Isle of Man, stuck in time.
Isle of Man is a little island ( population of 86,000) in the Irish sea between Ireland and Great Britain. Indeed, fought over by the Vikings, English and Scottish for control, this three legged symbol
"wherever you throw it, it will stand
"- the land of the Manx people. I imagined seal puppies and puffins
(thanks to my aspiring zoologist nephew). If lucky, a couple of porpoises.
Direct mega bus (1 hour) from London Heathrow to Gatwick
. Then catch aeroplane from London Gatwick to Ronaldsway airport, Isle of Man
There was no passport check and 'easy' boarding in 'easyjet' which reinforced the pleasant idea that I was indeed going on a 'holiday'.
At Gatwick airport, I was walking fast, afraid of being late
. A woman commented that some people were hopping the queques'.
Not that there were any queques' as people were moving in masses of 2/3/4/family as convenient. I opted to stand behind her and her two friends all the while and she seemed very pleased 😊
While at the airport, I got a call from IOM saying that the boat excursion to Calf of Man was cancelled because of bad weather
. Likely to be worse the following day and maybe Saturday?
I decided to go to my hotel in Douglas
the present capital of IOM.
It was such a pleasant surprise to see the bus driver calculating the distances/fares and suggesting that I was better off with a day pass (7 GBP). Who spares time in London for strangers?
The hotel was right on the promenade
(Breakfast/dinner was facing the sea!). The receptionist acted promptly to mend the bedside table lamp, add a dust bin and change the crockery. I delighted in the good taste of tap water, so different from the million times recycled Thames river water in London.
Being told that south of the island was 'nicer'; I went to Castletown
. It has a well maintained medieval castle
. Unfortunately, I could not find the entry to the castle
as it was on the other side of the road. There were a few people and hardly any sign boards on a week day.
At Port Erin's bay
, I successfully completed the easy hike to stone tower (Milner's tower) in Bradda Head
. A 1931 famous photo of the photographer's fiancee was shot here (My view is that she had a pretty, innocent look which was much more beautiful than the scenic background). The cloudy weather and wind did nothing to lift my spirits.
At the hotel, I took a shower and nap. My sleep so deeply that I forgot my location when I got up like in those adventure movies.
I forced myself to the restaurant below. There was the lively group of Malta Netball team
having buffet. They were here for the European championship
. I ordered a homely vegetable soup
and lemon pie
. Then crashed in bed for the night.
I was getting into the rhythm of things in IOM. Knew where the bus stops were and estimated their arrival times without looking at the time table.
At breakfast, a friendly, seasoned Liverpool engineer was great company to discuss island origin, languages, motor races and car rallies. He spoke of a Viking boat burial of a man
in his friend's backyard in IOM. You know it because of the rusted nails
which are left behind. Indeed, I spotted a replica in the Manx museum
Re-constructed Viking woman with a smart woolen dress and leather belt; a little purse, pen knife and toothed comb with neatly tied up hair, inspired me to reflect seriously on my dressing style.
To flip to modern times, I bought a comfortable, blue, straight jeans and a proper, black leather belt from Next. Who said history does not inspire?
I was early at Crosby
for the paid walking tour (10 GBP for 3 hours). We walked up the now covered old railway track line
We passed through the millennium way, fields of cows/sheep, rich carpets of spanish bluebells, white wild garlic flowers, lush green grasses among others (I am sure fairies live here).
The green undulating hills stretched to the horizon with different scents of the spring. At some stretches, it was windy but I was becoming a Manx
The walking group were locals. Most had elderly family members to care for. This was a welcome break from
daily routine. We finished with a fabulous fish and chips
at a local pub. One kind member offered to drive me to Douglas so that I can meet my friend and go to Manx museum which closes at 4.30pm. Of course, I invited her to London for 'city walk'.
Meeting my friend was great. He showed me a short cut to the free Manx museum. Full of history of IOM and wonderfully maintained. Later, I walked up to Quay where the cars were starting for the popular car rally
The cars looked like fiat padmini with ugly head lights in front. At night, they clocked 120-130 miles/hour in the country lanes. These cars were so noisy and emitted smoke. The fairies would die of fright.
Many people and young adults in their school uniforms were in the pubs. Instead of a fancy fish dinner (as did not get reservation), I ate peri peri chicken at a lively bar cum restaurant. For the first time, I drank the chocolate, rich cocktail called Jack Frost
and must say it was delicious. The last day was exciting. I used a bus, steam train, boat, aeroplane, electric train and my foot.
I started with the vintage steam engine train from Douglas to Port St Mary's
(6.20 GBP one way. 1 hour ride) A very well maintained train chugged along with smoke bellowing in the air
. It made all sorts of pleasant noises from the simple, classic machinery at work
. I was sitting in a first class compartment with four middle aged/older people. One of them used to be a volunteer signal boy. He was visiting from Manchester. He shared some of his old photos. He used to run up to the train just as it was puffing uphill with a green flag and the driver had to work even harder to accelerate the engine 😉
It was a fun train ride with the smell of the smoke through the window adding to the atmosphere. We waved at children and adults as we passed by. The sheep and cows ran away as soon as they found the trains approaching!
The train station to Port St Mary's harbour was at least a mile away. I made a mad rush to catch the boat
to Calf of Man
. Thankfully, the boatman drove down to pick me up midway else there was no chance.
The rocking boat ride on gentle, blue waves was delightful. We passed some cliffs where sea gulls lived
and had taken it on themselves to whitewash the cliffs. We saw some rock formations like
Calf of Mandragon drinking water
Near cow harbour. Far away, you can see the seals swimming or basking in the sun if you have eyes sharp enough.
and a few people kayaking.
We wandered about in calf of man, a small isle off the coast of IOM with a nature observatory center.
I ate a packed picnic of orange cake and water
. More wild flowers
and heaths (like I had seen in South Africa). There were cute, little brown rabbits
too. As I walked over to Cow harbour, there were seals
basking in the Sun or swimming about with their little black heads bobbing in the waters
. They were too far away for me to see properly. A few birds were singing. I sat and counted the sea weeds (brown kelps) till the boat came to pick us up. No puffins.
It was 3pm but except for a coop supermarket, no shops were open
in Port St Mary's. There was severe staff shortage
, as informed by a fellow bus passenger. The only swiggly bus to Peel was 2.14 hours. The Peel museum closed by 4.30pm.
Cregnash, a Viking living village museum closed was nearby but closed by 4.30pm. I waited but no bus 😞
I decided to spend time in Castletown and on it's way, it stopped at Port Erin
and my face glowed with happiness.
I sat by the bay, with a fish and chips takeaway and drained a chilled coke.
I was delighted to see a very busy fish and chips shop.
A wonderfully idle evening!
In the double decker bus to the airport, I sat in the upper deck to soak the rural beauty for one last time. There was a group of merry men and women who were singing old English songs
and entertained us with most the atrocious dance moves
A glorious sunset
at 9pm over IOM from the aeroplane and in an hour, I was at London Gatwick.
It was quite nice to see the London trains full of partying young and old, much like the days bygone.
IOM has kept it to themselves, caught in a time wrap with old steam engines, beaches, promenades etc, a must go place during the Victorian times especially from the midlands.
Today, it is a biosphere reserve
and registered as dark sky area
. The motor races/rallies generate income for the locals
. Like the three legs, it is morphing to be abreast with the times. However, things are too expensive and mainland Europe is far more value of money for a holiday.
It is mostly the racing crowd and allied businesses. Being a tax haven, the billionaires live here in big mansions
and commute to UK by helicopters. Naturally, common people suffer
because of high cost of living.
For people like me, it was not worth the puffin but definitely the good company of Jack Frost with a cherry muffin.
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