[from W Ralph Hall Caine Isle of Man]
RAMSEY is wholly distinct in its features from Douglas. The two towns have nothing in common, save that they are both holiday resorts and are both in the Isle of Man. There is nothing of the swirl of excitement that belongs to mere crowds, thronged promenades, and congested traffic.
Ramsey knows no more excitement on a weekday than is involved in securing an early copy of an English morning newspaper just arrived by the mail steamer, or getting a good seat in church on Sunday morning.
Promenades are not thronged, and there is no congestion, unless it should chance to be at the baths on the sea-shore, where, immediately after breakfast, all and sundry meet to chatter, gossip, drink tea, make ` eyes' to-day and love to-morrow, with the most amiable detachment.
Ramsey has the advantage of a multitude of half-day excursions, of which the drive to Point of Ayre Lighthouse, a distance of about eight miles, is only one. The route is via Bowring Road. We pass St. Olave's Church on our right hand, and note a turning to the left, by which we may later return via Kirk Andreas. But, keeping a direct course, we come to another good road branching off to the right. It is easily distinguishable by a large sign directing the visitor en route to the Ramsey Hydro. This is the Bride Road, along which we proceed without another turning until we reach the village from which it takes its name.
Even when the island has its human freight of tens of thousands arriving in one day, peace and enjoyment may be found on this drive. Rabbits, playing like kittens in the very roadway and in the fields on either side, close up to the very hedge, and the sandy hills above us, tell their own tale of seclusion.
Bride Church faces us as we descend a steep hill. To the right of the porch will be found interesting fragments of Runic crosses well worthy of inspection. Our route is now to the right, and then, some distance farther on, through a gateway to the left, with the lighthouse and all the clean whitelimed cottages, engine-houses, etc., already in view. There is no hedge; we are driving along a path laid down upon a veritable desert of shingle and sand, over which, in the passage of ages, a thin covering of soil has been spread.
Ages ago this land was covered by the sea. Now it is a fragrant garden of pigmy gorse, purple heather, and tiny flowers of delicate hue - a veritable paradise for rabbits and bees.
The eternal winds of the sea sweep across this low-lying territory without let or hindrance; the beat of the waves on the shingly beach is in our ears ; the salt spray is on our lips. We are at the end of our journey, the northernmost limit of the Isle of Man, the troubled waters of the ' Streeus' (Strife) lying between us and the Scottish coast.
Having made shelter and provision for our horses within these whitened walls, we can first note the distance of the light chamber from the ground, some 100 feet (106 feet above the level of high-water), and note its distinguishing feature by day-two dark bands.
One of the keepers next conducts us to the top, up the seemingly endless steps (there are 159 of them), all spotlessly clean. Within the light chamber, with its encasement of glass on all sides, we note the amazingly heavy and complex machinery required for a revolving beacon. Point of Ayre shows, according to the navigator's chart, a red and white light alternately, completing the revolution every two minutes.
Tiny vent-holes are shown in the sides, and opening a short heavy iron doorway, we step out, with bent heads, on to a closely-railed balcony. Wonderful views are obtained of land and sea. The Mull of Galloway is only twenty-one miles away, and some points of the Scottish coast-line are nearer still. Whitehaven is twenty-eight miles distant.
Tea in a keeper's cottage, a visit to the enginehouse of the fog-signalling apparatus, a thrill of magnetic current, a short walk of 100 yards or so to taste of the salt lake beneath our feet, by comparison with which the salt on the dinner-table seems saccharine itself, and we are ready for the drive home.
The route (if time is still available) may be varied at Bride, where the road to Andreas may be taken. A glance at the road-map will soon show how this extension may be made.
Thus may we be enabled to see something of the crannogs, or lake-dwellings, of a very remote age, and inspect at closer quarters the tall campanile which, dominating the plain, does honour to the present. Andreas, however, is entirely worthy of an afternoon to itself.