It has been the last day of the Round-the-Coast, the home leg if you like. I dropped Dave & Bernie off at Port Erin and from there it was up to them to find their own way home while I went off and rode behind a steam locomotive, then did some more sight seeing. Seems reasonable to me?
Here’s one of the sights, and I hope you’ll agree it’s a cracker….
As for the rest of the day’s story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then…
The routine of previous mornings was repeated — the only variation being a return to normality in the form of bacon not sausage butties. We were out the door just before 09:00 and took the coast road despite Siri advising otherwise. If nothing else this route showed us bits of northern Peel we haven’t seen before, including a close up of Bernie’s chimney. He chuntered about it.
By any measure this plan worked well though as it was an interesting route with a belting view of the south coast as we dropped down from hills.
Come on Bernie!
It was an 09:30 drop off at Port Erin. Having waved them off for the last time I had a brief explore at the far end of the harbour area and took some photos across the water of Bradda Head and the ruined chapel where I’d been yesterday.
It was a short drive to Castletown so it was only 09:50 when I got to the station for the 10:27 train. I sorted my ticket and had a wander. I grabbed a coffee from a nearby garage for £1. It was of the ‘max pax’ variety and Cappuccino was all they had. Ugh. Most of it ended up being poured away.
I could hear the train whistle long before it arrived, already over ten minutes behind. It was like being back in the nineteenth century watching the Station Master go out to the opposite platform a few minutes before the train appeared to pull off the signal which admits it into the station. In fact pretty much everything about the railway operation effortlessly conveys that Victorian era feel. However, the staff side of the operation was very modern. For all their smart card readers and computerised ticketing, actually getting people on the train and making sure they’ve paid follows a process pioneered by Fred Karno. A case of getting there in the end, though.
Most of the carriages on the seven car train were packed to the rafters with coach parties. I managed to get an unreserved compartment to myself though. The organisation of disembarking some of the excursionists was shambolic. One party “organiser” worriedly enquired of the Station Master if there was “more than one Castletown station” as there was no sign of their road transport. (It was parked on the access road at the front of the station).
Station duties took another 10 plus minutes before we finally departed 20 minutes or so late. Good job I’m on holiday!
A very pleasant amble back to Port Erin. Having watched the kettle-on-wheels hook off and run onto the coal stage, I battled my way through the coach-bound hoards for a bacon butty & mug of tea in Whistlestop cafe. If ever a place was more aptly named for my situation, with just ten minutes before the (nominal) departure time… It wasn’t the best value or best tasting sarnie I’ve ever had but the tea hit the spot.
I needn’t have rushed. To no one’s great surprise, departure of the last train of the day from Port Erin was ten minutes late at 11:40. (It’s a reduced service due to a lack of serviceable locomotives, apparently).
It was of note (to me anyway, and especially after the near-miss on the north of the island) that all the public level crossings, even tiny back lanes and dirt roads, have wig-wag lights, yodalarms and full skirted barriers. That seems reasonable as I’m sure the roads are generally much busier in the south and the consequences of getting hit by this train are far greater than with one of the Electric Railway cars. It looks like 30mph is the maximum permitted speed.
The sun was out properly by the time the train arrived back at Castletown. It had been intermittently sunny earlier, but predominantly grey early on. There were quite a few passengers getting off at Castletown this time, but with no coach parties and no one getting on we were away swiftly.
Again, another entertaining and enjoyable trundle through some lovely countryside – but generally not a patch on the views afforded by the MER.
I alighted at Douglas with an hour & a bit to wander. I took some snaps of the harbour area and the predatory gulls. Then an unexpected bonus; there’s a Starbucks in Douglas. Ah, fresh brew coffee, how I’ve missed you! No offence to Bernie and his caffatiere stuff! It’s a a very pleasant SBs too, spacious and well located on a busy corner well suited for people watching.
I lingered a little longer than I ought to have if I wanted to catch the 13:50 train (there’s a Plan ‘B’ — and last of the day — at 14:50, though). I ‘nipped’ along the street to the seafront to take a few more pictures of the seaside and at least say I’d been there, before hot-footing it back to the station. They really were hot feet too as I hadn’t quite appreciated how far along the harbour front I’d walked. I thought it was only a street or so, but it was at least five. I burst onto the station, glowing if not exactly panting (there are hills, too, you know), and had my bum on the cushions with no more than a minute to spare. Somewhat against form, the train left pretty much on time.
Again I was alone in the compartment and I don’t think the train was particularly busy this time — hard to tell with compartment stock, but certainly no coach parties. Once again it was a leisurely but very pleasant run. A bit of rock & roll in places, but I saw a huge pile of brand new concrete sleepers adjacent to the line at once point, so I guess there’s some major track renewals going to take place this winter. If I were to voice another very minor whinge, I have to say that the coal they’re using was very sulphurous at times. The perils of riding behind a steam locomotive, I know.
I watched the engine run round and disappear back off to Peel with its train (as already mentioned, there are no more services to Port Erin today, what’s left terminates at Castletown which is why I had to go there to get a round trip in). Back in the car I planned my route back toward Peel, though it was largely a repeat of this morning. I made photo stops at:-
Cronk ny Aree Laa…
And, at 15:30, at Niarbyl Head…
Yes, you’ve guessed it, the last one especially was another top class scenic spot. Probably a second place behind Sound, mainly as it doesn’t have the sheer scale of there. Nor could I see any seals but there was plenty of avian activity to keep my inner naturalist happy (must make double sure the auto-correct doesn’t alter that phrase — though it was just about warm enough!!)
There is a cluster of little cottages down there, one certainly being occupied as a residence. I’m guessing the bloke and his two dogs enjoying the sunshine outside the smallest (which can be no more than a single room) are using it as a beach house rather than living there, but who knows? The third, and largest, has a thatched roof which really sets off its charm. As I arrived some thatchers renovating the roof were just packing up for the day. Lots more snaps, though today none involving stormy seas, which is good.
Apparently the film Waking Ned was shot there.
The Niarbyl Cafe, just a bit back up the hill (far enough it involved the car!) was open so it would have been rude not to give them a bit of business. Coffee and a toasted teacake seemed to fit the bill. There were several other customers in, some having meals. For a late afternoon on a Thursday in October (albeit one which is turning out to be almost summer like in this part of the island at least), I think they’re doing quite well. I wonder if Chappers blagged a take out coffee when they went by? (I’m assuming they would have gone past there by now?) [Apparently they were there about an hour before me and as they thought they were good for time (wrongly, as it turned out!), actually called in and sat down for their coffee].
The teacake — not something I’d normally go for but it seemed appropriate here — was delicious, served with strawberry jam!
Onwards to Peel where I had a look around the harbour area and beachfront. As is my wont I took a lot more snaps — including some featuring the now infamous chimney and, of course, the Marine Hotel (also known as Campaign Central). While on the beach front I did some orienteering of sorts, and decided that the lights and things we’d seen each night on the way to the pub (and initially thought were maybe Ireland), could be no further along the coast than Jurby Head — almost exactly 10 miles distant by line-of-sight. [This statement has caused more controversy which I’m not sure we will ever resolve to everyone’s agreement].
I was back at the house around 17:00. I half expected to find Dave & Bernie had beat me, but no.
It was well after 18:00 that the dynamic duo staggered up the street just in time to have a cup of coffee thrust into their hands (it was universally declared to be a sub-standard coffee, but I have to accept the blame for that). Turns out they’d stopped off for a celebratory pint or two in Peel having completed their circumnavigation… and who can blame them. Then, having stopped off at the Co-op for essential supplies, not having Siri with them for the first time (and/or walking back in daylight for the first time), they struck off in completely the wrong direction out of the town. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they’d gone the best part of a mile before they realised it was unfamiliar territory. Words fail me.
The decision for tonight is to stay in and Bernie has cooked our evening meal — pork steaks smothered in Uncle Ben’s sweet & sour sauce (or not, in my case). Very enjoyable and there’s no danger of starvation around here. Chappers has just finished the washing up and I’ve done the drying and all is well in the household for the evening.
If anyone is still reading after the mind-numbing banality of the foregoing paragraph, well bless you!
Tomorrow’s plans have been thrown into turmoil by the sad realisation that neither the Manx Electric Railway nor — critically — the Snaefell Mountain Railway are operating tomorrow. Neither run on Fridays ‘out of season’, unfortunately. If I want to go up the mountain, I’ll have to come back another time. Probably the only things we’ve agreed on is that Chappers wants to go and see the Laxey Wheel and Bernie is determined to walk up the mountain. All that is doable, but the forecast rain in the morning may influence timing. How all that pans out in reality will, I am sure, be the subject of a comprehensive blog entry immediately below this one.