Sunday 7th October - 41 residents of Winthorpe and the surrounding area set off at 8am on a five-day coach tour of the Isle of Man. The knowledge of Alex Machin, our coach driver, was to prove very useful, as he had lived on the Island for a number of years.
Arriving at Heysham in Lancashire, we boarded the Isle of Mann Steam Packet Company 500 passenger ferry ‘Ben-my-Chree.' After a 3½ hour crossing of the Irish Sea we arrived in Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man. Near the harbour entrance, a sight familiar to all ferry passengers, is the Tower of Refuge on Conister Rock. Sir William Hillary, founder of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, built this small structure in 1832 as a place of refuge, after the paddle steamer St. George, with 22 aboard, became stranded there.
Douglas, the Isle of Man capital since 1863 and the seat of government is a hub for shipping, transport, shopping and tourists. The town has spread from the harbour, first with Georgian residences built for affluent arrivals from England and then further along the 2 miles long promenade: Victorian buildings were erected to cater for the wealthy holiday visitors. Old buildings are being replaced using new building techniques and the old façades have been retained, thus in keeping with the original Victorian style.
Our stay for the next four nights, with its 67 rooms, was The Rutland Hotel on Queens Promenade. This impressive wide and sweeping crescent shape promenade, with well-known sunken gardens, runs along side Douglas Bay with its pleasant sandy beach.
Monday 8th October - Leaving Douglas, with a Manx Guide, Leslie Fargher, on board, we started out on a tour of the central part of the Island. The scenery across the Island reminded me of Derbyshire with its hills and stonewalls. Limestone and slate are used for these walls. The light grey slate is not used as a roofing material as it is softer and does not split as easily as the traditional Welsh slate. Like Scotland, many of the houses were white in colour and often flying the Manx flag.
Our coffee stop was Niarbyl on the west coast, whose Manx name is ‘Yu arbyl, ' meaning ‘The Tail, ' on account of the long reef jutting out from the shoreline. Due to its superb views and scenery it is a favoured location for film and TV producers. The film ‘Waking Ned' was made here. The Calf of Man Isle can be seen and appears to be joined to the main Island.