Thursday, 30 July 2015

Peel Castle, Kippers and Moddey Doo


Peel is a rather nice town on the west coast. It used to have a large fishing fleet (somewhat smaller now), it is home to a factory which says it is the only traditional kipper factory left on the island, and its castle dates back to the 10th century.

Peel Castle

The castle (built by King Magnus the Barefoot) on St Patrick’s Isle dominates the town and is separated from the town by a small causeway

Defensive Gap

which was built over (rather sadly) with a road when the harbour wall was extended and thus a feel for the defensive position of the castle is somewhat lost although an aerial view shows what it would have been.

Peel Castle from Air

Inside, the castle is mainly ruins

Peel Castle St German Cathedral

with the Cathedral of St German

Round Tower

and the Round Tower (10th Century) dominating the site.

A castle cannot call itself a Castle unless it has a ghost and this one has the Ghost of Moddey Doo

Moddey Doo

(here shown as it is said to look) which is a Black Dog which used to appear at regular intervals - read about him here.

Manx Kippers

Once Kippers were synonymous with the Isle of Man and in season it was possible for a Herring caught early on day one, to be a Kipper and on a breakfast table in the North of England on day two.

Depending upon which way the wind is blowing, the smell of kipper curing from Moore’s Kippery can cover the town. We went on a free tour of the Smokehouse and our clothes (rather pleasurably even for a vegetarian such as me) smelt of Kippers and Oak Chipping smoke for days afterwards.

Tenter Hooks

Herring are split, cleaned and salted and then hung from Tenterhooks on a Tenter Bar. 


There are a number of smoke houses

View into a smoke house

which have fires burning on the floor and the condition of the fire and what it is burning gives a traditional kipper its colour and taste.

Up into a smoke house roof

The Kippers (on Tenterhooks) are then hung in the roof space of the smoke house for as long as it takes to Kipper them.

How to make a kipper is described at the Moore’s Kippery Website (link above) and also here.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

We meet a tailless cat and a four horned sheep

Having arrived somewhat later than planned, we picked up


our hire car “Audrey” and headed south a few miles to

Promenade St Mary s

Port St Mary which is a quiet seaside / port on the south of the island not too far from the airport. Above is a picture of the Promenade and the houses along it were used as an Internment Camp during WWII.

Aaron House

Within the row is a B&B called Aaron House where we stayed for our first three nights on the island.  

Front Room Aaron House

Aaron House models itself on a Victorian B&B and hence the furniture and decor in much of the house is Victorian. It is worth reading its reviews on TripAdvisor if you are looking for somewhere to stay on the island.

St Mary s Bay
This was the view of the bay from our bedroom window when the tide was out

Full Moon

and this is the view on the night of a full moon.

Legend has it that the Isle of Man was created when the Irish giant Finn MacCooll threw a chunk of earth from Ireland’s coastline towards Scotland, when in battle, which promptly landed in the Irish Sea and became the Isle of Man.

To us, the island that he created looks rather beautiful and very much like Ireland in many places.

IOM Coastline 1

This was the first section of coast we saw just south of St Mary’s, then at the southern most point of the island, we saw  

Calf Sound and Calf of Man
Calf Sound and the Calf of Man with rough sea to the west (on the right) and calm sea to the east.

The Isle of Man National Trust run many of the historical sites around the island and there is a fee to visit most of them. You have the choice of either paying a fee at each site you visit; or buying a holiday pass for £20 which covers all of the sites; or showing your English National Trust Card and getting in free - we are doing the latter.

The first we visit is Cregneash which is only a few miles away from where we are staying. This is a village within which many of the

Cregneash Village

original houses have been preserved (both inside and out).

Blacksmith Carpenter

This building was the Blacksmiths / Carpenters and inside is the original equipment,

Inside Blacksmith

here the Blacksmiths Shop

Inside Carpenter

and here the Carpenters Shop.

Ned Begs Cottage with Reed Roof

This is Ned Beg’s Cottage with a reed roof.

Ned Beg s Cottage

Reed Roof Tied Down

The roof is tied down to prevent it blowing away in the rather strong winds. Nowadays, rope is used but originally Suggane (hand twisted rope made from straw) was used.

Front Room

In another house, a front room was laid out as it would have been many years ago, with a fire blazing away in the hearth

Blazing Fire

In another house, a person was making “Bumbles" out of reeds.

Bumbee Cage

“Bumbles’ or '‘Bumble Cages’ can be made in a matter of minutes. The story told about them varies a little depending upon who tells you the story but in essence, in centuries past the folk on the Isle of Man were very much believers of Fairies, and other mystical creatures. Children were brought up being told of the mischievousness of the little folk and also that bumble bees were in fact bad fairies who had been transformed into insect shape. So what do you do with a bad fairy? You build a ‘Bumble Cage’ to trap them in (follow the link for a video and another version of the story). It’s like a little rattle made of reeds and when it’s nearly finished, you pop a bumble bee inside and seal it up. Bumble bees are more fortunate these days in that pebbles serve as a substitute!

Old Loom

Weaving was one of the ways people made a living and the oldest loom on the island was in one of the houses.

One of our priorities was to see a Manx Cat and we were able to do this here. Sitting down, it looked just like an ordinary cat

Manx Cat 1

But as soon as it stood, its tail-less state

Manx Cat 2

was obvious.

Four Horn 1

The village has a number of four horned sheep,

Four Horn 2

this one had to be photographed from the back in order to see its horns. Apparently there are also some (rare) six horned sheep.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A week on the Isle of Man (aka Ellan Vannin)

Many years ago we saw a film called “Waking Ned” which supposedly was set in Ireland but actually was filmed at Cregneash in the Isle of Man. It looked very nice and so it went on to our list of places to visit one day. For various reasons, we have decided that this year is the Isle of Man’s “One Day” (although we are going there for a week).

Isle man

What do we know about the Isle of Man? Other than that it is:

  • in the middle of the Irish Sea roughly half way between Cumbria and Northern Ireland;
  • it is a Crown Dependency rather than part of the United Kingdom;
  • famous for the TT Motor Bike Race;
  • the home of the tail-less Manx Cat;
  • kippers and queenies are a local delicacy;
  • there are a number of steam trains and an electric train;
  • a horse drawn tram runs along the Douglas promenade;
  • use of the Birch as a punishment was legal until 1978.

the answer would be “not a lot”.

Things we did not know until we started researching the island include:

  • the Bee Gees were born on the Island;
  • there are over 100 wild Wallabies living there;
  • if you mention the word R-A-T it will bring you bad luck;
  • as you drive over the Fairy Bridge near Santon, waiving to the Fairies (who live under the bridge) will bring you good luck;
  • the Manx Cat has no tail because it was the last animal to enter Noah’s Ark and as it was closing, the Ark’s door cut off its tail.
  • the Island is about 33 miles by 13 miles in size and has no speed limit on most of it’s roads.
  • it has its own currency whose notes (unlike Scotland) are not accepted on the mainland
  • Manx Currency

So our plan for the week is:

  • to fly to the island - handily there are direct flights from our local airport;
  • pick up a hire car at the Airport;
  • stay in three different places over the week (in the South, the Capital, and the North);
  • see as much of the Island as possible including one or more of: the Manx Electric Railway; the Snaefell Mountain Railway; and the Douglas Horse Drawn Tram;
  • and remember we are supposed to be on holiday and having a bit of a rest!

The period we are on the island coincides with the Manx Heritage Transport Festival and the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend so hopefully there will be a lot to see and do.

The plan was that not too early in the morning, we would have found ourselves on our way to the Airport. However as I did a final check of our emails just before we were due to leave the house, there was one from the airline telling us that our flight had been cancelled and we had been booked onto the next flight later that afternoon.

So we got to spend much of our first day on holiday at home although we were able to use this time to make a compensation claim for €250 each for the cancelled flight (which was paid without argument when we returned - so it cost us about €180 for flights and we were given €500 for the delay).

And just after lunch (rather than just after breakfast), we find ourselves on the way to our local airport. However, this time we do not have the less than pleasurable trek to Gatwick or Heathrow and have to allow at least 15 minutes to get from home to check-in!

Plane at Airport

We take off on time, pass over the area within which we live

Flying over SMM

and about fifty minutes later, the Isle of Man appears outside the window.

Approaching IOM

And awaiting us is a Red Sports Car!

The Car

Did I forget to say that we have hired a Red Sports Car (aka Audrey) for the week? We found a car hire company on the web which only hires out Smart Cars and they were most helpful in meeting us at the airport etc. The owner of the car hire company (Milky Quayle) turned out to be a local celebrity who used to be a TT rider until he had an accident and had to stop riding - so we were told. Not being TT followers, this was news to us.