25 May, 2014

Day 3

We woke up at 5:00 am to get ready and head to the airport for our flight to the Isle of Man. It's a small island (221 square miles) in the Irish Sea, halfway between Ireland and Scotland. It's also where my ancestors and the name 'Kewley' come from. The flight from Dublin was only a half hour. It was a rare sunny, blue-skied day, enabling us to see an amazing view of the island from the air. After we landed, we picked up our rental car and headed to "Ellan Vannin Hotel," which is Manx for "Isle of Man Hotel." It's located on the promenade in the capital city of Douglas. The street runs along Douglas Bay and is lined by Victorian row houses. The streets are illuminated by seemingly endless strands of round bulb lights. In the middle of the bay is a tiny island with a perfect little castle on it, called the Tower of Refuge. It was built to aid shipwreck survivors until aid arrived. It's a beautifully picturesque city.

After checking in to our hotel, we headed north toward Laxey, but stopped along the way at a "boot sale" on the side of the road. It was sort of like a swap meet where everyone parked in rows and opened up their trunks (or "boots") and sold goods out of the back. Kevin bought a few old Manx postcards for 50p each. I didn't buy anything, but had fun looking around and seeing what locals do on their weekends.

We ate lunch in the town of Laxey and planned on taking the train from there to Snaefell, the tallest mountain on the island. Unfortunately, the train lines were down, so we drove toward the mountain and parked halfway up. We then hiked from there to the summit. It was much steeper than I expected and was extremely windy. But it was worth it. The views from the top were extraordinary. Actually, the views the entire way up we're amazing. It's said that you can see seven kingdoms from the top: Mann, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, the seas, and the heavens. I had a latte and a slice of gluten-free clementine cake at the summit restaurant before hiking back down.

From there, we drove west toward Peel. The drive was gorgeous. I heard about this little island of my ancestors my entire life and it was strange to actually be there. Regardless of hearing about it, I hadn't formed any expectations about what it would look like, so I was amazed by its beauty. It rains an average of 140 days a year, so everything is green and lush. The area we drove through is mostly farmland, covered in rolling hills of bright green grass freckled with cows, sheep, and horses. The fields are all separated by hedges, most of them bushes covered in bright yellow flowers.

When we arrived in Peel, we headed to Peel Castle, which was originally constructed by Vikings in the 11th century. It stands on St. Patrick's Isle and is fortified by a large wall all the way around. The isle is attached to the town by a small causeway with a little beach on one side and the harbor on the other. We walked all the way around on a small path that runs between the wall and the grassy cliffs that head into the sea. Green moss covered the rocks and tiny pink and white windflowers sprung up through the grass. After walking around the castle, we went into town for some necessary ice cream. 

We then drove south to the Calf Sound, a small straight and the bottom of the island. On the other side is a tiny island, not even one square mile, called the Calf of Man. It's covered in fields of wild bluebells. The Calf is a bird sanctuary and we read that puffins live there, although I didn't see any. If I ever make it back here, I'd love to take a boat over to the Calf and explore.

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