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Our far more sedate journey to Castletown and Port Erin is on the longest narrow gauge steam line in Britain. We’re immediately reminded of Ireland as we get out at Castletown. Castle Rushen, which presides over the town, has been a royal residence, a mint, prison and housed lunatics in its time. It’s a magnificent warren of hidey-holes and towers and a dungeon.

The Nautical Museum in Castletown is an absolute curiosity, with a room styled like the cabin of a large sailing ship from Nelson’s day. The ceilings and side panels are curved and the windows shaped as if following the line of the hull. My daughter, Sophie, is keen to investigate when shown concealed cupboards opened by clever catches and a secret passageway where locker drawers become a staircase.

I’m far more worried about her disappearing when we visit the Chasms, near the southern tip of the island. This should be an exhilarating experience, but is a rather unnerving one thanks to my devil-may-care teenager. The gorse overgrows deep and narrow fissures, making the gaps very hard to see in places. When I am able to take my eyes off Sophie and off my own steps, I’m wowed by the sea views with the large conical stack of rock that they call the Sugar Loaf in the foreground.


The waters off the Meayll peninsular, opposite the Calf of Man nature reserve, are rich in marine life. It’s barely a minute before we spot the first of several seals. We had planned to spend all afternoon at Cregneash, a folk museum village, but the guide who greeted us in period costume began to tell us about the lovely walks close by and that was it; we were off. That’s how we came to be at the Chasms.

On the other side of the folk village we stroll up Meayll Hill. Whilst Sophie performs cartwheels on top of what’s left of a World War II radar station and observation post, my own stomach flips at the panorama.  Port Erin, with its landmark Milner’s Tower, lies ahead of me. Directly below me is the Neolithic Meayll Stone Circle (3,500BC). To my right is Port Mary with its multitude of boats and, beyond, Castletown. I turn and there’s the Calf of Man under the setting sun, the only sound that of seagulls and the wind.

It brings to mind an old poster I’d seen in the excellent, free, Manx Museum in Douglas. It read: “Nowhere too remote or too isolated for a day trip. The pocket paradise of the British Isles”.


WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE

* www.visitisleofman.com

MY KIND OF MANN

Helen Werin explores the island called the ‘Pocket Paradise’

Pictures by Robin Weaver


Getting around the Isle of Man is such fun! We jump aboard one of the ancient clacketty trams of the Manx Electric Railway for one of the most delightful – and shaky – rides of our lives. Our destination is Snaefell, 2,036ft (620 metres) above sea level and the highest point on the island. We switch at Laxey for the mountain railway, slowing down to photograph the Great Laxey Wheel, probably the most iconic image of Mann. As we climb higher, the conductor points out south east Scotland, the Solway Firth and part of Anglesey. On a clearer day we’d be able to see the Mountains of Mourne.

It’s so blustery at the top that we struggle to stand upright. Spread before us is what the conductor calls ‘Seven Kingdoms’. Five are obvious; England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the island itself. The other two – the kingdoms of heaven and the sea – may seem to be cheating but you have to stand there, taking in the spectacle, to appreciate what an apt description that is.

We’d spotted Ballaglass Glen at Maughold from the tram between Laxey and Ramsey, catching glimpses of footpaths through huge beech trees. Unfortunately the god Manannan who, we’re told by locals, is “in charge of all the weather on the island” doesn’t look kindly upon us. Ballaglass is so beautiful and so slippery. The stream is a turbulent rush of water. Ballaglass is just one of 18 mountain and coastal National Glens and we have much better luck when we get off the tram at Dhoon Glen. We follow a brook through bluebell woods until we can see the sea. Below us are nearly 200 steps and the waterfall known locally as ‘Big Girl’, the highest on the island, falling over 131ft (40 metres). At sunset, we pass another gorgeous glen – Tholt–y-Will – having driven along the A14 down a valley bordered by bracken-covered hills and rippled with streams and waterfalls, as well as a few hairpin bends.

Cregneash National Folk Museum

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