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A holiday in the Isle of Man

13 April 2015

At Derby Castle we transfer to the Manx Electric Railway. This line opened in 1893. Two of the original cars are still in use. Most services have a motor car and a single trailer as was the case for us. The line climbs steeply to Onchan Head and follows the roadway and the coast with beautiful views of the bays and headlands via Laxey to Ramsey where the line terminates in the town centre. At seventeen miles long it is the longest narrow gauge vintage railway in Britain. At Groudle Glen you can take a miniature railway (check times and days) out on to Groudle headland or simply walk down to the sea. The line passes through small villages, lush pastures and woodland. The sides of the track are garnished with fuchsias and montbretia as we shake rattle and roll to Laxey

At Laxey station we get down from the train and walk the short distance to the Great Laxey Mines Railway. The Laxey Wheel (Lady Isabella) which dominates the village was built to pump water from the Laxey Mine shafts. It is the largest working waterwheel in the world We walked down to the Great Laxey Mine Railway where Bee - all steamed up was waiting to take us nine at a time in the caged wagon into the tunnel and along past the original entrance to the mine. Volunteer -operated this little train gives a glimpse into the past. The engineer passed round a sample of galena -lead ore. Lead, zinc, copper and silver were mined here,

Our journey began via the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway which has operated continuously for 136 years, except during World War II. There is only one other similar tramway in the world and that is in Victor Harbour, South Australia.

From our hotel we headed for the Sea Terminal where, the horse having been transferred to the opposite end of the tram and the seatbacks reversed, we clopped and glided the two miles of the promenade at six miles an hour down the middle of the road - a most civilised experience.

The horses Steve, Victor, Rebecca and their friends are very well cared for. Visitors can view their stables and, at Richmond Hill just outside the town, visit their retirement home.

Back at Laxey station we join our car on the Snaefell Mountain Railway to travel five miles of 3ft gauge track to the highest point on the Isle of Man. It uses a Fell Incline Railway System centre rail for braking on steep slopes.

After a short climb out of the station the train makes a photo stop above the Laxey Wheel then pulls away on to the open moorland amongst fern, heather, gorse and rowan. Now the fell is dotted with sheep. There are extensive views to the right into Laxey Glen and a disused mine.  At Bungalow the train crosses the TT Mountain course. When the race is on the train stops at the road, passengers cross by a footbridge to join another train on the opposite side for the final spiral around the fell to the summit station where the mountain café serves hot food and a warming drink Here a few energetic steps take us to the summit at  2036ft. It's hazy today but on a clear day you can see the seven kingdoms - England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Heaven, Neptune and Mann. Windswept passengers clutching cameras have had and exciting day. Then it's back down to Laxey for a Davison's ice cream before we retrace our route to Douglas

The Isle of Man Steam Railway

We arrive at the Victorian station with its ticket office restaurant and walk through on to the platform. No.4 Loch, one of the original engines is attached to our coaches in red and yellow livery to take us to Port Erin. The coaches have eight seats to a compartment and are beautifully maintained.

The shrill whistle heralds the hiss of steam and the smell of hot oil and we move off climbing away from Douglas on our 15mile journey. Passing the island's largest brewery we continue to climb and just before Port Soderick we get our first glimpse of the sea at Kerstal. After passing through Crogga Woods and Santon the train descends quite steeply to Ballasalla station.  From Castletown and Colby we journey through fairly lat agricultural pasture towards Port Erin. Soon we can see Bradda Head and Milner's Tower perched high above the bay. We enter the station at Port Erin where there is a Railway Museum (£1 entrance fee). Here you can find No.6 Peveril and No.16 Mann and also the royal carriages of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II. Port Erin station is another Victorian gem with a large waiting room with a welcoming open fire and the Whistle Stop Café.

The railways of the Isle of Man are a most relaxing and rewarding way to travel in some of the most attractive rural and coastal scenery in the British Isles.