• A night at the Celtic Colours Festival Club on Cape Breton Island, as a variety of players gather onstage for a set of tunes at the end of the night. Troy MacGillivary, Anna Massie, Shelly Campbell, Andrea Beaton, Cheryl Smith, Wendy MacIsaac and Kimberley Fraser are pictured here, as the dancers in the crowd enjoy an impromptu square set. (Photo: Murdock Smith)

For nine days in October, Cape Breton is flooded in a sea of swirling kilts, bright fall foliage and fiddlers’ melodies during the Celtic Colours International Festival.  The 18th annual cultural celebration of Cape Breton’s unique Celtic heritage features concerts, dances, workshops, storytelling and community suppers across the island.

Just a two-hour drive from Antigonish or a short flight from Halifax, seeing Cape Breton is essential for any trip to Nova Scotia. The hilly and rugged island is relatively isolated from the mainland and as such, has served as a cultural capsule that’s preserved pieces of each group that’s inhabited it, from the Mi’kmaq to the French to Scottish and Irish settlers.

Each year, tens of thousands of people from around the world billow into communities across the island to take part in the festivities. Visitors travel from across the island to take part in events along the famed Cabot Trail or around the brackish waters of Bras d’Or Lake, amidst a backdrop of changing leaves and crisp, salty air.

This year, the world-class festival features 46 concerts by artists from the island and away, as well as 225 community events, all with the theme of “family and friends.”

The festival runs from Oct. 10-18. For more information, including a complete event listing and map, visit www.celtic-colours.com.