Helen Werin explores the island called the ‘Pocket Paradise’
Getting around the Isle of Man is such fun! We jump aboard one of the ancient clacketty trams of the Manx Electric Railway for one of the most delightful rides of our lives. Our destination is Snaefell, 2,036ft (620 metres) above sea level, and the highest point on the island.
We switch at Laxey for the mountain railway, slowing down to photograph the Great Laxey Wheel, probably the most iconic image of Mann.
As we climb higher, the conductor points out south east Scotland, the Solway Firth and part of Anglesey. On a clearer day we’d be able to see the Mountains of Mourne.
Mann has 18 mountain and coastal National Glens. At Dhoon Glen we follow a brook and over a boardwalk through woods which would be teeming with bluebells in Spring.
As the path rises we can see the sea. Below us are nearly 200 steps and the waterfall known locally as “Big Girl”, the highest on the island, falling over 131ft (40 metres).
Our journey to Castletown and Port Erin is on the longest narrow gauge steam line in Britain. We’re immediately reminded of Ireland as we get out at Castletown.
Castle Rushen, which presides over the town, has been a royal residence, a mint, prison and housed lunatics in its time. It’s magnificent, with lots of hidey-holes and towers.
The Nautical Museum is an absolute curiosity. We’ve come to see The Peggy (circa 1790), the world’s oldest yacht, which was found walled in here in 1935.
We’re also intrigued by a room styled like the cabin of a large sailing ship from Nelson’s day. The ceilings and side panels are curved and the windows shaped as if following the line of the hull.
A visit to the Chasms, near the southern tip of the island, is rather unnerving as the gorse overgrows deep and narrow fissures, making the gaps hard to see. I’m stunned by the sea views with the large conical stack of rock that they call the Sugar Loaf in the foreground.
The waters off the Meayll peninsular, opposite the Calf of Man nature reserve, are rich in marine life. It’s barely a minute before we spot the first of several seals.
We walk up Meayll Hill, above the folk museum village of Cregneash. Port Erin, with its landmark Milner’s Tower, lies ahead of me. Directly below me is the Neolithic Meayll Stone Circle (3,500BC).
To my right is Port Mary with its multitude of boats and, beyond, Castletown. I turn and there’s the Calf of Man under the setting sun, the only sound that of seagulls and the wind.
It brings to mind an old poster I’d seen in the excellent, free, Manx Museum in Douglas. It read: “Nowhere too remote or too isolated for a day trip. The pocket paradise of the British Isles”.
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company offers a number of routes to Douglas. For offers visit www.steam-packet.com/Offers/Cars or call 08722 992 992.
Where to find out more
Pictures by Robin Weaver