On a beautiful sunny Sunday morning in late May, 28 members of the North Hampshire National Trust Centre boarded a coach and headed for Lyme Park, a Trust property on the edge of the Peak District. The group consisted of members from all over North Hampshire, including: Basingstoke; Alton; Fleet; Overton; Hartley Wintney and Whitchurch. They stayed overnight in a hotel near Manchester, before continuing on next day to the ferry port at Heysham – en route they were delighted to stop for a while in Morecambe and wander along the promenade with its glorious panoramic views and bump into Eric Morecambe on the way, in the form of a bronze statue.
Boarding the 2.15 p.m. Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, sailing to Douglas, they enjoyed a smooth 3½ hr crossing and, after disembarking, travelled on to the Mount Murray hotel and Country Club, situated in 200 acres of grounds and golf course – a truly luxuriant establishment with very comfortable rooms and excellent cuisine!
The first full day on the Isle of Man included a visit to Castletown, once the capital of the island. They drove to the small Parliament Square, which is the forecourt to the House of Keys and where the island’s parliament met. ‘Sitting in’ on a cleverly animated meeting of the members, with the speaker at the head of the long table, were able to take a full part in agreeing, or not, with the proceedings! In 1904, the closure of public roads allowed for racing on the island with the Gordon Bennett car races, later to become the TT motor cycle races. Dominating the town is Castle Rushden – one of the best preserved medieval castles in Europe , dating from the 12th century with building continuing on until the 16th century. It has full-size displays depicting life in the castle and the walls are adorned with tapestries and paintings. The pieces of replica furniture have been carefully researched and bring to life the sights and sounds of a past age. Outside on the wall is to be noted a one handed clock, presented to the town by Elizabeth I in 1597.
Walking towards the quay, they came across the Old Grammar School and viewed the Victorian classroom. The harbour was full of various boats and the town buildings are very photogenic. Reluctant to leave Castletown they travelled to Peel for our afternoon visit to another castle. Peel Castle is on St Patrick’s Isle, so it required a drive across the causeway passing Kipper House, which is the world’s last traditional ‘smokery’. Several of the group nipped back to order Manx kippers to be sent home! – which arrived the next day!
The earliest buildings on St Patrick’s Isle are those of a Celtic Christian community. St Patrick’s Church and chapels were built and are still evident today. St German’s Cathedral was built on this site during the 12th and 13th centuries but no bishop was appointed for 40 years until 1154 – the nave and transept still remain. The site also contains a garrison and apartments. Spending the whole afternoon there the group wandered around amongst the masses of wild Scabious – and in and out of the many interesting ruins. It must be very wild and cold here in the winter!
On the last full day on the Island, they went to see the Curragh Wildlife Park. This is made up of grass areas and boggy woodland, to suit animals and birds from various parts of the world – such as penguins, lynx, monkeys, ibis, wallabies, parakeets to name but a few. The visitor is able to wander along the designated paths and see the creatures at close quarters, living in environments as close as possible to their natural habitats. After lunch they drove to the most northerly part of the island – Point of Ayre – with its lighthouse and several surrounding houses. The secondary lighthouse is quite small and stands amongst the gravel of the beach.
Leaving the bracing air of the north coast, they turned inland through Ramsay to Laxey. [Laxey – this is the Norse for salmon river.] Here they investigated the Laxey Wheel, named ‘The Lady Isabella’ after the governor’s wife in 1854. It was in the late 18th century that the small community in Laxey discovered that they had a variety of mineral deposits, leading to the development of the mining industry. One thousand men were employed here to mine the very profitable zinc and other metals, thus ensuring a reasonable standard of living for the village people. In 1865 a 50 ft diameter water wheel was built to pump water from the mine and when this was finally closed in 1908 the water wheel was sold to a china clay company in Cornwall. In the 1970s it ended up in a Welsh mining museum but in 2003, after various negotiations with heritage societies, it returned to Laxey and, after refurbishment, it was re-erected in the Valley Gardens in 2006.
All good things come have an end and the next morning they were up quite early to catch the 8 45 a.m. ferry back to Heysham, the sun was out – yet again, and the sea was like the proverbial millpond, so a very pleasant sea trip once more.
The Isle of Man might only be 33 miles long and 13 miles wide, covering an area 227 square miles, but it certainly is a wonderful place to visit – so much great scenery, coastal views, small towns full of character and friendly people. Those on the trip returned home a little exhausted but so pleased to have been to see that small dot in the middle of the Irish sea and would return tomorrow given the chance!
Membership of the North Hampshire National Trust Centre is open to all National Trust card holders.
If you are interested in joining or participating in the events please contact Annis Mendham, 01420 83501 or click the ENQUIRY tab above.