their home at the top of the island. The couple opened the Highlands Hostel last year after purchasing the old Cape North Presbyterian Church.
Although the building was restored inside, the cathedral ceilings are still lined with the original wood panelling when the church opened in 1928. The old wooded interior, along with the breath of life from the couple, has transformed the church into a little getaway on the Cabot Trail.
Lyons, a retired professional longboard racer of 20 years, first came to the island 13 years ago on a trip, exploring all the culture and people that Cape Breton had to offer. Eleven years later, he returned with Sauer, their two children, three-year-old Cassius and seven-year-old Billie, and Sauer’s father Peter.
Leaving their co-operative Vancouver apartment for the vastly contrasted setting they live in now wasn’t easy, but Lyons said he had a lot of help from the international longboard community.
Garnering help from as far away as Australia, Lyons and his family renovated the main floor and upper lofts to house six bunks and a private room with a queensized bed. The church is now not only their hostel, but their home as well.
Their next step is to renovate the basement of the church, where 12 additional beds will reside. When finished, the basement will more than double the hostel’s capacity.
While the hostel’s bunks have been filling up since it opened, the business does face an issue with water. Currently, the hostel relies on an on-site well that is only 12 or 13ft deep. Lyons is worried it will not provide enough water to supply a full complement of guests. The couple conserves water whenever possible and has posted signs up around the hostel to encourage guests to do the same.
Despite the hurdles, Lyons and Sauer still welcome travelers with an open door. When in season, the couple hosts lobster or crab boils with guests and regularly brings in local musicians to play in the living room. They have adorned the trees behind a hand-carved cross in the yard with a series of hammocks for guests to lounge in. The backyard area also has an outdoor firepit.
The family is quickly laying down roots in northern Cape Breton. Bricin volunteers on the Northern Victoria Community Centre committee, and the kids, Cassius and Billie, recently participated in a junior naturalists day camp in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
To experience the hostel first-hand, check out the church at 29295 Cabot Trail, down the road from the North Highlands Community Museum, or visit highlandshostel.ca.
The Lyons/sauer family motorhome, lovingly called the F-bomb, sits along White Point beach. The RV has seen many kilometres across Canada and the United States attending longboard races and events. It now serves as local transport to bring guests staying at their hostel to local natural attractions.