25 May, 2014

Day 4

We slept in on Sunday morning; the extra sleep was much needed. We ate breakfast in Douglas and walked around the town a little bit. The city is a lot more urban than expected, despite its meager population of 28,000. Walking around, we noticed everything was closed and only a few people were out, perhaps because it was Sunday morning.

Again, we drove north to the town of Laxey, but this time we stopped at the Laxey Wheel, the largest working waterwheel in the world. It was built in 1854 and designed to pump water out of the area's many mineshafts. It's truly an engineering feat and if I could explain its workings to you, I would. We climbed the narrow spiral staircase to the top and could see all the surrounding towns and out to the sea. We also went into one of the mineshafts. At its peak, the mine employed over 600 miners, primarily producing lead, copper, silver, and zinc. I can't begin to imagine what life would have been like for a miner working here over 150 years ago.

Next, we drove a few miles north and parked the car on the street near the trailhead for Dhoon Glen. It is the steepest glen in the Isle of Man and runs over half a mile through a wooded valley that follows a stream, along with several waterfalls, all the way to the shore. What I read about it online said the main path "meanders through a dense canopy of trees," but it turned out to be a legitimate hike with 190 stairs to the bottom (and consequently, 190 stairs back up to the top). It was a little more intense than expected, but definitely worth it! There were small waterfalls the entire way and one large one falling 130 feet, called Ineen Vooar, Manx for "Big Girl." And we chose the perfect time to visit because there was a rainbow of wildflowers blossoming all around. It was definitely one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever been on.

From there we headed to the town of Ramsey for lunch, then in to Lezayre, the parish where our ancestors are from. We have an old drawing of Kirk Christ Trinity Church where our ancestors attended church, and just happened to recognize it from the road. We got out of the car to take pictures just as the neighbors, a farmer and his wife whose fields surround the church, set out to take their dogs on a walk. We asked them about the church and they told us it closed last year because not enough people attended to keep it running. The bishop wants to have it torn down, but the farmers, named Julian and Virginia Edwards, are trying to save it and offered to care for it. They were married in the church and all of their children were baptized there. They asked if we had gone inside and when we said "no," Julian went home to get the keys for us. He let us in and showed us around. It's a simple church with skinny stained-glass windows and wooden pews. It was surreal to know that we stood in the same building where our ancestors got baptized and married, prayed, and dedicated themselves to God hundreds of years before us. Time just keeps rolling on. 

Afterward, we thanked Julian and Virginia, then looked around the church's cemetery. We found several Kewleys, but we're not sure which ones are our direct relatives. The majority of them were named William or John, so it's hard to tell who's who. There was a monument to all of the men of the parish who died in World War I, including Alfred Kewley. His tombstone revealed that he was killed at Galipoli. It's weird to think that someday I might return to that cemetery to teach my own children about their heritage.

From there, we drove to the northernmost point of the island, called the Point of Ayre. It was a large shore covered in small stones. We could see across the sea to Scotland on the other side. There were two red and white lighthouses to keep safe any ships that might pass by. 

The Isle of Man's claim to fame, besides Manx cats and being the filming location of the movie Waking Ned Divine, is the TT, the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world. We drove back to Douglas, but down the island's west coast, through several little towns, and on much of the TT course, which was most enjoyed by Kevin, who's done all of the driving on the trip. The island's climate is extremely varied with everything from mountains and forests to lush rolling hills to rugged cliffs and stony shores. I've truly never seen anything like it before and think I'm in love.

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