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27th August, 2013

Douglas, Isle of Man

Isle of Man

The bay of Douglas, completely exposed to the east, was like a mill pond, flat calm with hardly a ripple, ideal for our tendering operation. The passengers had one tender port under their belt so they seemed a little more relaxed and we made good progress with the assistance of a delightful shore tender that was an antique in itself, but looking remarkably ship shape.

The Isle of Man is known for many things, particularly for the tourist, but for me there was only one place to go in order to achieve a long held ambition, the narrow gauge steam railway. I wasn’t alone as it happens, almost two hundred of our passengers had the same idea, fortunately not at the same time. I caught the 11:50 for the one hour journey to Port Erin that first had the engine working hard to climb the steep gradient to the highest point of the line, 230 feet above sea level, between Port Soderick and Santon. The line slowly descends from there and the train stopped at Ballasalla, Castleton and Port St Mary before finally completing its almost 16 mile journey. A charming way to travel across beautiful countryside where views of recently harvested golden fields and wooded shade were shared with glimpses of cliffs and sea.

Isle of Man

After the arrival, the engine was detached to top up with water before eventually running around the carriages for the return journey. There is a small museum in the old engine shed at Port Erin, where a variety of railway Victoriana adds atmosphere to the vintage carriages and two locos displayed there. For the return journey I managed to bag the forward compartment and spent the whole hour with the drop down window fully open, allowing the steam and other occasional detritus to waft its way past the nostrils. Men’s perfume.

The early morning overcast and light rain had cleared by lunchtime so the folks that didn’t take the steam railway enjoyed the Snaefell Mountain electric railway, the world’s largest water wheel, Lady Isabella, or just mooching around in town. We stayed at anchor until late in the evening due to the short run up to Belfast, so our diners had a fine view of the Douglas waterfront as night fell and the promenade became a ribbon of inviting illumination.

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