Today we tender into the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland. The sea terminal is at Douglas, the island’s capital. The Isle of Man is the home to the “famous” TT (Tourist Trophy) motorcycle races in the summer. The island offers wonderful public transportation including a steam train to the south and an electric train to the north. Given the short time we are staying on the island, we opted for the old fashioned steam train with its small wooden passengers cars-3 people on each side facing one another.
As we left the terminal, the Bentley Club had brought out their special cars-including Bentleys and Mercedes-to the dock. Rocky and I had the same favorite. We purchased our day passes for the local transportation system right at the cruise terminal and took the shuttle over to the train station. The building was so picturesque. You could eat right there or sit out on the back patio to wait for the gates to open. It was a beautiful day.
There is a separate station for each of the lines, so only the steam train left from this terminal. We ended up in a car with a young Irish couple who were staying on the island for 5 days on holiday. They had taken a branch up to the top of a mountain where a tea house now sits; they highly recommended the Snaefell Mountain Railway. You take the electric train and connect in Laxey to reach the summit of Snaefell, the Isle’s only mountain.
I sat there in my long pants, shirt, and jacket to stay warm and the young Irish woman had on a cami and shorts clearly more adapted to this weather. They were nice to talk to. On the other side of us sat a German couple who were also on the ship; they too were very friendly although we got the impression that the wife did not speak as much English as her husband. With the ship in for the day, the train was completely full.
Like most of the ports on this itinerary, there are local representatives on the ship to provide literature on the destinations. On the Isle of Man, they actually had brochures on each of the island’s towns and their unique offerings from museums, beaches, castles, etc. Due to time and interest, we chose to go to Castletown down the steam train line. We are going to see the castle and there are even some TT races near town today. The Irish couple got off at the same stop; the German couple were continuing on to the end of the steam engine line south.
The scenery in route was absolutely beautiful. We had the wooden coach windows open to let in the fresh breeze and enjoyed the countryside and the coastal views. We found out that some of the roads were blocked due to the motorcycle races, so that added to the number of people using the train and we made a few local stops to pick up people or drop them off.
Rocky was surprised by the smell of the steam created by the coal powering the train. It wasn’t annoying, just different. The train station at Castletown was also pretty with a park next to the opposite side of the tracks. In the distance you could hear the motorcycles on their course. We took a walk into town passing the street where you could reach the races. The island airport is also located near Castletown.
As we approached the bridge into the main part of the building, I saw all the boats in the canal sitting in the mud. A pair of swans were also nestled in the muck. Castletown was charming. At the Old House of Keys, the former home of the Manx Parliament, you can enjoy the reenactment of debate proceedings. The Isle of Man has “the oldest continuously active parliament in the world, the Tynwald.” The sessions are offered once late morning and mid afternoon. The train schedule didn’t work for us to attend, but Jane and David enjoyed the morning session. There is also a well done Nautical Museum and Old Grammar School.
The 4th main attraction in the heart of the town is Castle Rushen, a fabulous medieval castle that has been maintained with only minor safety and tourist changes. You truly got the feel of what it was like when the structure was a royal residence, mint, and prison. You take a routed self-guided tour through the castle with some rotated exhibits, currently featuring the history of women associated with the castle.
We climbed the many narrow winding staircases, now familiar to us on this trip. After Blarney Castle we are up for anything. We went all the way to the top with great views on Castletown and out to the bay.
After our castle tour, we headed back to the train station, taking a peak at the TT races in town that day. One race was 16 laps around on a short track; others are 90 laps. There are grandstands in Douglas for viewing the race. Another lovely ride back to Douglas on the train and then we took the shuttle and decided to get off at town rather than go straight to the ship.
We wandered around the streets, spotting a wonderful standing clock. I tried for cash out of the ATM next to the Post Office without success (making me a little nervous). Probably was a good thing though because although I did ask for sterling which is accepted here as it is a dependency of the British Crown, they do have their own currency and coins. The isle is self-governing.
After walking the length of the main shopping area, we walked back along the side overlooking the bay. Finally, we crossed over and wandered through the promenade gardens. We tendered back to the ship, passing the Tower of Refuge in the Bay. One of the other things the island is noted for is the Manx Cat, almost tailless. I didn’t see any, but that night we each got a Manx Cat pin delivered to our room. Tomorrow we will be in Belfast, Northern Ireland.