About Lake Ainslie
Lake Ainslie is the largest natural freshwater lake in Nova Scotia and stretches in a triangular shape out towards the north. The Lake is approximately 20 kilometers long and 3 to 5 km in width in various places. The Southwest Margaree River starts at the northeast corner of the Lake, in Scotsville, and empties into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
Lake Ainslie is located on the Western side of Cape Breton Island, and is a rural area, with small communities settled around the Lake. There are many active community groups in the area, and Lake Ainslie is a beautiful place to experience all four seasons.
The Lake has important significance to the Mi'kmaq people of Unama'ki (Cape Breton Island). The Mi'kmaq are the founding people of Nova Scotia, living in Mi'kma'ki (the Maritime region) for thousands of years. We'koqma'q First Nation is the closest community to Lake Ainslie. The L'nu people have traditionally travelled along Lake Ainslie to reach the Margaree River for fishing and hunting.
The area was settled by Scottish immigrants around 1820. Gaelic speaking Highlanders came from different parts of Scotland; The Isle of Muck, Island of Kell, Tulloch, Mull, Skye, North and South Uist and settled in communities around the Lake. The communities on either side of the Lake have traditionally been separated by distance and culture. In early days of settlement, Catholics settled on the West side of the Lake and Protestants on the East side.
In 1991, with the active support of the Margaree River Advisory Committee, the Margaree-Lake Ainslie System became the first river in Nova Scotia to be nominated to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.
The Lake was named after George Robert Ainslie who was Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1820.
Canadian Heritage Rivers Website.
Ellison, Wally. (2004, February 25). “This is My Cape Breton: Scotsville.” Inverness Oran Newspaper, p. 21
MacDonald House Museum. (2023). http://www.macdonaldhousemuseum.ca/
St. Clair, Jim. (2005, June 10). Public address by Jim St. Clair. Lake Ainslie Development Association Annual General Meeting, West Lake Ainslie.
Links to more information about Lake Ainslie
Margaree- Lake Ainslie River System
a Canadian Heritage River System
Nova Scotia Archives - Images of Lake Ainslie
Virtual Museum of Canada -
Lake Ainslie The Settlers Story
Nova Scotia Community Counts community profile (Lake Ainslie is included in stats for the Inverness region)
Municipality of the County of Inverness, NS
MacDonald House Museum
This website is sponsored by the
Lake Ainslie Development Association
for the use of organizations and individuals in the communities of the Lake Ainslie watershed area.
Thank you for visiting.