Douglas, Isle of Man
The Isle of Man, situated in the Irish Sea off the west coast of England, is a mountainous, cliff-fringed island and one of Britain's most beautiful spots. Measuring just 30 miles by 13 miles, the Isle of Man remains semi-autonomous. With its own postage stamps, laws, currency, and the Court of Tynwald (the world's oldest democratic parliament), the Isle of Man is rich with history and lore.
Inhabited from Neolithic times, the island became a refuge for Irish missionaries after the 5th Century. Norsemen took the island during the 9th Century and sold it to Scotland in 1266. However, since the 14th Century, it has been held by England. Manx, the indigenous Celtic language, is still spoken by a small minority.
The Isle of Man has no income tax, which has encouraged many Britains to regard the island as a refuge. Otherwise, it is populated by Gaelic farmers, fishermen, and the famous tailless manx cats. The varied landscape features austere moorlands and wooded glens, interspersed by fine castles, narrow-gauge railways, and scores of standing stones with Celtic crosses. The hilly terrain rises to a height of 2,036 feet at Mount Snaefell, which dominates the center of the island.
The pace in Douglas is slow compared to that on the mainland, yet considered fast when compared to the general pace of the rest of the island. Being the capital and the heart of the offshore financial industry, the majority of the island's hotels and good restaurants are located in Douglas. While agriculture, dairy, and sheep farming are significant, tourism and banking form the main base of the island's economy. The prime Manx heritage showcase is on display in the Douglas Manx Museum, which should be the first place to be visited before heading off around the island. A ride on the steam and electric railways through the gorgeous scenery and small villages should not be missed by any visitor. Remember your umbrella as showers are not uncommon.
The ship is scheduled to anchor. Ship's tenders will carry guests to the dock at Batter Pier which is approximately a 20-minute walk from town. Taxis are generally available in the pier area. In addition, there are horse-drawn trams in town.
Shops are found on Duke Street and Strand Street. There is also the Strand Shopping Center. Most remain open throughout the day, except on Sundays when most shops are closed. Tweeds, Manx tartans, pottery, coins depicting the "Three Legs of Man," and Isle of Man kippers are all great souvenirs. The local currency is the British pound (£).
Scallops, lobsters, smoked kippers, and crab are all island favorites. "Queenies," a Manx delicacy, is fun to try as well as the sausages and Manx cheese. At tea time, sample the scones and other sweets.
Isle of Man Railways
From Douglas, you can venture out on the island via steam or electric railway. The latter resembles a tramway rather than a train and follows the road most of the way to Laxey and Ramsey.
A short hike leads to the "Lady Isabella" waterwheel, its red spokes visible from miles away. With a diameter of over 72 feet, it is the world's largest waterwheel and was used until 1929 to pump water from the local lead mines.
Snaefell Summit (2,036 ft)
The Snaefell Mountain Railway runs to the island's highest point from where, on clear days, England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are visible.
Be sure to also visit this tiny fishing village and new resort. Located a 75-minutes' ride south of Douglas, the elegant train station houses a small railway museum.
Please visit to the Shore Concierge Desk to enquire about the possibility of private arrangements. Due to the limited number of guides and vehicles, they may not be availaible.