Today we are visiting the Isle of Man and are anchored in Douglas, which is the capital. I know very little about the Isle of Man except I remembered from my motorcycle days that they held several major motorcycle races there and I believe I have a CD that was recorded at a concert there.
The Isle of Man is a British protectorate meaning their foreign policy and defense is the responsibility of the British, but otherwise they are autonomous. It is 221 square miles in size and is located between Northern Ireland and England. It has a population of 85,000 with 28,000 of them living in the capital city of Douglas where we are anchored today.
We got up early this morning as we were on a ship’s excursion that left at 8:30 and we had to tender into port. The excursion we had chosen was the Isle of Man Exploration and it was a walking tour. When the tender arrived on shore we boarded a bus and drove through the scenic countryside until we reached the village of Cregneash where our hike would start. During our drive, the tour guide gave us a very interesting and informative talk on the geography, history and life on the Isle of Man. When we reached the village we were split into two groups with a tour guide for each one and two local assistants who made sure no one got lost and to provide help where needed.
We were surprised to find out that the hike was three miles and through some rugged and rough terrain. This was a little surprising as the walks on the excursions are usually a little milder, but this was fine with us as we were looking forward to seeing the countryside. We started our hike by walking through the village and then walked through some rolling hills towards the coast. The land was full of heather in full bloom and the fragrance from the heather was absolutely wonderful. From there we followed the coast to the small town of Kitterland (I think that's the name) where our bus was waiting. Rather than try to describe everything we saw, I will narrate our walks through a selection of the many photos we took.
|We saw lots of sheep on our hike.|
|The purple in the picture is heather and it was in full bloom and beautiful.|
|This is a manx loaghtan sheep, which is a breed of sheep native to the Isle of Man. As you can see, they have four horns. A great picture that Val took.|
|Way off in the distance is Cregneash where we started.|
|We finally see the buses way off in the distance.|
|The last part of our hike was a very steep downhill section, it's a lot steeper than it looks in the picture.|
|The end of our hike.|
We ended our hike with a very steep descent to the spot where the buses would pick us up. There was much scrambling and sliding as we made our way down the mixture of grass, rocks, boulders, and loose gravel, but everyone made it. Our reward was a beautiful spot on in the coast with a small café for drinks and snacks. Val and I looked around a bit and then went into the café as it started to drizzle. It was soon time to get back on the bus and head back to Douglas. The drive through the countryside and the continuing commentary of our guide made the trip back equally interesting as our morning drive.
I did find out that the motorcycle races I had remembered from the past were still being held and were major events with many international participants. They close off public roads for the races, which covers a large part of the countryside. One interesting aside the guide gave us is that outside the cities, there is no speed limits so many motorcyclist from the other British Isles bring their motorcycles over on the ferries so they can open them up in the rural areas.
The weather had been a mix during the day with clouds, blue sky, and a little rain at the end. By the time we got back to Douglas the rain was falling a little more earnestly and while not a downpour, it was getting us a little wet. We still had a few hours until the last tender back to ship so we decided to explore the town a bit.
It was really bustling around the port as that was also the ferry terminal. There is a network of large, sea-going ferries that operate between Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and England; we had seen one unloading when we left Dublin. We walked away from the terminal and into town to find a large shopping area, which seemed to be a miniature version of Grafton Street in Dublin, but with no entertainment and less emphasis on food. It was also raining lightly so that may have dampened things a bit. My main goal was to find a t-shirt with the symbol of the Isle of Man on it, which rather than try to describe I’ll show below.
|This is the three legs symbol from the flag of the Isle of Man|
|The shopping area in Douglas was a little damp.|
Our search was fruitless as the only t-shirts we could find were related to the motorcycle races. There were plenty of those so I finally settled on a Grand Prix shirt which wasn’t what I was looking for, but it did say The Isle of Man on it. Val picked up a few things from the shops and then after hiking three miles and walking around town, we decided we had had enough and made our way back to the tenders and the ship.
The first thing we did on the ship was to get off our feet and rest. I did spend time downloading and backing up the days photos, but we didn’t have time to look at them before dinner so that will have to wait. We attended trivia in the MIX Lounge and then went to dinner where we compared notes with Ken and Mary Beth as to what we all had done during the day. As you know from some of my previous posts, Ken and Mary Beth are avid walkers and that’s what they did today. They explored the town from one end to the other. Our three mile hike doesn’t compare to the kind of miles they put on in a day. After dinner, it was off to the casino and then a welcome early night; we were tired. There is no rest for the weary though as tomorrow we dock in Belfast, Northern Ireland.