Part of my ancestry is from the Isle of Man so visiting was a trip with special significance for me. Combined with going to the Isle of Man TT Racing Festival, it really packed a punch.
Once upon a time the Isle of Man was a popular holiday destination for the British but the advent of cheap and easy travel saw a downturn in its tourist appeal. Well I loved it. The countryside has elements of England, Ireland and Scotland rolled into one. So here are my recommendations for things to do on the Isle of Man:
The capital of Douglas has a marvellous frontage of Victorian and Edwardian seaside mansions. Take a horse-drawn tram ride along the promenade and be sure to sample a little of the Ale of Man. The local museum is very good, offering a fascinating look at the history of the island and how people lived there. People have lived here since before 6,500 BC and they are, generally speaking a mix of Celtic and Viking heritage. The Manx language is one of the Gaelic languages.
Manx people are very conscious of their separate identity from England and the UK, and of their heritage. Probably understandable after centuries of conquest and reconquest by Celts, Vikings, Scots and English. The Isle of Man has its own Tynwald Assembly.
Then catch the antique electric railway along the rugged coastline and inland to visit the mines and the Lady Isabella, aka the Great Wheel of Laxey. This is an enormous water wheel used to pump water out of the mines (lead/silver/copper). I toured the ruins of the buildings and got very excited about going down a tunnel. Perhaps it wasn’t very far but I did have to wear a hard hat.
The train continues up the highest peak on the island – Snaefell. At the top I saw what, from a quick glance at the visitors book, appeared to be the typical view – thick cloud with a freezing wind. On a fine day you are supposed to be able to see 7 kingdoms – England, Ireland, Scotland, Mann, Wales, Heaven and Earth. Next time.
The line then follows the coast through green countryside to the colourful fishing town of Ramsey. Then it takes you back to Douglas.
Another great day out is on narrow gauge steam train southwards to Castletown and Port Erin. I also visited Castle Rushen here, an ancient seat of the Kings and Lords of Mann. I walked on the beach and climbed the hills at Port Erin.
And here, after a week of disappointment seeing only the tailed variety, I saw a manx cat! It was on the roof of a house and I had to climb up to check that it was the real McCoy. Couldn’t get a photo but it was indeed a manx.
By Natasha von Geldern
Any other tips for things to do on the Isle of Man?