I am sure you will have guessed by now which island we visited, but here are some more clues:
Each morning, we ran along the quay. I use the term ‘run’ lightly, but it was a lovely way to exercise, watching the ferry appear over the horizon, listening to the seagulls, watching the waves heave seaweed onto the beach. Just beyond the harbour is a tiny island with a tower on it. At night, it lights up with different coloured spotlights, and looks magical.
I went to one of the many shops selling ‘tourist trash’ and spent a happy time looking at fridge magnets and sticks of square rock (because that’s a thing here) and T-shirts with TT Racing emblazoned on the front (because that’s a BIG thing here). I bought a T-shirt. (TT actually stands for Tourist Trophy.)
The TT race is massive here. The island has a tiny population of about 80,000 and about 50,000 people arrive for the race. The race course is on the actual roads that cross the mountains, with start and finish in the towns. Which means that if the roads have even the smallest pothole, they dig up the whole section and resurface it properly, making all the roads fabulous for driving on. This island possibly has the best roads in the whole world.
While I was buying my T-shirt, the person in the shop told me a little about how crowded the island becomes during race season. Most residents have a room they can rent out, and farmers use fields as campsites, and all the restaurants are completely full. The week before the race, the road across the mountain is made one-way, and people with expensive cars come to zoom along the road. Of course, it is still open to normal traffic, and if Mr. Ferrari happens to get stuck behind Granny Slow-Boots, then there is a ginormous traffic jam. Possibly, I was told, the most expensive traffic jam in the world as it is full of the very best, fastest cars.
We were not on the island for racing season, but Husband still enjoyed the roads, and I was glad of seat-belts. As we drove through the mountains, we saw patches of snow and beautiful views and we frequently stopped to enjoy where we were. It was always freezing!
We drove up to Laxey, which is an old mining town. There is an huge waterwheel, made into a monument to the miners. My recommendation would be to visit this out of season, otherwise you might be forced to walk up some very scary steps, right to the top. Or to be asked to “Take a photo when I’m up there,” which will involve a long cold wait at the bottom. Much better to visit in March, when everything is closed and you can simply peer through the gates!
On the side of the Laxey Wheel is the triskelion. This is the emblem that is on the flag, and on practically everything else on the island (even hanging from street lights). I could not, to be honest, quite get my head around it. No one seems to really know where it comes from. It’s a three-legged swastika (nothing to do with Nazis) and I found it uncomfortable to look at. Each leg is dressed in armour, and it’s associated with the motto: Quocunque Jeceris Stabit (‘Wherever you throw it, it will stand’). The museum has several ideas about where it originated from, but no one is quite sure.
The island is also famous for a breed of cat. The Manx Cat has no tail, and the back legs are apparently slightly longer than in other breeds. I say “apparently” because we never saw one. I dragged Husband along residential streets, peering over garden walls and into bushes, but we didn’t see a single one. Personally, I think they do not exist (unlike the fairies, of which we saw many potential candidates).
We also ate some Manx kipper-burgers. These are smoked kippers, served in a bap, and the best place (according to the locals) is a small kiosk next to the castle in Peel. We drove there, dodged the extensive roadworks, and ordered our kipper burgers from the harassed-looking woman behind the counter. Then we climbed some steps, to an eating area above the kiosk and sat on a wooden bench, looking out to sea. The kippers were freshly cooked, the juices dripping from them when we took a bite, the bread fresh and soft. We ate them watching seals in the sea—or rather, with seals in the sea bobbing up to watch us! Kipper burgers are a sort of once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. Glad I did it, never need to do it again. It was a hard-to-forget experience, as the taste lingered long, long after the last bite was swallowed. . .
I am sure by now you know that we were on the Isle of Man. I will tell you more tomorrow. Thanks for reading. Eat something tasty today.
Love, Anne x