I spent a week on the Isle of Man at the end of July, so I shall be making posts about that this month. I’m splitting it into multiple posts because I’ve decided it’s silly to stuff an entire week’s worth of stuff into one post when my random wanderings get their own individual posts. But I am going to make sure I get them all done this month.
So the posts I will be doing are this one, then a photos one, then three others. One about Port Erin, the village where we stayed, one about the Manx Electric Railway, which we took a trip on, and one about the two castles we visited, Castle Rushen and Peel Castle. This post will be about the other stuff I did through the week, and about the Isle of Man in general.
The Isle of Man is a UK crown dependency located in the Irish Sea. This means they are British, but not part of the United Kingdom, and they have their own government which the British government doesn’t usually interfere with – they technically can, but there would need to be a very good reason for it. The pound is used on the island, and although they have their own coins and notes there’s a lot of UK money in circulation too. There is a Manx language, which is a Gaelic one.
There’s been various influences on the island’s history. As well as the Celts, it was ruled by Vikings for a few hundred years before being ceded to Scotland, then went back and forth between Scotland and England for 150 years, ending up with England. The title ‘Lord of Mann’ is held by the reigning UK monarch, and it is Lord, regardless of gender.
So there’s your very, very brief history.
The Isle of Man is famous for the TT races. They weren’t going on while we were there and bikes aren’t my thing anyway – in fact, I would want to actively avoid the island while they were on – but I thought I should mention them, as they are a massive thing. I did see some things relating to them though, mostly on Snaefell, which is where the electric railway went, so I’ll mention more there.
Manx cats are also pretty famous, of course. They’re not actually common on the island, just more common than they are in most places. From what I can tell the majority of cats do have full tails; some Manx cats have no tail at all and others have little stumps, that’s why I phrase it that way.
And of course there will be plenty of other things I could talk about, but I’m just a random blogger who spent a week there. I just thought I should do a quick little overview before talking about what I did there.
So, we got the ferry from Heysham in Lancashire across to Douglas. It was not a very fast ferry. The crossing took about three hours; I’ve been on boats to Ireland which took a lot less time than that. Still, as far as ferry journeys go it was more interesting than most. We passed a very large offshore wind farm and a number of rigs, so it wasn’t just miles of endless sea punctuated by the occasional boat.
I didn’t spend very much time in Douglas, but a couple of notes of interest. I saw the Tower of Refuge as the ferry was coming in and leaving. That was built on St Mary’s Isle, which is just in the bay at Douglas, in 1832, so shipwreck survivors would have somewhere to shelter until help came. It’s quite ornate, it’s like a tiny castle. And I also saw the horse drawn trams. I’ve seen horse drawn things before, but I can’t remember seeing horse drawn trams, so that was different. They were proper old fashioned trams – at least one was a double decker – and all the horses had little name plates around their necks, which I found oddly adorable. We stopped for a look at Fairy Bride on our way back from there one day. It’s a very ordinary bridge in itself, but there’s supposed to be fairies there and people leave things for them. Messages – some on paper, some on the road sign, some on the stones – photos, little teddies and stuff. They’re tied to the trees by the bridge or stuffed between the stones. I didn’t leave anything, but it was a very unique sort of place.
One afternoon we went over to the Sound of Man. This is an observation point at the bottom of the island from which you can see the Calf of Man, a smaller island. I think there are boat trips over to the Calf, but we did not go on one of these trips.
There’s supposed to be all kinds of stuff in the sea around the Isle of Man – dolphins, whales, basking sharks – and this is meant to be one of the good places to see them. I saw some seals bobbing about in the water, but nothing else. There was something else about, you could hear that, but I only saw the seals. Not that the seals weren’t a treat to see, of course, it’s not like I get to see them often. And the landscape was all pretty gorgeous; if we hadn’t seen the seals, I’d have been a bit disappointed, but I think I’d have still been happy overall.
And we visited the Mann Cat Sanctuary. It’s open two days a week, for a few hours, half the year. The other half it’s closed. Consequently it got very busy, but that was a good thing because there were a lot of cats looking for attention. Some of them weren’t bothered, but most of them were. We were some of the first to arrive on the day we visited and the cats were literally charging out of the door. They calmed down after a bit, once there were enough humans to go round, but it was all a bit mental for a while.
They had a few animals other than cats too, including a parrot. I felt I should mention that, because the parrot and some chickens are in some of the photos I have.
Anyway, that was definitely a highlight for me. If you love cats and you visit the Isle of Man, that’s a place to go. And if you’re not that bothered about cats, but you really, really want to see a Manx cat, it’s probably your best bet. There were a few of them there.
One more thing I found interesting about the island as a whole was the postboxes. British postboxes have the initial and number of the monarch whose reign they were placed in. I’ve seen the occasional Victoria or George VI box, but they are quite rare, and the ones I’ve seen are usually quite battered and uncared for. On the Isle of Man, however, there were loads of old ones, and they were obviously being looked after too. In addition to the Victorias and George VI’s, I saw an Edward VII one, which I don’t think I’ve ever see before – I presume there maybe weren’t so many to begin with, at least compared to the Victorias. So that was pretty cool. Well, I found it cool.
I was a bit behind schedule with this post, but I will catch up. Photos coming soon, thanks for reading.