Impressions of the Isle of Man
Covid prevented the HOWL vacation to the Isle of Man in 2021. But this gave an opportunity for five of us to travel in late August, rather than the initial four, to witness the Manx Classic Grand Prix.
The racing schedule was much altered from the one first publicised. This annoyed quite a few regular visitors to the islands. For us it meant a change of ferry crossings (with a large levy) and a couple of additional nights of hotel accommodation to arrange.
With now just three days of official race action planned, it gave us additional downtime to discover this gem of an island. If I'm honest the balance between watching the heroics of the professionals and doing the tourist stuff riding my CBF1000 with my best mates, was perfect. That is not to detract from the brilliant action, but the island itself was for me the 5 star attraction. The trip was planned perfectly by Jon Stone and Jude Browne of the West London branch. Their knowledge of the island and its accommodation ensured we had the best of everything available to us. I am so grateful to them. Travelling also were fellow HOWLers Dan Walton and Tony Surridge.
In order to have a good time anywhere, and especially if touring on a motorcycle, the weather has to be great. Whilst we left the south east on one of the wettest days of the year, once clear of Birmingham en-route to Liverpool, we didn't see any rain for another ten days.
An eight 8pm ferry departure meant arriving at almost midnight at the Waldick Hotel in Peel. The staff did not appear phased at all by our late arrival, in fact Elsa greeted us with a huge smile and insisted on helping me carry my luggage to my room. The tight twisting staircase seemed to go on forever, I swear but for her help I'd have had a heart attack. Peeling back the curtains that first morning made the effort so worthwhile as I had a panoramic view of Peel's main beach, stretching out towards the town's floating harbour inlet, all with a backdrop of the huge 11th century Peel castle. Peel faces west and over the next few days I was to discover why the hotel's WiFi password was "SunsetCity".
The Island is rightly a mecca for motorcycling, not simply as a destination to watch The TT, Southern 100 or Manx GP but it stood out for me as a great touring destination in its own right. It was big enough for a 100 mile tour on some seriously good roads. But it was off the bike as much as being on it that impressed me the most. As a group we went as far north as the Point of Ayre. An area covered by pebble beach and carpeted behind with yellow flowering gorse. From here you could see from one spot on the ground, the Mountains of Mourne in Northern Ireland, Southern Scotland and the Lake District fells of England.
The following day we headed to the most southerly point, where the view was simply breathtaking. The car park was choc a bloc with bikes and I joked that if Carlsberg built a biker's cafe, this is what it would look like. I could have sat on those rocks all day, we had the finest view of both Common and Grey seals, some enjoying the late summer sun whilst laying out on the rocks, others displaying their agility in the water. The cafe had the most impressive bay window imaginable to take in the view, so whatever the weather outside, this place is a must.
The island is so colourful. Motorcycling, I was struck with the red fuschia hedgerows, purple heathers, yellow of the gorse bushes, the lush green of the hills and glens and for us a deep blue sky that lasted our entire nine glorious days. Jon in his inimitable way had everything for the tour planned out. He organised some brilliant days on the bikes, which covered coasts, mountains and historical places of interest. In addition he was not just able to pinpoint the best places to view the racing, but Jon and Jude have contacts on the island, one of their friends invited us to view the action from their front garden of their house on the Sulby straight. Not that was the only viewing point. Jon, using his encyclopedic knowledge of the island's green lanes and back roads led us to major points between races, all with just a handful of U turns ;-)
Would I now recommend a tour to the Island? Too right I would.