Isle of Man

We like the Isle of Man! The 40 mile sail here from Whitehaven was hard, and the prospect of a further 60 miles of Irish Sea doesn't fill me with enthusiasm, the postponement of our Snowdon assent until next weekend means that we can take our time exploring for a few days. Douglas harbour is quite central, and feels quite cosmopolitan, bars and restaurants line the quayside, a buzzy town, probably the biggest port we've stayed in so far. A thriving economy, looking after tax-free assets, The Isle of Man has a population of about 86,000, is a Crown Protectorate, like the Scilly Isles, it has it's own government and laws.

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The bridge opens for us to sail into the marina

We berthed in the inner harbour at about 4pm on Monday. The entrance to the inner harbour has a cill below the bridge, the cill is raised as the tide drops to maintain the water level in the marina. When the tide is high enough the cill drops, then at a quarter past and quarter to the hour you can request the road bridge to be opened, to sail into the marina, that's providing it's not rush hour and that there are no ferries approaching, in which case you have to wait another half hour.
We went for a bike ride along Marine Drive, a beautiful, coastal route south of Douglas, enjoying the evening sun, before supper and an early night.

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On Tuesday we took the Electric Train, we weren't sure whether 'electric' just distinguished it from the steam train, but no, the Electric Train is a tram, it runs north from Douglas, along the east coast to Laxey then Ramsey, and will also take you up to the summit of Snaefell, at 2063 feet, the island's only mountain. Considering we are incorporating our three peak challenge into this adventure we decided that we ought to climb Snaefell too. That may not have been the best plan ever!! We got off the tram in Laxey and followed the "path" up the hill. Clearly this path was last used pre tram, 100 + years ago as it took us through fields of cattle who looked distinctly disturbed by the sight of us clambering over barbed wire fences to cross their fields on our invisible path. Finally, we arrived at the Bungalow Station, the last train stop before the summit, situated beside the main A road which is part of the island's famous TT race Mountain Course. A bizarre place, on one hand you have motorbikes approaching the chicane at break neck speeds, and then the mountain train trundles across the road, no lights or barriers, traffic is expected to be aware of it and stop. The air is filled with the sound of motorbikes, it's not race time, the roads are open to normal traffic, but clearly this is a mecca for all bikers and on most of this route there are no speed limits at all, riders push their bikes,and their nerve, to the limit! Strangely fascinating to watch.
The summit of Snaefell was disappointing, a shabby collection of buildings and masts detracts from the natural beauty and grandeur of the highest point on the island. Having taken the hard way up, we cheated going down and took the train!

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Summit of Snaefell

We stopped at Laxey on the way back to Douglas to see the Laxey Wheel, a huge water wheel that used to provide the energy to pump water out of the mines. It's beautifully kept, oiled and turning for the benefit of tourists now.

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The Laxey Wheel

Wednesday was to be our last day on the island and with so much to see we came up with a cunning plan! We took our Brompton bikes on the steam train south to Castletown, we had two hours to see the pretty harbour town including a brief tour of the fantastic castle. Back on the train to Port Erin where, after a brief tour of the bay we began our cycle ride to Peel on the west coast. Chris had lost confidence in my navigational competence and after studying the map had decided that although this was a hilly area, the roads followed the contours avoiding the peaks.....we struggled up to 340 metres, attracting surprised acknowledgements from passing motorcyclists. A short cut looked like it would take a couple of miles and an unnecessary hill out, unfortunately the short cut actually added about half an hour to our journey because it was such a ridiculously steep, rocky, slippery track it was impossible to cycle down, even walking the bikes down was difficult...in the rain!
Peel is another lovely coastal town, with an impressive castle, lots of activity in and around the bay.

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We couldn't work out what this shape in Peel Harbour was....

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Until it yawned!!