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Isle of Man Tour 11 Days – Report

The Laxey Wheel

Day 1 – Wed, 7th July

The Hogget, Hook – The Ship Inn, Parkgate, Wirral

We met in the car park of the Hogget at Hook leaving at 10.00am to drive the 225 miles to our hotel on the Wirral. Our route avoided all motorways and followed  a scenic route that passed through Newbury and Wantage, skirted the Cotswolds and then took us up though the Welsh Marches and on to Oswestry and Chester. The weather which had been cloudy with a light drizzle when we started our run gradually became sunnier the further North we drove. We stopped for a light lunch at the Cotswold Café and Farm Shop just North of Stow before continuing on to our destination for the night. The Ship Hotel in Parkgate is an historic Georgian Coaching Inn situated half way along the sea wall which looks out onto the Dee estuary and overlooks North Wales on the opposite bank. Back in the 19th century Parkgate was a  bustling port with a history of being an offloading point for French prisoners of war from the Napoleonic era. The estuary has long since silted up and while the river still has a wide stretch of open water the area near the banks have transformed to saltwater marshland which today are a protected bird and wildlife sanctuary. The wide vistas of the estuary as it opens into the Irish Sea are an amazing sight and we were blessed with a wonderful sunset that took full advantage of this.

Day 2 – Thurs, 8th July

Liverpool Pier Head – Douglas, Isle of Man

The day started bright and clear for a short 20 minute drive to the Queensway tunnel entrance in Birkenhead. After a 10 minute drive we came out into the city just a short distance from Liverpool Pier Head in plenty of time to catch our ferry, the fast hydrofoil, ‘Manannan.’ The weather was flat calm so our crossing was very smooth leaving at 11.15 am to arrive in Douglas at 14.00. A 15 minute drive took us to our hotel, the Commis, our home for the next 8 days.

After unpacking and refreshing ourselves at the hotel we took a short drive South to explore Castletown. This is the former capital of the island and the location of Rushen Castle, reputedly one of the most complete medieval castles in existence. We were to explore this on another day but on parking our cars on the quay adjacent to it we made the acquaintance of the Curator of the castle who had just come outside to lock up at the end of the day. This was where we were to learn how friendly and helpful the locals were as he engaged us in conversation for a good half hour interested in our trip and providing us with helpful information about the island.

That evening we took a taxi from the hotel to Douglas where we had reserved a table at The Coast Brasserie on the sea front for dinner. The food was excellent, the Chef being a protégé of Pru Leith.

Day 3 – Fri. 9th July

West Coast Road – Peel – Isle of Man Motor Museum – Ramsey

This was our first exploration of the island, travelling first along the coast road along the West of the island before turning inland for a steep climb over the mountains to Peel, one of the most picturesque towns on the island. It has a beautiful quay lined with shops and restaurants where yachts are tied up, a fishing port and the imposing Peel Castle looking back at the town from the sea wall. We stopped for a coffee at the welcoming café in the local bowls club on the seafront.

We then carried on our travels to the North East of the Island to Jurby to visit the  Isle of Man Motor Museum – a new and very modern building set adjacent to a former WW2 airfield. We were made very welcome here on entering by the wife of the founder of the museum – herself a very interesting lady, originally from Chile who was pleased to tell us more about the museum and the huge range of cars and motorcycles on display. She later invited us to bring our cars onto the concourse of the museum for photos.

Leaving Jurby we headed East to Ramsey, quite a large town and fishing port where we had lunch at The Gophers café on the quay that Tim had found on Trip Advisor. The fresh crab sandwiches were delicious.

After a walk around to explore and to find a shop selling the delicious local ice cream we headed back to our hotel in Douglas before later dining in the hotel bistro.

Day 4 – Sat. 10th July

Laxey and the Electric Railway to Snaefell

On Saturday we took a drive to Laxey – not to visit the wheel but to take a ride on the miniature steam train that runs through a tunnel to a footpath that one can follow to the wheel. Our plan was then to take the Electric Railway from the station at Laxey to the summit of Snaefell. From Laxey the electric railway runs from here to many other places on the island including Douglas and Ramsey.

After the steam train we found an interesting coffee shop just a few yards from the miniature  steam railway. It was an emporium which sold everything one could wish for. Sitting at a table outside, drinking our coffee we could observe the world going by. At a table adjacent to us was an Australian gentlemen who introduced himself to us and claimed to have a background as a biological medical scientist – he was keen to explain to us how Coronavirus was sent to us by the powers that be in order to reduce the population of the world to no more than 350,000 inhabitants. Clearly, nutters get everywhere!

We strolled down to the station and waited for our train to Snaefell. It was an interesting ride with some splendid views going by of the Laxey Wheel and the scenery as we ascended.

It was quite cloudy at the top but visibility wasn’t’ too bad. From the summit you’re able to see the 7 kingdoms, the Isle of Man, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Sea and the Sky. There’s also a birds eye view of the TT course as it skirts the side of Snaefell.

Back down the mountain we had fun driving sections of the 37.7 mile TT course. The road is billiard table smooth – with all the bends named and sign posted. Reputedly competitors in the TT get up to 200mph on some of the sections and its expected there’ll be a few fatalities each year.

Our TRs loved it. From one section of the track you could see the town of Ramsey and its beach about 500 feet below as the road spiralled down the mountainside to sea level – a fantastic experience. At one point we were overtaken on the outside of a bend by a Porsche turbo and a Ferrari – there are no speed limits – you can go as fast as you dare!

Half way down the mountain road we stopped at the famous Creg Ny Baa Hotel where Tim had reserved a table in their restaurant for dinner. It’s trackside and is filled with posters and other TT memorabilia. They provide an extensive menu, and serve portions large enough to feed the bikers who stop there. Try there Whale size “Moby Dick” Cod & Chips – I couldn’t finish the regular sized version!

Day 5 – Sun 11th July

Calf of Man and Sunday Lunch

In the morning we’re off for a coffee at The Sound Café in Cregneash. Set on the very southern tip of the Isle of Man with spectacular views of The Calf of Man, a nature reserve and bird Observatory which is situated on one of Britain’s major migration routes.

From there for a drive to Dalby where our reservation for Sunday lunch awaits at one of the islands remote cliffside café/restaurants, The Niarbyl.

Day 6 – Monday, 12th July

Murray’s Motorcycle Museum – Douglas – Port St Mary

Located a short drive from our hotel in the direction of Castletown just before the Fairy Bridge is Murray’s Motorcycle Museum. Established in 2007 this is an amazing museum of motorcycles, mainly from past TTs. Entry to the museum is £5 which includes a cup of tea or coffee made and served up by the proprietor or one of his assistants. They are a friendly bunch and only too pleased to guide you through the museum and point out their prized exhibits. Lesley was persuaded to mount one of their 400cc TT motorcycles, once ridden in anger by the only lady rider to win the TT.

We were also invited to leave our mark on the graffiti filled plywood walls of the museum, so next time you’re there see if you can find ‘Windsor Forest TRs were here – July 2021!’

We then drove to Douglas and parked our TRs in the car park at the seafront with the elegant old Opera House as a backdrop behind us. We had a booking at a very special tea and coffee emporium in town called The Tea Junction, where we enjoyed a light lunch together with our choice from their extensive range of teas and coffees. Afterwards we visited a newly unveiled statue of the Bee Gees. Apparently, the Bee Gees are from the Isle of Man.

Then we continued on in a South Westerly direction to Port St Mary where we parked in front of the wide bay to admire the view – while at the same time attracting the attention of a nearby resident, a lady who came out to greet us and chat. It was the same wherever we went.

After returning to our hotel, we then drove out that evening to the Creg Ny Baa to try out their menu once again.

Day 7 – Tuesday, 13th July

Diane Flies Home – Peel Museum – TT Course – Dinner on the quayside in Peel

That morning Diane took an easyJet flight back to Gatwick to collect her dog from her dog minder – time was up! Paul, who seemed to enjoying himself immensely  pressed on alone but had Tim for company in his 3A.

In the morning we drove through the early morning mist to the Manx Museum in Peel. This is located near the quayside and is a huge building which has been completely converted into an interactive diorama which tells the story and history of the island. It is very well done and clearly a lot of thought and investment went into the project. We spent the whole morning there, it was well worth seeing. From there it was off for another race round the TT course, stopping in Ramsey for a Costa Coffee.

Then back to our hotel where we had a short rest before taking a taxi to a Pizza restaurant in Douglas where we celebrated Tim’s birthday.

Day 8 – Wednesday, 14th July

Port Erin – Dinner in Peel

Today we visited Port Erin. This was to become Paul’s favourite place on the island. With a wide sandy bay we parked our cars on the road at the front and sat on the sea wall overlooking the beach. It wasn’t long before we were in conversation with passers-by who had been attracted to our cars. One couple was from our hotel who had seen us at breakfast.

Lunch was at the Victorian station in Port Erin that now serves as the departure point for the Steam Railway that travels along the South of the island, through Castletown and back up to Douglas.

That evening we drove our TRs from our hotel westwards to Peal on the other side of the island where we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at a recommended fish restaurant called The Boathouse. The fish was fresh out of the sea – absolutely delicious.

Day 9 – Thursday, 15th July

The Laxey Wheel & Rushden Castle

We left our visit to the Laxey Wheel to our last full day on the island as Tim had obtained tickets for a guided tour of the mine and the Laxey wheel. It turned out in conversation with the guides that this was the last ever of a small number of these tours they’d recently put on.

Part of the tour was a climb to the top of the Wheel – 99 steps in all and a fantastic view of the surrounding village and countryside. Paul wisely decided to stay down below on terra firma while Tim, Lesley and I took the challenge to ascend the wheel. A the top the view was spectacular. The wheel is currently not in operation as it’s waiting repairs due to cracked con rod that links the wheel to the operating mechanism to the pumps. It may be a year or two before its fixed. Our guide took the opportunity to point out her house, farm and cattle on the brow of the hill opposite – it seemed she owned most of the land round Laxey – the town where she was born and has never moved from.

After a light snack from the café and visitor centre close to the wheel we drove back to our hotel to relax.

 Tim & I then set out again to Castletown to explore Rushden Castle. It’s a really imposing place where each room is marked with its function over the years – some for the gentry, others for officers and some for prisoners. After the end of its military period it was used as a jail during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The 360 degree view from the battlements is stunning.

Our last evening on the IOM was celebrated with a wonderful curry at one of the islands reputedly best curry houses, situated at one end of the front in Douglas.

Day 10  – Fri. 16th July

Return Ferry to Liverpool – Craxton Wood Hotel, Wirral

On Friday morning we completed our packing and loaded our TRs ready for the trip home. Then down to the ferry port to await our departure. We were one of the first in the queue so had time to buy some gifts and T shirts at the ferry shop. Before long we were back on ‘Manannan’ and speeding our way to Liverpool. It was another smooth run and the views from the ferry were stunning. The outline of North Wales and Snowdonia were clearly visible on the horizon as we passed into Liverpool Bay, passed the windfarms and entered the Mersey to the imposing sight of the Liverpool waterfront – on its last day as a World Heritage Site!

From there a short drive through the Mersey tunnel to our hotel on the Wirral for the night, Craxton Wood Hotel and Country Club.

Day 11 – Sat. 17th July

The good weather we had experienced throughout our tour stayed with us as we followed the same route as we had covered coming. Through Chester, Oswestry and the Welsh Marches – with some amazing views of the countryside beyond, including, I think, the Malvern Hills. We stopped for a second time at the Cotswold Café for a light lunch and then proceed on skirting the Cotswolds, with amazingly no hold ups then on the A34 to Newbury and home. We stopped at where we had started from The Hogget in Hook where we arrived around 5.00pm, The end of a truly great trip!

Overall, our mileage was around 900 miles, 350 of which was done on the island.

Tim and Jeff Roberts August 2021

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