Isle of Man
Trip Start Mar 14, 2012
26Trip End Jun 15, 2012
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On the morning of Tuesday 15 May, we packed our luggage (almost forgetting our powerboard and converter plug!), ready to head to the Isle of Man. We had another full English breakfast, and went for a walk around Chesterfield. We saw the crooked spire of the church, which is like a symbol of Chesterfield. The churchyard was interesting because all of the headstones had been moved and placed against the stone wall fence of the churchyard, some of them leaning against each other three-deep. I am not sure why this was done, or if anything happened to the graves the headstones belonged to. We looked at the real estate advertised in a real estate agency's window (which we did everywhere we went), and properties were so cheap! I think that whole area has been going through an economic slump (possibly for quite a long time now), which was sad to see, compared to how expensive properties were in Bath and the Cotswolds!
We left Chesterfield and drove through Sheffield to get to the northern Peaks District, just to do a different drive to the day before. We drove past desolate moors (which I am pretty sure were actually in Yorkshire, though not the actual Yorkshire Moors), which were so awesome and interesting! I haven't actually read 'Wuthering Heights', but I seem to be obsessed with bleak, desolate moors in or around Yorkshire, so perhaps I should :P We drove past an upper reach of the River Derwent, and it was spectacular! - beautiful river, beautiful woods - pines, birches - red, apple green and yellow leaves - stunning! We drove on the outskirts of Manchester and continued on and into Liverpool. I had a morbid curiosity about seeing whereabouts James Bulger was killed by those two 10-year-old boys in 1993, and I kept seeing signs for Bootle, which is where the shopping centre was that he was taken from, but it was north and we were heading south. We saw signs for "waterside" and followed them, thinking they would take us to the ocean, but "waterside" was actually the Mersey River, not the ocean. We parked the car and crossed the road to a nice restaurant by the river, and I watched a ferry cross the Mersey and had the song in my head :P We had a nice lunch and then drove to the Liverpool John Lennon Airport. We found the undercover secure car park and parked the car. We checked in our luggage, and went to our gate. We walked down the steps to go out onto the tarmac to board, and we saw that it was quite a small plane with open propellors and the wheels coming from underneath the engines! There were only two seats on each side of the aisle, as opposed to three. It was a very quick flight across to the Isle, and the plane stayed very low.
We landed on the Isle, and a man named Taffy had come to pick us up with his grandson Josh. Taffy is the web developer for the Douglas branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) on the Isle of Man. The RNLI was founded by my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Sir William Hillary on the Isle of Man in 1824, because he became frustrated at the loss of life from shipwrecks in the Irish Sea off the coast of the Isle. After Dad had discovered this little tidbit of our history, he emailed Taffy (aka Paul) to see if we could find out any more information about our ancestor. Taffy was very excited to be contacted by a descendant of Sir William, and when he found out that Dan and I were going to the Isle of Man, he insisted on being our tour guide :) So he picked us up at the airport, and he said that I would be "treated like a queen" by the RNLI members we would be meeting the next day :P We began driving to Douglas. We crossed the 'Fairy Bridge' and said hello to the fairies (for good luck), and we were shown a few different monuments and buildings on the road into Douglas, including the Tower of Refuge in the bay, which was ordered to be built by Sir William for survivors of shipwrecks in Douglas Bay to wait out the night or the storm, or both. Taffy dropped us off at our hotel (right on the beautiful Georgian Loch Promenade), and we checked in. On Taffy's recommendation, we went to dinner at 'Jaks' up the street, which was very nice and had large meals.
After dinner, we were picked up by Taffy, and we drove up to the start of the TT course (see http://www.iomtt.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isle_of_Man_TT), which is one of the things that the Isle of Man is known for. The course is actually normal roads on the Isle, and they get blocked off from normal traffic every year for the motorcycle race (and people sit by the side of the road and on hedges and walls and bridges to watch the race! - so dangerous!). We were shown the grandstand and the timing board and some plaques in commemoration of past riders and officials. And then we drove the TT course! We were in Taffy's Volvo, and he was showing us all the corners and how the riders would take the corners, and he was sometimes speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road! Taffy knew exactly how the riders ride, because he loves the race, and also because he has lived on the Isle all his life. Driving the course resulted in a nice tour of a lot of the Isle, and there was beautiful lighting from the setting sun, beautiful countryside, and lots of different scenery like fields, woods, peaks and moors. We were shown Tynwald Hill (where the Isle of Man parliament - Tynwald - meets annually to declare laws) and the beautiful church beside it, and went up the mountain to a memorial of a TT rider. It was a freezing evening! Literally! Taffy pointed across the ocean to Scotland and the Mull of Kintyre, and I thought of the song we learned to play on the recorder in primary school :P We drove further up the mountain to the Joey Dunlop memorial (a TT rider who died during a race in Estonia), and then we hooned around the mountain the way the TT riders do! There are no proper guardrails either! I filmed some of our adventure :P We went to the Laxey Wheel that was used to pump water from the mine shafts, and the smaller wheel down the hill, and then we drove back around Onchan Head, which has a nice view of Loch Promenade all lit up, which was very pretty :) We got back at about 10pm! (and the sun had set about 30 minutes prior :P). I got an SMS from Michelle at about 11.15pm telling me to call ASAP, and I knew it would be about my aunty Lea-anne having her baby! :D I called Michelle and she told me Lea-anne had had the baby, and that he has an awesome name - Nash Alexander :D I agreed, and was very excited :D
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: seeing a ferry cross the Mersey, driving the TT race track, and seeing some of the sights of the Isle :)
On the morning of Wednesday 16 May, we got up early and went for a walk in a northerly direction along the Promenade. I filmed the sand on the beach and sang part of a The Who song about a man named Happy Jack who "lived in the sand at the Isle of Man" :P It was a very nice walk along the very nice promenade, with all of the pretty Georgian buildings :) We went back to the hotel for a full English breakfast, and then met Taffy at 9am to begin our "walking in the footsteps of Sir William Hillary" tour :) We walked the other way along the Promenade, and Taffy showed us some Sir William Hillary memorials. We walked to a florist and I bought some irises and some other pretty white flowers to place at Sir William's tomb. I got irises again because I laid irises at the plot of Louisa Grace Richard-Preston (my great-great-great-grandmother) in Crudwell in the Cotswolds (see Cotswolds blog entry). We went to Hillary House, which is where Sir William Hillary's first house was on the Isle of Man. The original house has been knocked down, but the building that now stands there is named Hillary House. We walked down the street and met a friend of Taffy's, Simon, who was one of the Olympic torch bearers for the Isle of Man! :) He gave us an RNLI beanie and cap, and we also met Taffy's youngest son Ian. We walked to St George's Church, which is where Sir William Hillary's tomb is. I opened the gate of the railing around the tomb (which Taffy had requested to be unlocked for us that day) and placed the flowers in front of the tomb and had my little solemn moment, which was nice. Whenever I visited the graves of ancestors and other relatives in England, my solemn moment was usually me saying to them, in my heart, "You're still visited and honoured by your descendants". They were all very special moments for me. We got some pictures at the tomb, and when we left the churchyard Taffy pointed out a little laneway down the street that Sir William would have wandered down on many occasions, and I looked down the laneway and imagined him trotting down there on a daily stroll :)
We walked up to Douglas Head and saw the statue of Sir William Hillary looking out over Douglas Harbour and the Tower of Refuge. I filmed and got some photos. I wanted to get a kissy photo with it (where I would kiss his cheek), but the statue was too tall, so I got a huggy photo instead :P We walked down to a little stone beach that had beautiful clear water. I touched the water because it was the Irish Sea! :D We watched Taffy skim a few flat stones across the surface of the calm cove- he was very good. We walked up to a hotel that stands where Sir William Hillary's final Isle of Man residence once stood, the Fort Anne. The hotel is built in the same style as his residence. We went to the William Hillary conference room inside and met some RNLI people, including the press officer. I had a few cookies and chatted, and as we were leaving we were told by a woman who works for the hotel that we can stay there for free the next time we visit :D We walked down to the Douglas RNLI boathouse where the lifeboat is kept. I got some photos with the sign and the profile bust of Sir William Hillary at the front of the building. We went inside and met a few more people and chatted. We were given a tour of the lifeboat named the 'Sir William Hillary', which was awesome :D We got some photos of me at the helm and in the engine room and in the survivor's room, including a photo of me wearing one of the RNLI helmets :P I signed the guestbook, and then we headed to lunch at a little casual cafe.
We drove over to Peel, but stopped on the way at the Braaid, which is a site containing an Iron Age roundhouse and two Norse long houses :) They sit out in the middle of a field. We continued on to Peel and parked near Peel Castle, which is where the Peel RNLI is on St Patrick's Isle (a small island connected to the Isle of Man by a causeway). We met the Peel RNLI crew and had a tour of their lifeboat named after another of Sir William's descendants who bequeathed money for the lifeboat, Ruby Clery. We got the idea that there is a little bit of rivalry, and perhaps animosity, between the Douglas and the Peel RNLI crews :P We walked around the outside perimeter of Peel Castle, and Taffy pointed out Ireland in the distance :)
We drove to some cottages that were used in the movie 'Waking Ned Divine' (set in Ireland, but the Isle of Man was used for the location of the shoot). The cottages were little whitewashed stone cottages with thatched roofs overlooking a windswept and wave-beaten little bay - it was so awesome! And cold! We drove to Port Erin and saw where Taffy and his wife used to go courting :) We went to Port St Mary, and then to the Calf of Man, where you can see a man's face in the rock. We drove to Castletown and saw the school that Fletcher Christian (of the mutiny on the Bounty fame) went to school.
We drove back to Douglas, and went to 'Jaks' for dinner again, because it had been so nice the night before. While we were waiting for a table (we had booked for 7pm but were there early), we saw some amusing chalk drawings of (fake) Isle of Man road signs on the wall of the pub upstairs from the restaurant :P Taffy also went to 'Jaks' for dinner with his wife (it's a great place!), and we got to meet her, which was nice because we had heard so many stories about her from Taffy :) It was a really nice day and Taffy was an awesome tour guide :) During the day, we had seen three recruitment agencies in Douglas, and we thought that if there are enough jobs to warrant three recruitment agencies, we could totally live on the Isle :P
A few days later, there were several articles online about our trip to the Isle of Man:
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: visiting all of the Sir William Hillary monuments and his tomb, visiting the RNLI stations, and seeing some more of the sights of the Isle
- The Isle of Man is a breathtaking island. The landscape is beautiful and so varied for such a small island.
- Combines the best of the UK.
- A very liveable island, infrastructure is excellent. So are the tax laws. And the no speed limit laws :P