Isle of Man
An activity holiday is the perfect way to blow away the winter cobwebs, as Dawn Hinsley experiences when she sets off to the Isle of Man.
There’s a legend on the Isle of Man that if you don’t say hello to the fairies on Fairy Bridge you’ll crash on your way to the airport.
Informed of this by my taxi driver, having just landed in Ballasalla, I dutifully mumbled a greeting.
I was en route to The Regency Hotel on Queens Promenade in Douglas, which was to be my base for a long weekend of outdoor activities that would include an exhilarating sea kayak, a thigh-numbing off-road mountain bike ride and a sedate forest roam on a Segway.
Flying from Southampton Airport on a Friday at 6.55am was great in one respect as it would be three full days of fun, with the return flight home on the Sunday evening.
On the other hand, arriving so early did mean the usual ‘what to do with your suitcase before hotel check-in’ dilemma. Or so I thought.
Most hotels allow you to offload cases, but The Regency Hotel went one step further, going out of its way to get rooms ready to fit in with arrival times.
Therefore by around mid-morning I was already unpacking in my spacious room with sea views. But there was little time for colour-coordinated wardrobe organisation as the action part of the action-packed weekend got off to an immediate start – sea kayaking with Adventurous Experiences in the pretty seaside town of Peel.
Slightly nervous upon seeing waves crashing over the sea wall, I’ll admit to a few squeals on the slipway. But as soon as I hit the water all my fears evaporated.
The instructor, Kierron Tastagh, had a great sense of humour and calm approach to teaching.
Before long I felt relaxed and in control as we navigated the calmer waters of the marina before heading out on to the big open ocean. I literally didn’t want to get out of my kayak, I was so happy.
The next activity on the itinerary didn’t quite leave me with enough energy to enthuse about how I was going to take it up as a life sport.
That’s not to say I didn’t have fun off-road mountain biking in Port Erin with Erin Bike Hut. Once again a great instructor made for a most enjoyable, if not strenuous, experience.
There’s very little Erin Bike Hut owner Steve Franklin doesn’t know about bikes, or apparently can’t do on one, as he whizzed up and down vertical slopes that left me pounding the pedals and hyperventilating. Not that I can blame anyone but myself for a lack of fitness.
Much of the landscape on the Isle of Man I’d describe as a cross between Cornwall and the Yorkshire Dales and, burning thighs aside, the glorious countryside with scenic vistas over coastal views made every second worthwhile.
The exertions of mountain biking were an interesting contrast to the peaceful way in which I’d arrived in Port Erin that morning, on the Isle of Man Steam Railway – the longest narrow-gauge steam line in Britain, opened in 1874, and connecting Douglas with Castletown and Port Erin.
With each station more picturesque than the last, and the steam-puffing, choo-chooing train weaving its way through even more fantastic scenery, it really was a charming way to travel.
On the final day it was back in the same direction, to South Barrule near Foxdale, but this time for a far more leisurely way to ride some of the same forest paths which were the scene of mountain biking endeavours.
The final outdoor activity on the agenda was a jaunt around on a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered electric vehicle called a Segway.
It took a while to get the hang of controlling it, with pressure pads under foot for acceleration, reverse and braking – and navigation by moving the handles side to side resulted in a few whoops and tottering moments during practice – but once we were off it was cruise control all the way.
The three-day mini break also provided an opportunity to try out one more activity the Isle of Man is quite famous for.
Situated in the Irish Sea, the island benefits from very little light pollution which makes it a haven for star-gazing. I have to say I was completely blown away visiting the observatory after dark and seeing the moon in sharp focus, up close for the first time.
And something new for tourists to enjoy will be Dark Skies weekend inclusive packages which launch next month (February 2014).
January 18, 2014 Travel and Lifestyle