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Rambles Across the Isle of Man
Rambles Across the Isle of Man
My brother-in-law and I took the Isle of Man ferry boat from Belfast, Northern Ireland out into the Irish Sea for three hours until the boat pulled into dock at Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man. We had a nice chat with a fellow passenger from the island who explained to us that the Isle of Man is an independent country with its own currency and postage but is a member of the British Commonwealth. Something I had not known was that the Isle of Man (between England and Ireland) has its own language--Manx! Manx is an interesting mix of old Norse and ancient Celtic. He also explained that the flag of the Isle of Man has an interesting image--three legs coming together to form a circle. We asked what does it represent? He said, "With three legs we will not fall!"
After we got our accommodations in the beautiful city of Douglas and stayed overnight, we had a great breakfast of bacon, eggs and fried potatoes and immediately drove our Irish car to a nearby town to take the tram up to the highest point on the island, Mount Snaefell rising to 2.023 feet above the sea. Though nice and warm at the rail station, the temperature proceeded to drop with every five hundred feet gained. The countryside spread before us reminding me of the Mountains of Mourne back in Ireland. By the time we reached the summit house, itv was a chilly, windy forty degrees with rolling gray clouds. My brother-in-law Gerry decided to go inside for a hot cup of tea, while I, being from Colorado, went on up to the actual summit some two hundred vertical feet above.
Up here the temperature dropped another five degrees with strong winds as though I were back in Rocky Mountain National Park. Sea gulls fluttering above my head and sometimes chose to ride a current downhill to circle around and fly back up. When the clouds suddenly broke apart, I caught a glimpse of the gray Irish Sea and distant Ireland to the west, Scotland to the north, England to the east and Wales to the southeast. Perhaps the seagulls might sometimes choose to fly off to another one of these kingdoms.
After standing atop Mount Snaefell (we have a Mount Snefells in Colorado) and braving the wind, I decided to walk down to the tea house and join my brother-in-law who was shivering over in a corner. I suggested we take the next tram back to the warmth of the valleys below. Gerry said let's go to a nice warm, sunny beach and perhaps two hours later, we found ourselves strolling the northern most beach at Ayre's Point.
The surf pounded the stones of the beach and rolled them out in an undertow making a grinding sound like the gnashing of dragon's teeth. While Gerry walked over to a lighthouse to take pictures, I crunched along the stony beach to catch a closer look at the roaring surf. As I got closer to the sea, a group of buzzing arctic terns began to dive-bomb me. I soon realized that I was invading their nesting territory. But I blithely continued, thinking their attack was but a momentary thing. However, they continued to swoop, almost touching my windblown hair. I began to retreat. The birds forced me back to a higher bluff overlooking the sea where I had to content myself with more distant views. Gerry seemed quite amused by the incident. I remained silent and reflected that humans must, at times, be more submissive they they would like to be.
Since the Isle of Man is only forty miles long by eighteen wide, we drove on down to the southern most point to walk atop the rocky cliffs and view the nearby, much smaller island, appropriately named the Calf of Man. We soon returned to our B&B and had a great evening meal of Manx kippered herrings on toast with fried potatoes and steaming cups of tea, a perfect end to a full day on the Isle of Man. We wished that we did not have to leave on the ferry boat early the next day.
It is interesting to note that the Manx and Icelandic languages are first cousins in that they both stem from Old Norse and Celtic languages.