isle of man

a trip around the quaint irish sea island

journey profile

Where: Isle of Man (UK Dependency). Europe
When: August 2010
What: Laxey Wheel, Douglas Bay and Castle, Snaefell Mountain Railway, Norman Wisdom Statue, Electric Railway, Tower of Refuge, Snaefell Summit, Horse Tram.
Counter: 0 country
Illnesses or mishaps: Ending up on the top of a cold and windswept Snaefell without so much as a coat.


Not technically in the UK, the Isle of Man does have our queen as its Head of State, and if theproverbial mess hits the proverbial fan the UK government would step in militarily. The island's currency, the Manx Pound, though, cannot be used back in England. Curiously, the Isle of Man is listed under the north west England section of my 'Rough Guide to England'. So its inclusion in my UK section is logical, if technically inaccurate.

Travelling to Douglas on the island's Steam Packet ferry system from Liverpool docks, we did our best to get around as much of the island as we could. Obviously starting at the 'capital' Douglas we made it out to the picturesque Castletown in the south of the island, the summit of Snaefell at 2036 feet high thanks to the help of the Manx Mountain Railway, and the island's wonderful Laxey Wheel at Laxey: the world's largest working waterwheel. I made sure we had a sea view at the Empress Hotel, overlooking the promenade and Bay of Douglas, where wonderful sunny scenes greeted us in the morning - it was worth the extra few quid. Being an island, it had a very by-the-seaside feel that was difficult to fully escape from: it was sleepy, sunny and provincial.


Setting off from Liverpool Docks on the Steam Packet Company.


Douglas: the Tower of Refuge in the middle of Douglas Bay.


At the foot of an Isle of Man flag pole along the promenade, a Douglas Corporation life vest box, the Jubilee Clock and, right, sat with Norman Wisdom at Douglas' Gaiety Theatre.


The wonderful colours of Douglas Bay.


The island's distinctive Victorian horse-drawn tramway. No electricity needed: let the horse take the strain. Also, Castletown in red and white: two of the red lighthouses at the harbour and, right, an example of the island's yesteryear railway signals. 


Characterful railway crossing at Castletown.


Castletown colour: pastel coloured terraced houses and, right, flags at the harbour.


Castletown: the harbour with its rugged stone buildings.


Castletown: the Castletown castle which gives this area of the island its name. Above the gates is the iconic, and rather bizarre three legged Trie Cassyn symbol of the Isle of Man.


The Hollywood-style Manx Electric Railway sign and Manx Electric Railway charm: the ticket booth and, right, the waiting room of Baldrine station. 


Laxey: the Laxey Wheel - 20 metres high and the largest working water wheel in the world.


The Laxey Wheel's towers above Laxey village.


At the summit of Snaefell mountain - 2036 feet high and the highest mountain on the Isle. Right, the foggy and atmospheric view from the top.



travel tips

  • Make sure you book a room with a sea view for a wonderful scene of Douglas Bay.
  • Hiring a car is probably the easiest way of seeing the island - we spent an inordinate amount of time waiting for buses to arrive when really we should have been sightseeing. 


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