…. or rather two of them walk, one drives.
Welcome to the Isle of Man.
Messrs. Chapman and Glynn are to embark on the 102½ mile* Raid Ny Foillan – also known as the round the Isle of Man walk. The translation from the Manx, I’m told, is ‘Way of the Gull”. That. apparently, requires five days and we’re here for a full six of them (and two bits of each Saturday either side). The “rest day” is probably going to involve waking up Snaefell. Considerately, I think, I shall probably coincide my ride on the Snaefell Mountain Railway with their somewhat more gruelling assent.
The details of how we got here follow the break, meanwhile here is a very pertinent image courtesy of my ‘day job’….
Everyone congregated at my house as a departure point; which suited me of course. We were on the road a few minutes before the appointed 10:00 with a 2hr 14 minute journey ahead, according to the Maps app on my iPhone. All went swimmingly with a stop for coffee at Charnock Richard services on the M6. There was a moderate chunter having queued for coffee at the very busy (though commendably efficient) Starbucks when we discovered there was a second, much larger, Starbucks ‘hidden’ round the corner with no queue and only about six people in it! Mental note for any future journey north on the M6.
We left Charnock Richard with Maps telling us we had a 57 minute ETA for the 40 miles remaining. We exited at Junction 34, slavishly obeying the signs which urged us to “ignore SatNav” (because the junction has been remodelled, making the exit slip road about ¾ mile further south than most GPS suggest). Almost at once we hit the back of the queue to get through Lancaster. Suddenly our ETA was 40 minutes with just seven miles to go! Nothing moved. A consensus was reached and a rather spirited U turn later led us away from Lancaster, via Crook of Lune and nominally toward Hest Bank with the intention of dropping down the coast to Heysham. I bottled it a bit, however, and reprogrammed Maps to take us straight to the ferry… just a bit too soon and ended up in the Lancaster traffic — albeit quite a bit further on than we otherwise would have been.
Patience was maintained (just) and history hereby records that we arrived at the ferry terminal at 13:14 — whereas our “plan” was to be there one hour before sailing (i.e. 13:15). So all is well.
Inevitably we then then joined a queue to board. That began at 13:23 for foot passengers and we were driving into the depths of the Ben-My-Chree with about 50 or so other cars at 13:40. We were kept entertained in the interim by three guys and a cherry picker working g at the entrance to the ship. It was an object lesson in how Health & Safety shouldn’t work: The guy on the deck was wearing his hard hat and hi-vis, whereas the two guys on the moving cherry picker, mere centimetres from the roof of the ship and its many protuberances, were blissfully headwear free.
The boarding process itself seemed a bit, er, fiddly, but as Bernie observed, they clearly want to use all available space on the car deck.
Once on board and ensconced in the cafe area we took stock. We were anchors aweigh (is that the nautical equivalent of ‘wheels up’?) spot on time at 14:15. We went up to the outside deck to supervise our departure and cast collective judgement on progress (or apparent lack of it) out of the channel and into the Irish Sea. In actual fact, the GPS on my phone confirmed we were almost immediately travelling at a steady 23mph (what is that in knots? (I have an app for that = almost exactly 20 knots!)). It was warm enough, but I was quickly very glad of my coat.
I went down for lunch (Chappers had been well looked after by Noeline and had a pack up, meanwhile Bernie was just well organised!). I had some sort of meat pie which was curiously reminiscent of school dinners – but I enjoyed it very much anyway! Dave & Bernie joined me as I was finishing my meal, driven inside by the increasingly persistent breeze outside. We went through to Legends bar for ‘Proudly Serving Starbucks ‘ coffee. After an hour or so Bernie & I had another venture up to the open deck. Both the Isle of Man and the Lake District were visible but at least by then we seemed closer to our destination. At that point a text came through from Sure – one of two Manx telcos, to tell me that as a Three customer phone, text & data were all included in my ‘bundle’. Thank you very much.
It was 17:00 by then. We apparently still had 45 minutes to run according to the schedule but land looked remarkably close.
Disembarking, which could easily have descended into farce, was actually not too bad. Chappers navigated us over to Peel – with a little help from Siri (or was it the other way round?). We were largely following the TT course for this bit and I think all three of us were a bit mind-boggled to see it in the flesh, knowing how fast riders navigate it. We stuck to 30 or 40-ish which itself seemed a little swift in places. We can already see how beautiful the countryside is, though the low setting sun made it a bit harder to fully appreciate.
I didn’t note the time we arrived at our home for the coming week — just on the northern outskirts of Peel. As we pulled up we were met by Heather, the next door neighbour who looks after the place on behalf of the owners. We were shown round and what idiosyncrasies the house has (and they are few) were pointed out (don’t take the patio door key out). It’s a really smart place and, to be honest, far better than I could have dared to hope (though please don’t ask me what I was expecting as I have no idea!). Bernie has certainly organised well. He has organised well too in the form of bringing groceries. I had in mind we would do this en route – or even when we got here bearing in mind the car was already well filled. Thanks to Bernie that’s one less thing to worry about. (Not that we have much to worry about in the first place?)
We were in, unpacked and sorted with feet up in front of TV ready to go by 18:35. But by then it was chucking it down. That was forecast, to be fair, but at least it should be dry for the rest of our stay if said forecast is to be believed.
The rain stopped as soon as it started (with a largest rainbow I’ve ever seen as a consequence) and we set off to explore a bit of Peel and get something to eat (and drink). With three Good Beer Guide listed pubs within a mile of where we stood, we had plenty of options. The view of the town we were presented with, back-lit by the least golden remnants of the sun, was phenomenal. Peel Castle dominated the scene, while the waves gently breaking across the wide sweeping beach and the lights of the promenade twinkling below made it stunningly photogenic. Magical.
Very soon, we found ourselves in the Marine Hotel. It was busy but not bursting at the seams and it is clearly somewhere well geared-up for dealing with lots of people — all wanting an evening meal and good beer. To repeat one of Bernie’s remarks though, the dining room probably hasn’t changed much since the 1960s— not automatically a bad thing in my view. The choices in the beer department were; the local Hooded Ram Brewing Co’s. Jack the Ram stout, also local Okells’ Bitter and ‘Old Original’ (I didn’t see/recall the brewery). At £8.80 for the round I was suitably impressed with the ‘cost of living’ here! (While I’m on that theme; diesel at 117.9 isn’t off the scale, either). Food-wise I had gammon, Bernie had battered cod and Chirpy had beef & onion pie. All good. Having eaten we went and sat in Riff Raff corner — go figure.
Around the corner to the also GBG-listed The Creek (formerly the Station Hotel) for XT3 IPA (me), Okells MPA (Dave) and more Jack the Ram for Bernie – all £3/pt. Having had our fill we walked the nine tenths of the mile back (via the local Co-op for the morning’s milk).
* — the overall length of the walk is subject of quite heated debate — even as I type
[Check this blog entry again tomorrow and you may find it illustrated!]