This morning, Le Soléal is docked in Douglas, the capital city of the Isle of Man. As guests disembarked in Douglas, they were greeted with bagpipe music.
My only prior knowledge of the Isle of Man is from the annual TT motorcycle race held here each May. The Isle of Man TT race has been held every year since 1911 with only a brief six year delay during WWI.
Even though motorcycle racers tear up the roads of the island at speeds of up to 200mph, our motor coach took a much more leisurely pace. Our coach departed the port of Douglas at around 9:00am heading to the far southwest tip of the island to the small village of Cregneash.
The drive to Cregneash took us through the Manx countryside with rolling green pastures, stone fences and sheep, lots and lots of sheep. And, of course, lots of baby lambs.
During the drive, our local guide gave us the history of the island and how the Isle of Man is a self-governing "dependency" of Britain. There are close to 80,000 residents on the island, many of whom come here for the lower income tax rates (maximum rate is 20%). While the island may be short on population, it is not short on scenic views. The twisting roads undulate through the green countryside with very little traffic. No wonder this place is popular with motorcyclists.
It took about an hour to reach the tiny village of Cregneash. Much of the village forms a "Living Museum" dedicated to the preservation of the traditional Manx ways of life. Cregneash Folk Village shows the typical way of life of a small Manx village in the 19th century.
Many original Manx cottages have been preserved and exhibit Victorian farming and fishing equipment. Historically, most of the cottages’ roofs were thatched, and this is reflected on many of the preserved buildings. There are also a number of private homes in the village, but their external appearance is controlled to maintain an older look.
In the workshop, a blacksmith demonstrates some of the tools and techniques used to make horseshoes and other metal equipment of the time.
The visit to Cregneash was all the more special because of the near-perfect weather today. It is a crisp 58 degrees (F), but the sun is shining and the skies are clear.
The Scenic Heritage Trail tour was enjoyed by all. On the drive back to Douglas, we passed through a couple of other small towns and enjoyed more of the beautiful countryside. We were back on board Le Soléal in time for lunch, after which, I walked back into town (about a 10 minute walk). There is a pedestrian shopping street in the center of town with lots of shops and cafes.
After some souvenir shopping, I returned to Le Soléal. This afternoon, Tauck guests were treated to a performance in the theater by local Manx musicians.
It was another great day with Tauck Small Ship Cruising!
Tomorrow, we will be in Liverpool, England.