MANX LAND.
A TOURIST'S ELYSIUM.

... Glorious and free,
First flower of the earth,
First gem of the sea.

THE object of this little pamphlet is a simple one. It is, by means of pen and pencil, to bring under the special notice of the tourist public of the United Kingdom a resort which, for exquisitely picturesque scenery, for the pellucidity of its bathing waters, the majesty of its rock-bound coast, the intense interest of its historical associations, the balmy mildness of its climate, the centrality of its geographical position, its ease of access from almost every part of the United Kingdom, the entertaining characteristics of its folk lore, and the curious nature of its traditional associations, stands unequalled in any part of her Majesty's dominions. This is no exaggeration. The charms of the Isle of Man, as a watering place, and as a summer resort, are so absolutely beyond compare, that those who have once made its acquaintance are. impelled to visit it again and again ; and I know scores of persons from various parts of England who have visited it annually for as many as thirty yearn, and I have the acquaintance of one ardent lover of its manifold beauties who was so devoted to it that he visited the Island no fewer than seventy-eight times. But it is not only as a summer resort that the Isle of Man has its charms. As a winter residence it has many advantages. Its marvellous wildness of climate in winter; its wonderful equability of temperature ; its comparative freedom from taxation-no income tax., no poor rates, no stamp duties, and other burdens to which the rest of the kingdom is subject, and the splendid accommodation, at very moderate charges-all these special features only require to be known in order to make the Island appreciated as one of the most desirable places in the kingdom for a permanent residence. But the reader will ask, "Where is this Elysium of Delights-this earthly paradise?" "It is in the centre of the Irish Sea," I answer. " And how am I to get there ?" " The simplest thing in the world," I reply. As I have said, one of the recommendations of the Isle of Man is its accessibility. Tuere are no fewer than ten routes by which the Island can be reached-1, via Liverpool; 2, via Fleetwood; 8, via Whitehaven ; 4, via Glasgow ; 5, via Barrow; 6, via Silloth; 7. via Dublin; 8, via Greenore; 9, via Belfast; and 10, via Garlieston. By far the most popular of these routes is that by way of Liverpool; and this is easily understood when it is recollected that that city is connected by railway with every part of Great Britain, and that tourist tickets to the Island are issued at the chief stations of the London and North-Western, Lancashire and Yorkshire, Great Western, Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire, Great Northern, North Stafford, Midland, Cheshire Lines, and Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway Companies. With the facilities afforded by these great railways, there can be no possible difficulty in getting to the Isle of Man from any part of the kingdom, and, so easy is the journey, that it is quite a common thing to take breakfast in London and tea in the Isle of Man ! Although, for the great bulk of the population, unquestionably the most convenient route is that by way of Liverpool, yet that by way of Fleetwood has its merits, not the least of which is the fact that the railway terminus is close to the steamer's berth. Indeed, this route is rapidly increasing in favour, and this may be accounted for by the fact that the trains run close up to the steamer's berth at Fleetwood, and passengers' luggage is transferred to and from the trains by the railway porters, free of expense. Thus the great inconvenience and expense attending the transmission of luggage between the steamers and a distant railway station are avoided. For those who live far north there are two routes, that by way of Glasgow, which opens the Island to the whole of Scotland, and that by way of Whitehaven. The latter is especially useful to those who wish to reach the Island from Cumberland, Northumberland, Westmoreland, and Durham. From Whitehaven (in two and a half hours) the town of Ramsey is reached-a growing watering place in the north of the Island. The distance from Whitehaven to Ramsey is only 37 miles. The communication between Liverpool and Douglas is, however, daily all the year round, leaving the landing Stage at one o'clock from the 1st of May right on through the summer months to the 30th of September, while at other times of the year, during the winter and spring, the hours of departure are to some extent regulated by the tides. All the steamers which ply between Liverpool, Whitehaven, Fleetwood, Glasgow, and Greenore (in Ireland), belong to the Isle of Man Steam packet Company. On going down to the Landing Stage at Liverpool, the intending tourist will easily recognize these vessels by the Manx arms (the three legs) on the paddle boxes, by the rakish red funnels, and by the fact that all their names have some reference to the Isle of Man. The names of the steamers at present forming the fleet are "Ben-my-Chree," " King Orry," " Snaefell," " Tynwald," " Douglas," " Mona," " Mona's Isle," and " Fenella." The Isle of Man Steampacket Company was established in 1831, and since that time, as the popularity of the Island as a watering place and summer resort has increased and extended, the Company bag kept adding to the number, and improving the character of its vessels, until it has at last achieved the proud distinction of pos- sessing the finest fleet of channel steamers sailing out of that greatest of great seaports, Liverpool. The distance from Liverpool to Douglan is only seventy-five miles and the fares are very moderate, being only half-a-guinea for the return voyage in the saloon, while the steerage return fare is only 5s 6d. Return tickets are available for two calendar months from the date of issue. The distance from Fleetwood to Douglas is fifty-two miles,. the journey being done in about three and a half hours. There is daily connection during the summer only, viz., leaving Fleetwood on the arrival of the train due there, at 2 p.m.

DOUGLAS.

Assuming that the visitor will land at Douglas, I shall now proceed to briefly describe the appearance of the Island as that port, the chief town of the Island, and its commercial centre, is approached. Nothing can be more exquisitely beautiful than the approach to Douglas Bay on a summer's afternoon. It is a picture once seen never forgotten, and, as you get near the Island, you should not fail to get on to the deck of the steamer to witness it. Stretching to the right is a bold coast line, with the deep indentations of Onchan Bay, Groudle Bay, and Laxey, terminating with that mighty precipitous mass, Maughold Head, which forme the southern born of Ramsey Bay. Away to the left is a still more bold coast line, formed by the huge cliffs of Douglas Head, Walberry, Santon Head, and Cass-ny-Awin, the view terminating with the promontory of Langness ; but beyond this is a still grander coast line, formed by Spanish Head, Black Head, and the Calf of Man, the means of reaching which I will describe further on. -

So much for the view to the north and south. As the steamer nears the Bay the eye takes in the details, and it is seen that the shape of Douglas Bay is that " presented by the concave arc of a moon when three days old," the northern horn formed by the Cliffs of Onchan Head, and the southern by the "steep relentless bastion of Douglas Head." In the centre of the Bay Is the " Tower of Refuge."

This tower has been poetically immortalized by Wordsworth, who visied it in 1833, Our view of Douglas gives us a very good idea of the appearance of the town as the steamer approaches it. Inside the Lighthouse on the left is the Breakwater, which, with the approach to it, cost about 150,000. Farther in is the old Red Pier, where formerly passengers were landed. To the right is the Victoria Landing Pier, recently constructed at a cost of 59,000, and towards which the steamer is now pointing her head. To the right again is the Loch Promenade, another of the improvements recently effected in Douglas. On this Promenade, which is formed on land reclaimed from the shore, some magnificent terraces of houses have been erected. Some idea of the strides which Douglas as making as a watering place and Summer resort may be gathered from the fact that nearly half-a-million of money has been expended on public improvements alone during recent years, and nearly a million must have been expended on railways, new streets, shops, hotels, boarding-houses, and other private improvements. Extending from the Promenade, will be seen the Iron Pier, and beyond that again the magnificent Bathing Ground of Douglas, in which there are unequalled facilities for bathing. Beyond these, again, are Castle Mona, formerly the residence of the Duke of Atholl ; and under Onchan Headlands nestles the pile called Derby Castle. It will be seen that the old town of Douglas, in the form of a triangle, occupies the low ground at the mouth of the river. The ground along the shore to the right, and the more elevated localities, have been laid out in. better class houses, where the visitor will find every accommodation, at terms which for moderation will compare favourably with any watering place in the kingdom. As a recent visitor writes, " Douglas, only a few years ago a congeries of narrow, ill. conditioned streets, of ancient and fish-like smell, is now a large town, with London shops, having hotels, tramways, railways, and in the season a mighty migratory population of birds of passage who come in flocks to restore their plumage. We find much that is picturesque about Douglas-the bay itself, with its crescent of shining sand, and water that is a study of colour-opal and amethyst, emerald, and turquoise; the wooded walks by the little river to the Nunnery Grounds; Kirk Braddan, of prehistoric fame, smothered in the green gloom of jealous trees, whose gnarled roots spread like a net over graves where Druid and Scandinavian, those rude forefathers, securely sleep."

EXCURSIONS.

In the space at my disposal I have no room for a full description of the various excursions and places of resort in the Island, but once landed there the tourist will seen ascertain the best means of gratifying his curiosity as to the "lions" of the place There are several good guide books, and any of these will give the required information. As the writer already quoted observes, it is in the interior of the Island, and round the coast, that the artistic eye finds its richest reward. It would be difficult elsewhere to discover so much charm in so confined a compass. There is, probably, no place where so much exists in so little-where there is so great a variety of scenery in a place so small. Everything is epitomized, abridged, petit, charming, picturesque.

If the reader will take a glance at the little map on the first page of this book, he will see that the Island is well provided with railways, and be cannot do better than take advantage of these, if he wishes to inspect the country with the maximum of comfort and at the minimum of cost. By adopting the railways the tourist's time is saved, he has not the expense of car drivers. and he is sheltered from the weather, if it should turn out unfavourable ; and although he is not whirled along at the mad speed of the "Wild Irishman," yet he goes along quite rapidly enough for tourist purposes; besides, the various pieces of scenery can be seen at a much greater advantage from the railways than from the highroads. All the railways in the Isle of Man are on the narrow gauge system, and are admirably managed. The guards and other officials are courteous and obliging ; everything that is possible is done to add to the comfort of the tourist; and on all the lines there is every facility given for breaking the journey at the stations nearest to the various points of interest. Our map gives a list of the principal railway stations, and their distances from Douglas. The station at Douglas is situate near the top of the harbour and the end of Athol-street, and it is easily approached from all parts of the town. There are three lines of railway, and I propose calling attention to two or three points of interest on each. I shall first of all take the line to the South, leading from Douglas to Port Erin. This line is 16 miles long, and is traversed in an hour. The first station reached is Port Soderick, about four miles from Douglas. You will observe that the train ascends a steep hill nearly all the way from Douglas. Don't fail to notice the glimpses of exquisite scenery you get from the railway carriage windows, not only on this line, but also on the other railways in the Island, A sbort distance from Douglas the Port Erin line turns to the left, and crosses the combined rivers " Dhoo-Glass," which give the name to the town. As the train crosses the bridge, a pleasant peep is afforded up and down the Nunnery Grounds. After passing thr, ugh a deep cutting the train emerges on do the green slopes at and about Kewaigue. Several of the most imposing mountains can be seen from this point of view--amongst others, Colden, Carraghan, Pon-y-Phot, Snaefell, and the Carnane. After passing through the deep rocky cutting at Oakhill, we get a view of some magnificent rock scenery at and about Port Santon Head and Port Soderick.

Port Soderick Glen comprises almost all that is beautiful in nature, woodland scenery and an emerald paved valley are here stretched before us in panoramic view. To the right is Crogga, with its little rivulet running down to the sea. It is a very charming glen, full of a quiet and hushed beauty, which will be much appreciated by the lover of nature. At the foot of the glen we emerge on to the bay, with its bright pebbly beach and tiny hotel. The rocks here about have a grandeur of aspect which fills the' beholder with awe and admiration. Leaving Port Soderick Station, the line runs through Crogga Glen, affording what is certainly one of the prettiest views on the southern railway.

Soon afterwards the sea again comes into view. On the left is Greenwick Glen, and on the right the mountains of South Barrule and Cronk-ny-Irey Lhaa. After passing the Sauton Station the line runs over a steep embankment, surmounting a bridge which crosses the Santonburn, the river which debouebes into the sea at Cass-ny-Awin, an illustration of which appears elsewhere. From Ballasalla, the next station, the ruins of Rushen Abbey, the Croasag, or "Monk's Bridge," and other places may be visited. A mile or so from here Castletown is reached. It is well worth while visiting Langness from here if time will permit. There is some very peculiar rock scenery on Langness, an illustration of which we give.

Close to Langness is King William's College, an institution intended to supply the place of a Manx university. The chief attraction of Castletown, however, is Castle Rushen, one of the oldest fortresses in Europe, whose every wall is as perfect as when it was first erected, although it can be traced back to the first half of the 11th century.

Castle Rushen to stated to have been built by Guthred, the son and successor of Gorry, or Orry, the first Manx king of the Danish line. Some archaeologists throw doubt on the assertion as to the extreme antiquity of the structure. They say that the statement as to its age cannot be accepted without some qualification. That a fortress of Danish if not more ancient origin existed on this spot, is highly probable. It is also possible that some small portion of the present structure may belong to that ancient fortress, but that the present building is substantially the one erected by Guthred, the Dane, is by some thought improbable. The form of the building; though evidently of an early date (the square form of the central keep pointing to the 11th or 12 h century as the date of its erection), is certainly of a later period than. the 10th century, while the original building suffered greatly during the various sieges which it sustained, notably one by Edward Bruce, in 1313, when, after a defence of more than a fortnight, it was taken and "demolished." According to the Manx records, the Earl of Derby, in 1593, " thought fit to erect again his two garrisons of the Castles of Rushen and Peel. " However, of the great antiquity of the building there can be little doubt, and it is one of the finest specimens in existence of the military architecture of the middle ages. The view from the top of the tower will amply repay the labour of climbing the hundred steps which lead to its summit. Deep down below us lio spread out, as if in a map, the town and its suburbs, while beyond the country stretches before us to its farthest extremity. To the northward the country rises in a succession of rocky mountains of varied shape and appearance, whose eastern ridges thrust themselves far out into the sea at Douglas Head, Santon Head, Langness, and Scarlett; to the west the mountain range bounds the view, the dark tops of Barrule and Cronk-ny-Irey-Lhaa showing to great advantage, while through the gap between the Mull Hills and Bradda Head, directly over Port Erin, we can see on a clear day the granitic mountains of Mourne, Slieu Donard, and Slieu Bingian. To the south lie the Mull Hills, with the entire coast line gradually increasing in height and ruggedness, until it ends in the precipices of Spanish Head, from behind which again the Calf Islet projects its dark outline. In this direction the view is terminated by the tall pillar-like lighthouse on the Chicken Rock. More to the left, on a clear day, the blue mountains of Anglesey and Carnarvon can be seen on the distant horizon.

A short run from Castletown brings us to Port St. Mary and Port Erin, the southern terminus of the railway. Both these places are well worth seeing, and Port Erin is one of the most peacefully charming resorts of the Island, its exquisite scenery having called forth the powers of both painter and poet.

From Port Erin may be visited the Calf of Man, Creigneish, the Chasms, Spanish Head, Noggin's Head, and other places. The scenery here is simply superb for grandeur. A recent writer says that " sublime" is the word which even a person not apt to indulge in superlatives must perforce give to the poetic savagery of this part of the Manx coast. Nature here assumes her wildest mood. The cliffs rise to giddy heights; they wear castellated shapes. The Stacks, the Eye, the Sugar-loaf Rock, and the Thousla Rock are each a picture of coast scenery. That sheer, tremendous cliff is the Spanish Head, whose hidden rocks, sharp as razors, stretching far out into the sea, gave an enemy's reception to the invincible armada in 1588. Those giddy, rock-groined columns, lifted as if by an earthquake's mighty agency, are the Chasms. Much more might be written about the scenery of this district, but space forbids. We may add, however, that it has such a spell for the artistic mind that, in the summer, numbers of artists are to be found transferring to canvas the charms which here abound.

The scenery, as viewed from the railway from Douglas to Peel is scarcely less charming than that on the Southern line, but it is of a different character. Here, instead of the majestic in nature, we have the quiet sylvan beauty of a valley which lies peacefully guarded by mountains. The Isle of Man is divided into two parts by the great depression known as "the central valley," and it is through this that the railway runs. The distance from Douglas to Peel is about twelve miles, and, including all stoppages, the journey is accomplished in forty minutes. The first station, which is about two and a balf miles from Douglas, is the Union Mills, as sweetly-pretty a spot as could be desired. From Crosbv station the Druidical ruins of the Glen Darragh, and Greeba Mountain, may be visited. The next station, which is St. John's, is only a short distance of. It is at this place starts the railway leading to the North of the Island. In the neighbourhood are several places of interest, notably the Foxdale Mines, Glenmay Waterfall, Glen Helen, Rhenass Waterfall, and the famed Tynwald Hill; where on the 5th of July every year there is a public promulgation of new laws passed by the Legislature of the Island, which are read out in Minx and English to the assembled multitude. This quaint ceremony, which thousands gather to witness, is the last lingering relic of a Scandinavian custom. The natural beauty of the locality, the ancient associations connected with the ceremony, and the grouping of the crowd, make up a scene worthy of the study of a painter. A short run from St. John's and the train leaves you in the town of Peel.

Mr. Cumming says that Peel greatly reminded him of the Scotch fishing towns of the Northern Highlands. Being chiefly built of the old red sandstone of the neighbourhood, it bears a warm tinge about it, especially at sunset on a bright summer's evening ; and with its rained castle and cathedral on the adjacent Island, its gables set awry, and a crowd of herring-boats, with the various appurtenances of the fishing lying about, it presents to the artist many, nice subjects for his brush or pencil. There is a pretty beach to the north of the town, and some fine sea-worn caves in the old red sandstone, which will afford occupation during a few hours. The pebbles consist chiefly of madrepodes, red and grey cornelians, with agates and jaspers.

The chief attraction of Peel is undoubtedly the magnificent crumbling ruin of its old castle.

Two of the greatest writers that ever lived --Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott" have shed a halo of romance " over the fine old fabric of the castle, on an island of its "own, mirroring its greys and greens and russets in the sleeping sea." The ruins are about five acres in extent, amongst them being the old cathedral of Sodor and Man.

The latest addition to the railway system of the Island is that made by the Manx Northern Railway Company. As will be seen by a reference to the map, this Company's line forms a junction with the other railway at St. John's, about two miles from Peel, and runs to Ramsey, a distance of about 16 miles. This line has placed within easy access of the traveller some of the most picturesque scenery in the Island. Indeed nothing could be more exquisite than the views obtained From some parts of the line, As the train speeds along don't fail to observe the stretch of the sea coast. You have before you, a little above St. Germain's station a magnificent run of marine scenery, embracing the ruins of Peel Castle or. the south. and to the north and west the shores of four parishes-(German, Michael, Jurby, and Andreas ; while across the glittering sea arise the pale blue tops of the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland, and away in a northerly direction is seen the dim outline of that part of the Scottish coast of which the Mull of Galloway is a prominent feature. The train soon afterwards approaches close to the sea coast, at a place bearing the curious Manx came of "Gob-y-Duggan," which being translated means the " Mouth of the Devil," and then passes over two or three high bridges spanning the Glen Moar, Glen Wyllan, and other beautiful glens, which, running from the sea right up into the chain of mountains along whose bases the railway is constructed, are each and all worthy of a visit. The first station of importance which is reached is Kirk Michael. Here may be seen the tomb of the "Saintly Bishop Wilson," who was for .58 years Bishop of the Island. In and about the grave-yard of Michael Church are no fewer than seven runic monuments. The next station is Baliaugh, close to which is the episcopal palace of the Island, known as "Bishop's Court," the residence of the Bishop of Solor and Man; and adjoining it is Bishop's Glen,, which, though small, can boast some beautiful bits of scenery. The next station- Sulby Glen--is one of the most important on Ramsey line, inasmuch as from it Snaefell, "the monarch of Manx mountains," may be most easily ascended. Sulby Glen is, to my mind, the finest ravine in the Isle of Man. Guarded at its entrance by the sin;mlar pile of rocks, "Cronk-y-Samarck" (the hill of the shamrock), the mountain road conducts the tourist. right into the heart of the mountain range, amidst scenery which, for grandeur and beauty; strongly reminds one of the Lake District. There is fine sport for anglers, and for pic-nic parties the Glen is simply a paradise. There is no great difficulty in reaching the top of Snaefell (the snow mountain) from Sulby Glen. The height of this mountain is 2021 feet above the level of the sea, and it presents views hardly any where to be surpassed, comprising not only the greater part of the Isle of Man, but also, beyond the Irish Sea, distant glimpses of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Five miles from Sulby Glen station the train enters the town of Ramsey, than which nothing can be "prettier in its Comeliness."

I may briefly describe Ramsey as a thriving beautiful town, surrounded by delightful scenery, both of mountain and pastoral prospect. A view from Albert Tower, built to commemorate the visit of Prince Albert, in 1847, is most charming. The town, with Claughbane, Glen Auldyn, and Ballure, nestles under your feet. To the east is the grand sweep of its widely extended bay, and stretching before and around you are the lands of six parishes, dotted over with churches, chapels, and farm houses. Beyond this is the sea, and in the distance the English and Scottish coasts, Indeed the whole scene is one of enchanting loveliness.

The space at my disposal is exhausted, but I may say that there numerous other places in the Island well worthy of a visit-Laxey, Ballaglass, the lovely Dhoon Glen, etc. My sketch, brief and hasty though it is, has, I hope, convinced the reader that the Isle of Man is a most desirable resort. It possesses a bracing atmosphere, limpid waters, sea bathing, pleasure sailing, and every kind of joy. If the desire is to get away from the bustle of towns for a quiet retreat, here is the very place for calm repose. The romantic may luxuriate in the poetry of Nature; and in magnificent scenery, of mountain, glen, and sea, which woken the soul to beauty and grandeur. -If the tourist would escape from the crowded town--if he would be restored to health and vigour--if he would enjoy an invigorating but short sea voyage in a steamer which is a floating palace-if he would see a lovely island under genial skies-if he would ramble amid scenery wild with romance--if he would enjoy all these things, he will visit the Isle of Man, the "beau of the Irish Sea,"-the Tourist's Elysium.

 


 

index


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2006