Freesteel Blog » Isle of Man June 2000


Isle of Man June 2000

The Manx ferry runs directly from Liverpool less than two miles from our front door. It’s been a tempting bicycling holiday for Becka and me for over a year because it’s just there and we wouldn’t need a car to do any of it. Unfortunately our bikes are very crap. However, Clive and Sarah over in Yorkshire have two good bikes as well as a tandem. After some judicious hinting, plus checking that we were not going to coincide with any sort of motorcycle TT nonsense, we headed over one Saturday morning on their nice bikes with them on their tandem.

Saturday morning ferry.

Unexpectedly the ferry was packed out with racing bikes with pencil-thin wheels and expensive frames wrapped in padding in case of scratches for a week of post-TT bicycle races. We left Clive to bullshit with them and got on with reading the paper. We encountered them only once in the whole weekend.

After a greasy spoon cafe lunch we went straight out of Douglas and up a hill. Clive had read the map properly and knew it was double arrow steep, but I just couldn’t believe it wasn’t a mistake. I had intended the holiday to be a gentle circuit around the coastline of the island over two days, but instead it turned into a mad zigzag all over the place lasting three days. We went roughly in the anti-clockwise direction because on Saturday night there were no spare B&B places in Castleton, Port Erin or Peel. So we had to spend the night to Ramsey which is on the edge of the “boring” flat lands.

The view on Injebreck Hill.

After the hill we headed down to Ballaugh on an equally steep road which was rough. Clive and Sarah freewheelled their tandem up to 50mph and got scared. I broke 30 and thought that was pretty good considering the conditions. In Ballaugh we joined the A3 which is part of the TT course and still had its bails of hay tied to every tree and available fencepost facing against the direction of travel. In spite of its main-ness, the road was pretty empty probably due to there being no through traffic on an island. Ideal for cycling.

The beach at the Point of Ayr (closed for bird nesting).

In Ramsey we booked into our B&B, had an ice cream and then zoomed up to the Point of Ayre and back again before dinner. The area was not quite as flat as it seemed on the map. There’s an attractive land-fill site just short of the end where all the rubbish can blow out to sea, but that’s about the most there is to find.

Breakfast at ten was a bit too early for Clive.

Back in Ramsey we had pizza and beer and planned the next day. Sarah’s archaeological tales got Becka so excited she wanted to visit every Tumulus and Ship Burial on the map. This forced a stop at a church in Andreas the next day where everyone was in their Sunday best (unlike us) and a treck up the road towards Knock-e-Dooney farm. There was nothing to see.

The rest of the morning took us through Jurby West and The Cronk to Kirk Michael where we had lunch and watched the Isle of Man tour busses drive by.

The steep track from Spooyt Vane (Waterfall) to Ballacarnane Beg.

Now I became obsessed with a nearby waterfall up a track on the map, so we visited that. It was small and full of flies. The track beyond it was somewhat hard and one of the few points of our journey where we got off our bikes.

Going straight to Peel would have been a bit too slack (and ruined our average of 40 miles per day) so we continued along the Road of the Shallow Ford to St John’s and had a stop-gap icecream in the Arboretum. There is also a Tynwald Hill there, a sort of out-door Manx parliament held on top of a mound of earth under a tent. There was no mention in the visitor’s centre of how the process of this system burgeoned into today’s accident-of-history style tax haven where companies are sometimes able to legally break international law.

Sarah checks the map at the lead mine workings near Ballacottier.

A further roundabout route there took us up four arrows of steepness before we rolled into Peel from the direction of Glenmaye. We were too tight to pay for a tour of the castle, and anyway it was closing, so after lots of cycling around the front we located our B&B place with a view right across the bay. After a cheap but excellent ice-cream (where I stupidly bought a Sundae which was neither of the above) and a quick trip up Corrin’s Hill (Sarah and I stopped halfway up with sore legs) we had food, beer and went to bed.

Peel Castle at dusk from near the B&B.

The final day would take us to Port Erin, and along the coast back to Douglas (or Donald as Becka sometimes called it). Becka and I woke up early having left the curtains open again, and admired the view at five in the morning. It looked as if it was going to be scorchingly sunny. The breakfast TV said so as well, in between repeating the same news 5 times every minute (why can’t they have radio in the rooms instead?). Everyone except Clive breakfasted on genuine kippers from the smoke-house down the road. We rubbed lots of sun tan goo into our skin and shivered in our T-shirts and shorts expecting to be blasted by the heat the moment we got round the corner out of the shadows.

Waiting in the fog near Cronk Fedjag on the A36.

The air was as cold as the hill up was long. We entered the cloud on the way up, and it came down with us on the way down towards Port Erin. On the hottest weekend in England for 20 years we were putting on our jackets and turning on our bike lights in the middle of the day so that the cars could see us.

In Port Erin we were still belching on our kippers so were not ready for lunch. We did a cake stop at the steam railway station and watched the steam engine arrive. Then heaved ourselves over the tall hill to see the Calf of Man (where Becka and I dived at easter last year) then back over the same hill (after everyone had lied to me on the way up the first time that it would be a round trip), through Port St Mary and into Castletown a little late for lunch in most places. A dodgy looking pub called the Glue Pot turned out to have excellent food, so I was retrospectively glad that all the obvious alternatives had been ruled out.

Random Victorian thing on Marine Drive.

To get back to Douglas we needed to do a few miles along the A5 which was pretty crap, being one of the few busy roads in the whole island. The steam railway threads its way back and forwards under it. The A25 was much better after we turned onto it, but we then found another road even older and more on the coast called Marine Drive. It ran right on top of the cliffs like a solitary sheep path, and cars were banned from it because bits had fallen into the sea. It was beautiful. You were shielded from the full glory of Douglas until you were a quarter of a mile away.

We killed the two hours before the 9 o’clock ferry with a visit to the Global Challenge rich person’s yachts and a cruise along the sea front looking for a place to do some further overeating. The superseacat carried us back to Liverpool. The cycle home up Upper Parliament Street at night while we were almost asleep felt like the hardest uphill climb of all.

Julian Todd 20/6/2000.