I was here in the Isle of Man to cycle its End to End – a modest few dozen miles that, frankly, you could do without stopping – with my friend Nigel.
We came from Belfast by ferry having just completed the Northern Ireland End to End, a comparative ultra-marathon at 193 miles.
The Isle of Man is a curious footnote of a place, an exception, an outlier. Part of the ‘British Isles’ but not the UK, or the EU. Home of a vibrant ancient language, spoken by nobody. Self-governing, with perhaps the world’s oldest parliament, which pioneeringly gave women the vote in 1881, but less pioneeringly had homosexuality a criminal offence until 1992. An island with no speed limit, but few roads long enough to get above thirty.
Anyway, we’re staying in Douglas at a promenade hotel, conveniently at the end where the ferry decanted us – the prom is very long. We checked in and then set off towards the southern end along the coast road, climbing up out of the quay and through some grand Victorian gates.
This road carries little traffic – the middle section is closed off to cars because of subsiding edges – but the vis was bad and we saw little of the coastline. There were some up and down country lanes for a while and main roads past Castletown, then an abrupt seaside road and final hill to The Sound, Man’s southernmost extremity.
There’s a nice modern cafe there, which was very welcome. We had a sandwich and coffee sat with fine views of the fog and mist, which now and then lifted briefly to allow a glimpse of the Calf, an islet just off the Sound. It felt like Land’s End, only not quite as bad.
Then the ride proper began, up a hill and down a side road, and along a moortop narrow lane to Port Erin, a rainy and deserted-feeling seaside town at about half fiveish. There was no sign of Famous Maxman Mark Cavendish, rumoured by the cafe clientele to be involved in some filming here today. We retraced our steps, taking a seaside deviation along lanes this time, and had a brief stop in Castletown to see the House of Keys and Castle and admire the historic rain and age-old fog.
We took the coast road back to hour hotel in Douglas – already halfway between Ends – but saw little en route apart from a few metres of wet road before us. We showered, freshened up and enjoyed a dinner and couple of drinks out, with probably the best burger and best beer on the island.
It’s a very small island.
Miles today: 49
Miles Calf Sound to Douglas: 22