In recent years my brother-in-law, Andy has come to West Wales in early July and we have spent a week bike packing, back packing and some canoeing. This year Andy suggested we go bike packing on the Isle of Man, where in the distant past he spent time in Port Erin as part of his Uni. studies. I had never been to this island and readily agreed to the suggestion.
My youngest son’s partner, Gianna, drove us from Chester to Liverpool docks where we boarded the fast ferry for Douglas.
It was a smooth crossing and in about 2.5 hours we were offloading.
With some helpful advice from a local we soon located the Heritage Trail which is a shared path on an old railway line. It consists of compressed gravel to about St Johns and then deteriorates into single track compressed earth.The trail is 10.5 miles and leads you to Peel on the west coast.
We soon arrived at our camp site which appears to be publicly run with excellent facilities and when we were there fairly quiet. With tents erected and a meal inside us we walked down into the town for a stroll along the seaside before heading back for an early night.
Up to now the weather had been fine but once ensconced in our sleeping bags the wind picked up and then what only can be described as biblical rain lashed down. I had only used my single skin tent supported by a single walking pole in good weather and I was now concerned that I was about to meet with disaster but it stood up to the weather with no leaks.
The next morning the rain had passed and the camp field was amazingly dry but the high winds were still in evidence. We decided to leave the bikes and instead go for a coastal walk.
We walked over Peel Hill which gave good views of the surrounding area and then continued south to the coast until we reached Glen Maye.
We walked into the Glen and followed it up to the village passing a lovely waterfall.
At the pub we had a coffee before retracing our steps to Peel but instead of going over Peel Hill we stuck to the coast path.
On Saturday the weather was still windy but dry and we decided to cycle to Port Erin in the south west corner of the island. We cycled along the Heritage Trail to St Johns and then joined the road network for the rest of the day. from St Johns we took a quiet lane which is shown as Cycle route 4 on the maps but which included a steep hill where I resorted to pushing for some of the way.
Eventually we joined the main A36 all the way into Port Erin. It included a swooping downhill which we would not have to re climb following the advice from a local cyclist. Despite this being an “A” road there was little traffic most of which consisted of noisy off road enduro bikes taking part in an event.
Port Erin is a quaint little seaside town where we found the “Cosy Corner Cafe” where we refuelled with a coffee and expensive cake. Further around the harbour we found the now closed marine station where Andy had studied.
We headed back to Peel via Colby following the A27 with a short push in Glen Maye.
On Sunday we packed our tents and headed for Silly Moos camp site just outside Ramsey.
From Peel to just before Ballaugh we were on the TT mountain course albeit at far slower speeds. We left the main road and took a lane to Cronk and at Sandygate we took a diversion to see if the newly opened Motor Museum possibly had a cafe – result! Another piece of expensive cake, but scrummy. Our route now passed through St Judes where there is an attractive church and to a lane through Garey Ford. From here we soon arrived at Silly Moos campsite.
At the height of the TT season the owner told us she accommodates 500 tents but for the next two nights we were the only occupants.
We also had the use of a huge barn which includes tables, benches, fridges, microwave, FREE tea and coffee and table football. There was also a huge flat screen TV where we were able to catch up on the Tour de France. The showers and toilet facilities were first class. The one small drawback was a 1..5 mile trek into Ramsey for shops etc. We did walk in later that evening.
On Monday we had thought of a bike ride in the lanes up to Point of Ayre but the forecast was for more high winds and rain. We therefore decided on a walk taking in Glen Audlyn and to see how the weather panned out. The main hill which was coming into view was North Barrule but as we walked further up the valley and left the trees the weather became a lot worse and any further height gain would have been unpleasant not to mention we did not have our usual hill walking kit with us. We found shelter behind a small building on the A18 before heading back down via the Millennium Way.
Tuesday we packed up and headed further down the coast to Laxey. We both found this stretch hard going no doubt the strong head wind had something to do with it. En route we took in Maughold Head Hill Fort and once again a stretch of road which meant a dismount and a push.
Our third and last camp was another gem at Laxey, much smaller but with a kitchen and free shower. There were plans on view to extend the shower block which will make it easier in busier periods. We walked down into the village and discovered a pub with excellent beer and that Tuesday was curry night. We returned later and I can fully recommend the curry which was helped down with some more beer.
We had a short journey on Wednesday down into Douglas to catch our ferry home. Near the terminal there is a small indoor market which serves an excellent mini breakfast at a good price – the maxi breakfast must be huge!
Once back in Liverpool we caught a train to just outside Chester and I cycled the rest of the way to my son’s home.
A different kind of a week but very enjoyable. I found the island a little run down on the west coast whereas the east side did seem more prosperous. There is lots to do if you like the outdoors but I’m not so sure it’s a venue for a typical family holiday. We both thought a week spent walking the hills and coast would be worthwhile.