Agrarian Pastime: Book a Village Stay in Nova Scotia

Agrarian Pastime: Book a Village Stay in Nova Scotia

By Jenny Xie
On the southern shore of Nova Scotia, near the port town of Lunenburg, architect Brian MacKay-Lyons and his wife Marilyn happened on the ruins of an abandoned fishing village.

French, German, and Swiss settlers had occupied the land in waves, leaving only dilapidated homes, and the surrounding forest had begun to reclaim the farmland. Undeterred, Brian, a partner at MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, set out to clear and cultivate the site. 

That was in 1988. Twenty years later, Shobac opened as an "agricultural village" with cattle, horses, and sheep roaming its pastures and drumlins, or hills created by passing glaciers. Visitors can rent any of the four cabins, the studio, the schoolhouse, the barn, Point House, or Enough House. Some buildings date back to the 1800s, and others are modern designs by Brian and Ghost Residency interns, creating a campus that evolves with time while keeping its historic roots alive.


Modeled after fishing huts, the cottages Hirtles, Gaff, LaHave, and Mosher are so named for the surrounding topography.  They are available for weekly rentals at varying rates ranging from $1231 (€1103) to $1638 (€1467).

Each cottage provides two twin beds on the main floor and a queen bed in the open upstairs loft, which has a private balcony. There is a full bathroom and well-equipped kitchen in each unit, and a large outdoor deck is the perfect setting to enjoy sea views.

Natural cedar lines the interior of Hirtles, which was upgraded to include a second bathroom and a jacuzzi tub that looks out onto the white sands of Hirtles Beach. 


Featuring an airy event space, the studio can be rented for large gatherings like corporate retreats, creative workshops, and family reunions.

Situated on a cliff, the studio blocks the northern wind from overpowering the courtyard. A covered porch and western deck invite guests to meander both indoors and outdoors. 

A 40-foot table can be a shared workspace or provide banquet seating. The studio also contains a loft, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room with leather furnishings and a fireplace.

Chebogue Schoolhouse

Brian rescued and transported the 1830 schoolhouse from Chebogue, a community near his hometown of Acadia. The two-bedroom unit is available to rent year-round.

Clapboard siding and cedar shingles make up the exterior walls and roof while wide pine boards were used for the flooring and wainscoting. Original windows and restored wooden benches preserve the schoolhouse's character.

The open floor plan includes a kitchen with modern appliances, a half bath, and living and dining areas that open onto an outdoor terrace. A master bedroom and bunk room are upstairs along with a washer and dryer.

Troop Barn

In addition to being a rental venue, the 19th-century barn hosts Ghost Lab lectures, a design-build workshop behind many of the structures at Shobac.

The Troop barn was slated for demolition in the Annapolis Valley, but Brian relocated it to Shobac for restoration. The post-and-beam structure boasts a 35-foot cathedral ceiling.

At 2,000 square feet, the barn is an ideal setting for weddings, retreats, parties, and performances. 

Enough House

Designed by Brian and engineered by his daughter Reneé MacKay-Lyons, Enough House hosts a Ghost Residency intern for nine months out of the year and becomes a rental unit during the summer.

The gabled roof on Enough House puts it in conversation with the adjacent Troop barn and Cheboque schoolhouse, but its Cor-Ten steel exterior makes it a unique addition to Shobac.

A 24-foot corner window frames a pastoral scene to the north. Steel elements inside the house resonate with the exterior cladding, and both old and new furnishings speak to the historically integrated campus. Enough House sleeps five and includes a full bathroom and kitchen. 

Point House

The dual buildings of Point House are available to rent from the last week of June through the second week of September.

Point House stands on a peninsula that used to be a small fishing port. A dirt road leads to the shingled cottage and boathouse.

The northern side presents a traditional face of shingles and gabled roof while the southern side incorporates tall glass windows. The buildings are raised on concrete fin foundations that reduce their environmental impact.

In addition to cottage rentals, guests can reserve the entire Shobac campus for a secluded agrarian experience. 

For those wanting to make Shobac their permanent home, a limited number of oceanfront lots are available for purchase. The property comes with the opportunity to own a residence designed by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects and the option of joining the rental program. For more information, visit the Shobac website.


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