Posted by: lindsaygoes | August 13, 2012

The Isle of Man – well worth a visit

Atlantic Grey Seal

Seal off the Calf of Man

The Isle of Man, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is an island between Britain and Ireland, and is a Crown Protectorate of the UK, with the Queen as Lord of Mann.

We arrived after a brief stopover in Liverpool, and a three hour ferry ride, in Douglas.

On our first full day on the Isle of Man, we caught the steam railway across the Island, which had some lovely views. Our first stop was Castletown, which unsurprisingly, has a castle. Castle Rushden is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Europe, and is enveloped in the surrounding town. It’s a lovely little castle, restored in parts to some of the original styles, and has some views to the buildings situated around the castle walls, and over the bays (everywhere on the Isle of Man seems to have bay views). After Castletown we hopped back on the steam railway Port Erin, at the end of the line. Luckily the weather was clear and sunny and so there was a boat trip running around the Calf of Man (a small island off the southern tip of the Isle of Man). It was one of the most spectacular boat rides I’ve done, the coastline showing evidence of a turbulent geology with it’s rugged chasms and caves, the many seals and birds, and the basking shark (a completely harmless shark species, which is the second largest fish in the world – although the one we saw wasn’t that big). From Port Erin we walked a 5 mile stretch of the Raad ny Foillan (Way of the Gull – a coastal footpath) around past the Sound, where we had another view of the Calf of Man and some more seals (probably the ones we saw originally). It was amazing how much more of the five miles seemed to be uphill than downhill. It was a lovely walk though, we were high enough that we did feel like we were among the gulls and had fantastic views of the coastline. Eventually we made it to Port St Erin, at which point I was pretty tired, and managed to just catch the bus back into Douglas where we had dinner and finished the day.

The next morning we caught the bus to Peel, and saw Peel Castle as well as the House of Manannan (a museum looking at Celtic, Viking and Maritime traditions on the Isle of Man). Peel Castle was quite extensive and full of ruins as well as more lovely coastal views. We spent a little while there before moving onto the House of Manannan, which was full of interactive displays and recreations of traditional houses etc. From Peel it was another bus to Ramsey on the eastern side of the Island and from there we caught the Electric Railway to Laxey. The weather was just perfect again, with unexpected sunshine and no wind, and we were on an open sided carriage, or a ‘toast rack’ as some kids referred to it as, so we had uninterrupted views…well except for when they were interrupted by hedgerows and trees. Once at Laxey we visited the Laxey Wheel, the largest working water wheel in the world (say that five times fast) which was used to pump water from some mines which are now closed. You can walk right up to the top, and it is a pretty amazing piece of engineering. Then it was back onto the electric railway and back into Douglas. Once in Douglas we caught the horse-drawn tram into town, rounding out our range of transport for the day.

The next day was a bit of a lazy one, just hanging around Douglas. We visited the Manx Museum, which was a bit difficult to find basing our route on the bus route maps, which were only really to be used as a rough guide. We got there eventually and had a wander around the museum. They had lotsof archaeological stuff, looking at t he various periods in the Isle of Man’s history, and everything was really well presented looking at how things were done or used, but also the evidence they have for their suppositions. In the evening we got back on the horse-drawn tram, then back on the electric railway to Laxey and then onto the electric Snaefell Mountain Railway, which took us to the highest point on the Island, Mount Snaefell (621 meters above sea level). On a clear day you can see England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man, and we had a beautifully clear day. The sea was incredibly calm and it felt like Ireland was so close you could swim there. We had a delicious dinner on the mountain top and then heading back on the train as the sun was setting. Just lovely. As the horse-drawn cart had finished for the evening we had a walk along the foreshore of Douglas, with strings of lights illuminating the promenade.

The next morning was a very early start for a flight to Gatwick, followed by a flight to Iceland. Which you will learn about in my next email…


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