A 2h 45m perfectly calm crossing from Liverpool sees us arrive on the Isle of Man. A self-governing British Crown Dependency (simply put, some things are a bit Manx around here), the home of the TT motorcycle race and most importantly Katryna’s birthplace.
As you arrive into Douglas it’s immediately clear that this was once a tourist destination of some standing. Victorian guest houses still line large parts of the the sea front. The near 2 mile sweeping sandy beach is topped by a broad pedestrianised promenade with sunken gardens and play areas. If you don’t fancy the walk, a horse drawn tram will do the work for you. Stopping often, it is the original ‘hop-on hop, hop-off’ tour bus.
Douglas is also the commercial hub of the island with finance, legal services, shipping, transport, shopping, and entertainment businesses. Some of which taking advantage of the different taxation laws on the Island.
With Katryna behind the wheel we are swiftly on our way to Peel where we’ll be staying for the next week. A seaside town and small fishing port, Peel has lots to offer. Peel beach is large with soft yellow sand, a smooth gradient and plenty of space and like all the beaches (importantly when you’ve got kids) it’s clean. On the opposite side of the marina and under the haunches of Peel Castle lies Fenella beach, equally as beautiful, though smaller with rocky outcrops and caves for exploring. With a generously sized, free car park adjacent, it’s an ideal spot to launch a kayak or SUP and dogs are allowed on Fenella year round (therefore approved by Branston). Westerly facing, there’s few places better to view an amazing sunset at the end of a action-packed day. No doubt this spot helped Peel earn the title of the ‘Sunset City’ in the 1930’s.
The Calf of Man
At the southernmost point are two small uninhabited islands only a few hundred yards off the coast. Kitterland which is little more than a rock stack (a favourite spot for Seals to be seen sunning themselves without fear of interruption) and The Calf of Man, a much larger island that is uninhabited. The real spectacle here is the wild current that runs between the islands – a turbulent, rolling, boiling strait that has claimed many vessels and legend has it a few swimmers too.
A short drive will take you to Scarlett Point, where some of the islands oldest residents can be found. Approximately 330 million years old! Where the sea crashes against the limestone, fossils and rock strata are revealed in the large flat rocks. The limestone buttresses against a large volcanic plug, the long dead remains of a volcano and basalt boulders can be seen strewn across the shore. Easily accessible and with free parking (a great spot to stay in a camper) this is a geology and palaeontology lesson in one.