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davidx Laxey - A travel report by David
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Laxey,  Man, Isle of - flag Man, Isle of
3951 readers

davidx's travel reports

The intriguing Isle of Man

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Wherever you come from, you will probably arrive in Douglas and immediately you will be struck by the sense of being somewhere different. Near to the UK and Ireland, the Isle of Man is not part of either – nor does it feel like it.


I feel a bit strange writing about the Isle of Man, because I last went there about thirty years ago. However some things don’t change. With others I have checked websites to see that what I’m saying is still valid. I’ll start with some minimal information about history and constitution. Nothing much is known about the island before the Norse period. As in the UK the Vikings came first as raiders and then as settlers but Norway’s connection with the island, not always an exclusive one, lasted until the battle of Largs in 1263. There was a King of Man who was a vassal of the King of Norway and sided with Norway at Largs. After this Man had a brief spell under Scotland before coming under England. Having passed between various nobles it eventually came to the Stanleys and largely remained subject to them until 1736 when it came under the Earls of Atholl. It was bought back by the crown in 1765 and gained increasing independence from the 19th century. It is now, like Guernsey and Jersey, a Crown Dependency. The Queen of the UK is the Lord of Mann [sic] but the laws passed at Westminster don’t apply on the island. Tynwald, its Parliament claims to be the oldest one in continuous existence [not the only claimant!] The UK looks after its external affairs and defence and receives a payment for doing so. The isle of Man has a special relationship with the EU under a separate protocol in the UK’s accession treaty. It’s neither a member nor an associate member and manages to enjoy full trading rights while maintaining its status as a tax haven. It’s in the Irish Sea and it’s claimed that from the top of Snaefell, its highest point where I’ve not been, you can see the mountains of the Lake District in England, Snowdon in Wales and parts of both Scotland and Ireland. The N-S distance is about 33 miles [50km] and the E-W about 13.5 miles [20km]. Man is noted particularly for motorbike races [of which I know nothing], the Laxey Wheel and its marvellous transport.

Favourite spots:
Laxey Mines were once the leading producer of zinc ore in the British/Irish isles and this was due to the famous Lady Isabella [Governor’s wife] Water Wheel - www.iomguide.com/lax eywheel.php Laxey is situated on the electric railway between Douglas and Ramsey.and the wheel claims to be the largest remaining wheel in the world. It’s certainly big enough – 72 feet diameter and a circumference of 227 feet. It once pumped out 250 gallons of water a minute from 1500 feet down. The mine was some 200 metres from the wheel, which was connected by a series of rods. Sadly the wheel now operates nothing, although it’s still turned for the benefit of visitors, roughly from April to October. It’s a terrific site and still rolls in the visitors. An electric railway doesn’t sound of great historical interest but on this one it’s only too easy to imagine hordes of industrial workers from Yorkshire and Lancashire pouring onto it during their wakes [holiday] weeks. [continued below]

What's really great:
The transport is definitely special. The buses are ordinary enough and very good routes they cover but it’s the various form of rail and tramway that are the island’s transport appeal. ELECTRIC RAILWAY [continued] All the way from just outside Douglas northwards the stops have route leading down to some of the island’s glens, as scenic though less known than some of Cornwall’s best. The line dates back to 1893 and original trains still run on its narrow gauge route. STEAM RAILWAY The steam railway goes south from Douglas to Castletown, Port St Mary and Port Erin. There were once lines covering about 50 miles but only 15 are now extant. It’s a 3ft gauge and the locomotives are the originals from the 1870s. There is a good museum of the railway at Port Erin. SNAEFELL MOUNTAIN RAILWAY This is the only electric mountain railway in the British/Irish Isles. It has a 3ft 6ins gauge and runs from Laxey to the top of Snaefell at 2036 feet. [Continued under sights]

Sights:
SNAEFELL MOUNTAIN RAILWAY [CONTINUED]
There is an extra middle line to assist braking. It was too early in the year when I was there for this line to be operating.
The line was opened in 1895 only months after it was started.

GROUDLE GLEN RAILWAY
Imagine the thrill to the textile workers on holiday of changing from the electric railway to a two feet gauge steam railway for the short route to this glen!

HORSE TRAMS IN DOUGLAS
This claims to be the world’s oldest surviving horse tram service – started in the 1870s with only wartime breaks. There are 42 horses working here and the tramcars have rollers to make the work easier.

Not bad for transport interest in a small island!

Accommodations:
The YHA Hostel where we stayed at Laxey seems to be one of the things that has changed in the last 30 years. I can find no evidence of its existence. What a pity!

Hangouts:
The Mines Tavern near Laxey station used to serve wonderful beer and food. The island had a Brewing Act providing for purity of island-brewed beer in 1874 and I believe it’s still in force.
Okells brewery tours are said to be excellent.

Other recommendations:
I know nothing of the cliffs south of PEEL on the west coast, except that I should love to see them. This is not particularly easy and, as far as I know, not on with public transport. Peel itself is an attractive town – see http://www.isleofman.com/ab out/outandabout/peel/ [same site except for last bit on the places below.] There are the remains of a cathedral on St. patrick’s island, where Christianity was introduced from Ireland in the 5th century.

CASTLETOWN, once the island’s capital, is a delightful town, named after castle Rushven, an interesting and attractive sight.

PORT ST. MARY provides the start of a short but fine walk over the cliffs towards the Calf of Man, a small rock/island south of Man that can be visited from here. The walk passes ‘The Chasms’, appropriately named gigantic fissures going from the cliff top right down to the sea.

I only had a few minutes at RAMSEY, the Island’s second town, but it seemed worth longer.

Published on Friday May 20th, 2005


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Mon, Jan 29 2007 - 02:37 PM rating by marianne

David,
Have you got any photos? I might visit the isle of Man in June, but haven't decided yet. Other options are Greece, Madeira and the Orkneys.It would be nice to see what the island looks like.

Sat, May 21 2005 - 05:05 AM rating by mistybleu

David, a most enjoyable read. It's funny, but I was sure that the Isle of Man was a part of the UK, but I've learnt something completely new.

Thanks
Misty

Sat, May 21 2005 - 02:51 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

very nice report dav,again i will say plz add some pic to make it more attactive as many ppl feel like reading just after seeing nice pictures.
ravi

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