The Isle Of Man was a mystery to me until last year, 2014, when my two children moved there for a year for a gap year helping in a voluntary capacity with community & young people’s projects.
Resident in Port St Mary to the south west of the Island, their front window overlooks the beautiful bay & harbour. Palm trees are common across the whole island.
Just below their house is a small secluded bay where locals & visitors stroll or walk their dogs, the stillness broken by a gentle breeze .
But don’t be fooled: that gentle breeze can become a ferocious force of nature with a centuries-long legacy of driving ships to their doom on the rocks.
The breeze can become a wind that whips up waves higher than the distant harbour wall & creating spray that breaks over the road just in front of the house where my children currently live.
Walking along the sea front towards the harbour we pass rocks & boulders, weather-beaten by the legendary winds. Seaweed, some attached to the rocks, some living in the rock pools & at the water’s edge & some deposited amongst the rocks by the tides provides a flash of colour.
I love the variety of shapes, shades & colours on the shoreline, especially when highlighted by the sun. Beyond this variety of textures the eye is drawn towards the deep blue sea & endless lapping of the waves.
A little further along the walk we encounter the natural deep water harbour, a haven to ships from the storms over the years to present day.
Now populated by a mixture of pleasure craft, yachts & small fishing vessels the harbour is always a hive of activity.
A lone lighthouse watches over the entrance, signalling to ships that there is safety here if needed. Colourful crab & lobster pots are stacked awaiting their next use & nets lie awaiting repair.
The Isle Of Man & the sea are inextricably linked with much of the Island’s supplies either being drawn from it or imported on it.
In the distance one can see the start of the central mountains. On this day they were quite clear & green. However, when the Cloak Of Mannin falls they are hidden by a dense veil of fog. Recent snows have melted but often form a white backdrop to the coast in Winter.
Yes; the Isle Of Man can be full of contrasts & extremes.
Testament to the bravery of the Island’s mariners, a memorial pays tribute to the those who have lost their lives on the seas; in peacetime & at war.
An anchor stands over a compass whilst poppy wreaths pay last respects.
Behind lie the flat rocks where 6-foot waves break, dwarfed by the scale of the sea.
On this day, the sun was shining but the air temperature (with wind-chill factor) was -1°C so I fully experienced the effects of the onshore wind 🙂
Once back in the town one is treated to narrow streets & beautifully appointed houses. Sure, there are areas awaiting renovation & repair but the town has a very rural & homely feel about it.
Running high above the harbour, gaps between the buildings provide lovely views across the sea, along with some insight into what goes on behind-the-scenes.
There is no shortage of classy cars on the Island either. Here you can just see an Aston Martin growling up the street.
This is an example of a view from the top: nestling below is the harbour expanse including original fishermen’s cottages, along with the inner & outer harbour wall & lighthouse.
Moving south & west from Port St Mary we pass through Port Erin & eventually reach the very beautiful Sound.
Here the main Island is separated from the Calf Of Man by a narrow strait. Resident on the rocks of the Calf Of Man is a large seal population, many of which pop up around the rest of the island.
There is something quite magical standing in the wind on the Sound watching the sun set over the Calf Of Man & the sea. On this occasion, we were treated to a wonderful range of hues, reflections, shadows & silhouettes.
Whilst the sun fell from the sky above, the waves crashed & surged against the rocks below, the only sounds being wind, waves & calling birds.
Moving north from the southern tip of the Island my next stop on this visit was Peel where my daughter Becky worked.
Home to the Island’s cathedral & overlooked by the castle, Peel is home to a fleet of larger fishing vessels.
It is also home to the Island’s power station which cuts a stark, modern contrast to the gentler architecture of the multi-storey houses.
Sea level walks provide colourful vistas of houses, boats, sea & castle.
Cliff top paths are lined with bright yellow gorse, contrasting with the grey skies & blue sea.
Panoramic scenes from high points to the north of the town provide a wonderful vista of the whole town.
Up-draughts & eddies provided currents on which the gulls, jackdaws & various land birds can soar. Brambles lie bare & sleeping, twisted along the cliff-top walls.
Water in the bay area is deceptively calm in this shot. Winds were from the south west so the bay was sheltered by the surrounding hills & town. However, beyond those harbour walls the seas were turbulent & foaming.
Walking towards Peel castle you cross a swing bridge separating the harbour from the marina where a mixture of pleasure & fishing vessels sit comfortably alongside each other.
Awaiting their next trip out to sea, these brightly coloured boats contrast with the surrounding heathland & sit under the clouds rolling off the hills towards the town.
Across the bridge lies a high sea wall shielding you from the wind & waves. Only as we emerged from its shelter did we appreciate how effective it is.
Climbing the steep stone stairs in front of the castle you begin to catch a glimpse of what was hidden by the sea wall.
An inlet bay washed by milky blue seas flowing out towards the headland.
Behind the castle the wind blew spray across our path as a lone seal bobbed in the sea just a few metres out from the rocks, disappearing every so often to reappear at a new location. I don’t think it was very impressed by the small dog who was quite excited by this potential new friend!
As we emerged through the castle wall into the harbour area we saw a guillimot perched on a low wall, searching for fish, as a dark blue cormorant flew by a little further out.
The beach, so often full of children & families in Summer was now deserted except for the brave few! A faint rainbow arched between sea & sky as a passing shower passed through.
The tide continued to recede, revealing more of the sand & rocks beneath whilst blue skies reflected in the water.
This short visit focused on the western side of the Island by nature of where my children were working. Matt, my son also works on the eastern side in Ramsey which is also beautiful but will be the subject of a different blog entry.
As we returned home to Port St Mary, I was reminded of the intense beauty of this small Island as the skies cleared, treating us to another glorious sunset.
A rock pool reflects oranges & yellows as the sun set behind the hill. Above the darker clouds of the approaching rain front the blue skies still shone.
The Isle Of Man is indeed an Island of contrasts: in nature; in climate; in wealth. But that is another story.
Take care until next time …