Douglas, Castletown and Port St Mary

After pleasant journey from Pier Head in Liverpool to Douglas Harbour, I returned to the Isle of Man after an absence of approximately twenty years. I regularly visit old haunts to reminisce and am usually surprised at the pace of change but the Isle of Man seemed to be stuck in a time warp. I enjoyed revisiting some of the famous features and also discovered some hidden treasures

On the promenade in Douglas is a striking memorial to William Hillary who founded the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (R.N.L.I.) In 1830, at the age of 60, he took part in the rescue of the packet St George, which had foundered on Conister Rock at the entrance to Douglas Harbour. As a result, Hillary became a prominent member of the scheme to build the Tower of Refuge on Conister Rock which still stands there and is the subject of a poem by William Wordsworth.

The Isle of Man has long standing brewing regulations which forbids the use of additives in any beer brewed there. The island has become a Mecca for real ale enthusiasts who visit the many pubs to sample the excellent beers on sale. I recommend Okells Bitter and enjoyed a few pints myself in and around Douglas.

At the far end of Douglas promenade is a small village called Onchan which is home to a remarkable, recreation of St Bernadette’s Grotto in Lourdes. It was built in 1951, near to St Anthony’s Church as a replica of the natural cave in France where the Virgin Mary appeared in 1858 and was the brainchild of Father James McGrath who sadly died in 1982.

Close to Douglas and Onchan is Groudle Glen which to my amazement was deserted during my Friday evening visit in high season during August. It consisted of an easily accessible stream complete with waterfalls and a waterwheel flowing through a picturesque wooded valley. I thoroughly recommend it.

Within easy reach of Douglas, past Ronaldsway Airport is the ancient capital of the Isle of Man called Castletown which was home to the government until it relocated to Douglas. The narrow streets and working harbour are dominated by Castle Rushen which used to provide a home both to the Kings and the government. I visited on the day of the Castletown Festival when the roads were closed to accommodate stalls, attractions and Bouncy Castles. A good time was had by all.

Further along from Castletown is Port St Mary which is the home of sailing on the Isle of Man and I have happy memories of childhood holidays spent there. I can say the same about many other places but Port St Mary, for once doesn’t disappoint with it’s the clear water in a quiet, tranquil bay, clean sand and a quaint harbour. On a summers day it’s an idyllic spot and one of my favourite places on earth.

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