Today I travelled to Douglas in the Isle of Man for a short break, the previous time I have been there was for a day trip only. From first thing in the morning things began to go wrong, though in the end the trip was very enjoyable. Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings I go to Wrexham Maelor Hospital for dialysis and today being Monday had to go before travelling, but today of all days the ambulance that picks me up arrived two hours late and then I was ill during the dialysis. Because of this delay I could not get the train to Liverpool airport in time for my flight on EasyJet so got a bus to Chester where I then got a taxi, costing £57, to the airport. Things went smoothly at the airport and my flight arrived on time. I had a 3 day ‘Go Explore’ travelcard for all transports in the Isle of Man so on arrival got the bus in to Douglas, but before getting to my stop we had to change to another bus because it was about to run out of diesel!
The bus dropped me off outside the Gaiety Theatre right next to the Sefton Hotel where I was staying. You can read my review of the Sefton Hotel. After checking in to my room I went downstairs to Sir Norman’s bar where I had something to eat and a couple of glasses of cola followed by a couple of halves of Bushey’s Manx Bitter before settling in for the night.
The next morning I got up at 8:30am and went down to the breakfast room which is situated on the front of the first floor with a panoramic view over the whole of the promenade and Douglas Bay. The breakfast was buffet style with a selection of cooked breakfast items and continental style breakfast. You could also order kippers to be freshly cooked and being the traditional breakfast of the Isle of Man I ordered some. Whilst waiting for them to be cooked I also had a pot of yoghurt and a plate of a selection of cheeses.
Following breakfast I set out to explore and first walked along the promenade to the Manx Electric Railway at the far northern end of the bay, this was 1 mile (1.6km) from my hotel and very flat and an easy journey in my wheelchair. I did not travel on the Electric Railway because it is not wheelchair accessible unless you pre-book an accessible trailer to be added behind the ‘toast rack’ trailer. This needs to be booked at least two days in advance.
Right next to the southern terminus of the Electric Railway is the northern terminus of the Douglas Bay Horse Trams. These run south along the promenade almost to the ferry port. The horse trams are not really accessible though I think I could just about transfer myself on; however they were not running whilst I was there as the promenade where the tracks run is currently being modernised. I think it will be at least 2020 until they are fully back running. Next to these two termini is a pub called ‘The Terminus Tavern’ where I visited for a large glass of Coca-Cola. The main entrance to the pub has steps but to the right is a second ramped entrance. This entrance has double doors but only one was open so I had to find someone to ask for the other to be opened.
From here I got a bus to the Isle of Man Steam Railway, a 3 foot (914 mm) narrow gauge railway. There were originally three lines going to Peel, Ramsey and Port Erin, today only the Port Erin line remains. The journey to Port Erin on the southern tip of the island is 15.3 miles (24.6 km) long and takes about an hour. The railway is wheelchair accessible, though not from every station and halt as some of them have very low platforms making the ramp too steep. These include Castletown station and most, if not all, the halts. For the journey a wheelchair usually travels in the guards compartment behind the engine whilst the guard travels in the one at the back of the train, unfortunately for this journey the guards compartment behind the engine only had single doors not wide enough for a wheelchair so I had to travel at the back with the guard.
When I arrived at the steam railway a train had just left and I had about 2 hours to wait for the next one so I wrote all my postcards whilst having a pot of tea and then went for a wander around Douglas to find the Post Office to post them. This took an hour or so, so on my return I had a glass of cold Coca-Cola before taking the train to Port Erin.
On arrival at Port Erin it was time to get the bus back to Ronaldsway Airport for the flight home. Check in went smoothly and I was soon in the departure lounge where I went to the shop to buy some kippers to bring home, however they were out of stock. Shortly before my flight was due some people from Menzies came to take me down to the gate, it was here things began to go wrong! When the aeroplane landed it had a technical issue and we were told boarding was delayed and we would be updated in 30 minutes, so Menzies took me back up to the departure lounge.
Shortly afterwards came news that the issue had been resolved but before I could be taken back down to the gate the flight was again delayed. Then soon came the news we didn’t want to hear – the flight was cancelled and we all had to return to the check in area. Flights were rebooked and hotels organised for those that needed them. I was booked on to a flight to Manchester for 15:40 the next day but they had difficulty finding accessible accommodation for me, the airport closes down at 10pm but at nearly 1am the Menzies team finally got me a room booked after involving Civil Defence! At approaching midnight it was looking like the only option was to have me admitted to hospital as the only accessible bed…
I was booked in to the COMIS hotel & golf resort, reputedly the finest hotel on the island. The taxi dropped me off there just before 1am and I was soon asleep. The following morning I again had kippers for breakfast before getting the bus in to Douglas. The bus stop was a short walk from the hotel.
On arrival in Douglas I found ‘Freshly Squeezed’, a sandwich, salad and smoothie bar where I had a summer crush smoothie before wandering around the harbour and promenade area in the warm sunshine. I had about two hours to fill before I needed to get the bus back to the airport.
In Douglas Bay near the ferry port is a reef known as Conister Rock (aka St. Mary’s Isle), in the 19th century a number of ships were wrecked on this reef and it was too far for people to swim ashore so it was decided to build the ‘Tower of Refuge’ in which there was kept food and water for those unfortunate to be shipwrecked on it. There was also a bell in the tower to call for rescue. At certain times of the year it is possible to walk to here at low tide but this is discouraged as you can easily become stuck here when the tide comes in.
Arriving back at Ronaldsway Airport again check in went smoothly and I was given a £5 food voucher so went upstairs to the café where I had a 3 egg omelette with ham, cheese and mushrooms with chips. This time my flight departed on time and I was soon in Manchester and on the train home. My visit to the Isle of Man lasted longer than planned but I had a great time here and look forward to my next visit.
During my trip to the Isle of Man I used a 3 day ‘Go Explore’ card to use the buses and railways, these cards are available for 1, 3, 5, or 7 consecutive days and cost £17, £34, £41 or £50 respectively, so the longer you stay the cheaper the daily cost. If you are not going to use the trains or trams there are cheaper cards available for the buses only. In addition to the above costs the card itself costs £2 but the card can be reused on future visits or given back at the end of your stay and the £2 refunded.