Isle of Man

Three weeks on the Isle of Man have flown by. I arrived on 24th May, the Tuesday before practice week. This got Kampington across before the ferry prices escalated for the TT fortnight. It was good to have a few days to mooch around and do touristy stuff before the masses arrived on the island.

I had a day in Peel, which has a fantastic museum (the House of Manannan – lots of history, including Celts, Vikings and fishing…), a very pretty harbour, and Peel Castle.

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Another day, another town and another castle, this time Castle Rushen in the appropriately named Castletown.

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Mark arrived on the Tuesday of practice week, so we had a busy few days exploring during the daytime and watching the practice sessions from various vantage points in the evenings.

We did a lap of the TT circuit on the bike on the Wednesday; thankfully Mark took significantly longer than 17 minutes (race speed) to complete the 37.75 mile course! The mountain section was a bit hairy; it’s one-way only for the duration of the TT and there is no speed limit – so you have cars, vans etc travelling over it (and occasionally overtaking each other) together with lots and lots of bikes at a wide range of speeds from sensible to downright dangerous…..  I felt much safer the following week driving it in Kampington  to get to our viewing spot for the day before the roads closed – there’s only going to be one winner in a collision between Kampington and a lunatic on a bike. Even then some nutter came very close to smacking his head on Kampington’s ear as he roared past a bit too close on a left-hand bend, and a couple of others swerved round Kampington in death-wish fashion….. (the extra step on the back end could have come as a nasty last-minute shock!). Meanwhile I just puttered along keeping to the left at a steady speed and hoping to arrive at Keppel Gate without incident….

Things got busier and busier as practice week went on….. Bikes everywhere…..

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In Ramsey, where we were based (thanks to our £16 for the summer permit to park at Mooragh Park), Parliament Square was permanently packed with bikes and blokes in leathers eating fish and chips. The pattern in other towns seemed to be similar. I dread to think how much the combined turnover of the Isle of Man’s chippies must’ve been in TT Fortnight.It may take some weeks for the pervading smell of vinegar to fully dissipate….

On another day, we had a look round Cregneash, an old Manx village under the stewardship of Manx National Heritage (our National Trust cards got us into all of their attractions for free as part of a reciprocal deal with the National Trust).

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We checked out a few different places to view from in the evenings: The Bungalow (on the mountain section), Ginger Hall, Ramsey, and the Gooseneck. The Gooseneck was particularly good and we did think we might go back there to watch in race week, but as it happened we discovered Keppel Gate and ended up going there for both of the last two race days.

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Saturday was the first Race Day,and we watched from Kirk Michael on a fast section.

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The next day was Mad Sunday. I’d already heard from Mark that it was traditional to ride the circuit that day and that the Mountain Section could be pretty hairy, so I’d already announced that I wasn’t going near the bike that day; Mark decided to give it a miss as well. The centre of Ramsey was quite amusing; I’ve never before seen so many bikes on a road as to necessitate a policeman to direct traffic!

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We had a wander around town and had a look at the drag racing that was taking place along Ramsey Promenade (not overly exciting as far as I was concerned but Mark liked looking at all the bikes). Then in the evening it was off to Douglas (along a road that doesn’t form part of the TT circuit so was reasonably lunatic-free) to watch the Purple Helmets, the local motorcycle display team. We also saw the Royal Signals’ White Helmets, who were very neatly turned out (as you’d expect from the army) and performed their tricks very neatly – pyramids on bikes, riding bikes backwards, climbing ladders on the back of bikes etc.

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They must not have so much Political Correctness on the Isle of Man, as the Purple Helmets opened their extravaganza of daftness with Manx Isis taking on Manx Ices…

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Other highlights included motorcycle waterskiing….

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… toilet racing….

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… and wheely-bin chariot racing.

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Monday was another race day; we watched from Conker Trees at the farm where Mark used to stay. His pal Imaginary/Cheshire Derek was in attendance doing his annual stint on the tea stall….. This section was so fast that I didn’t actually manage to take a picture in focus….

On Tuesday we went to have a look round the Paddock in Ramsey. Each of the big/moneyed teams had their workshops set up with windows so you could watch the technicians working on the various race bikes.

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After that it was down to the front to watch the Red Arrows. I bet the passengers on the departing ferry got a good view!

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Another race day on Wednesday, and we were up at 6.15am to get up to Keppel Gate, where there’s a small field next to the circuit that we wanted to get Kampington onto.

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The viewing from here was fantastic, and it was good to have the luxury of Kampington with us rather than just the bike and a bag of sandwiches…. We discovered that some vans (including our former neighbour from Ramsey) had driven up the night before, so we decided to head back up there on Thursday lunchtime to get a good spot for the Senior (the big race) on Friday. We had a great day right up to the last lap, when the dark side of the TT showed itself at Keppel Gate. There’s no point kidding yourself that really bad stuff doesn’t happen at the TT….The previous Saturday at Kirk Michael the first sidecar race was stopped and three sidecar outfits pulled up right by us. The thing that struck me was that the first thing each of them did was pull out a mobile phone and make a call (presumably the “we’re OK” call back to family at the Grandstand) before standing chatting with each other and the crowd. Presumably two phones in the family section of the Grandstand weren’t ringing…. Truly Grim stuff, but it hasn’t changed my view of the TT as a fantastic event; I’d ban tourist trips up Everest in a second, but if these guys want to risk their own life and limbs racing bikes, fair enough….

Once the racing had finished, the island emptied incredibly quickly (I suppose you can fit a lot of bikes on each ferry crossing). We headed up to Point of Ayre and had a couple of nights by the beach, then a visit to the Laxey Wheel on Sunday / a trip into Douglas on Monday to visit the Museum and the obligatory T-shirt shopping before Mark’s crossing home on Tuesday. I managed to fit in a visit to the Grove Museum in Ramsey on Wednesday before Kampington’s crossing on Thursday….

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Another trip over; time to head back to reality for a few weeks (window fitters at my house next week, then back to Mark’s to finish everything off for the tenants to move in)…. Next trip starts in August!

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