Trails and trials of the writer who walks
It’s drizzling and I have a carriage to myself on the steam train heading for Port Erin, but I plan to get off at Castletown (photo shows station waiting room) and visit a few pubs for an hour before catching the next train.
Had an enlightening chat with the guardsman at Port Erin regarding Manx names. ‘Bally’ just means place, he told me. Ballysalla means ‘place of the willow’. Names with Moar mean ‘big’.
He also explained to me the popularity of Port Soderick (where I came across the derelict tourist facility) in Victorian times. He told me that the visitors took a ferry across Douglas Harbour, and then rode a funicular down to the cove where there was a café and outdoor pool. Then they would get the railway back to Douglas. That explains the size of the station at Port Soderick , when in fact there is nothing there now except the derelict cafe building. Manx people never seem to demolish old buildings, even really ugly ones. When they get too bad for safety, a fence goes up round them.
Coming back into Douglas, I leave the station and walk uphill away from the sea, to the financial sector. Here is the Prospect pub – very smart – so now I see the affluent side of the island. Along the road I see a Savile Row tailors, a drycleaners, well-kept housing, less property for sale, men in suits, no charity shops. Douglas has two polarised economies: financial and dying tourist trade.
Heading down the hill towards the sea, the buildings become increasingly dilapidated. If you live in Douglas you probably start off with an address at the bottom and work your way up.
Have carried on my exploration round the backs instead of going down to the front. It’s almost Dickensian: decrepit houses, filthy ginnels. As I’ve observed before, empty buildings are left to rot for decades, never demolished.
Love the pubs though! (Did I mention Okell’s Manx Pale Ale? Oh, yes, I did, didn’t I. Still, it’s worth two mentions.) And love the scenery. Might come back in summertime one year, stay in Douglas and do a bit of pub-crawling on the railways. Edelweiss Hotel have promised me an excellent discount as a returning guest.
Next trip: West Highland Way.