The week I spent on the island was a bit mixed up. I walked most days, each day getting a bus back to where ever I'd finished the previous day. I was walking in different directions but it didn't matter, there was so much to do in the evenings, I just had to make it up as I went along and try to squeeze it all in. On one day I was walking from Douglas to Ramsey and passed a hotel with a Royal Engineer flag flying out front. There was a note on the door saying that the landlord had nipped out to watch the bike racing but would be back for 5pm. It was just after 4pm, I knew I wouldn't make it to Ramsey that day so I stripped off in the carpark, lay down on a bench and had a sleep in the sun while waiting for the bar to open.
Chatting with the landlord when he got back, I'm looking at him thinking I recognise you from somewhere, without the beard but I wasn't sure. I was right, I did recognise him, back in the early 90's, I did a tour down to the Ascension Island with 267 Fld Sqn RE, a sister squadron, they were doing a construction tour and were short of bricklayers so I went with them. Shaun was a Staff Sergeant with the Sqn so was on the same tour... it's a bloody small world you know... Shaun kindly tipped copious amount of Guiness down my neck and let me use the shower and pitch my tent in the pub garden. Cheers Shaun, great to catch up, and cheers for your hospitality.
I'd met Rob and Amy when I first arrived on the island, they were part of the welcoming committee and they turned out to be my guardian angels putting me up in their house on numerous nights, taking me out to dinner and organising transport to the lodge meeting. After walking to Ramsey I caught an old fashion electric railway back to Lacey to Robs house to sort my kit and get a shower before we drove back to Ramsey for The Tourist Trophey Lodge No. 9872. They performed an excellent ceremony, we had a lovely festive board and the Lodge very generously contributed the £270 Proceeds from the raffle to my walk. I was privileged to dine with the PGM's from both The Isle of Man and Cumberland & Westmorland, an excellent night all round and I thank you all for making me most welcome.
More bus trips to get me back to places on the coast I had previously walked to and over the course of the week, I managed to walk 87 miles of the coastline. I'm told it's about 100 miles right round but a few people had told me to avoid certain bits, boring road walking with nothing to see. I was also suffering, I'd developed an irritating cough which was keeping me awake at night and my breathing was in a mess. Any steep climbs had me doubled over gasping for breath and coughing my lungs up... I clearly had a chest infection...
After walking around the northern edge of the island, I arrived in Peel, on reflection my favourite place on the island.
It had a beautiful little harbour surround by tiny little streets weaving up through the town, a very pretty little place indeed. I walked up onto the headland and found a place to pitch my tent later that evening but being only 6pm I walked back down to the harbour for for a meal. With the beautiful weather, sitting outside the pub next to the harbour, it felt just like being on holiday somewhere abroad, I stripped off my boots and socks and enjoyed a few cold beers in the sun.
I met some Irish Freemasons that had sailed over from Southern Island to watch the racing and after 3 pints I was ready to head up onto the headland to pitch up for the night, I was exhausted and not feeling good at all. Just as I was packing up, two ladies came and sat on my bench and we started chatting. They insisted I hang on a minute as their freind was on her way and they would like me to meet her.
Val arrived shortly after and within 10 minutes we were off on a pub crawl !!! Val was very insistent and I learnt very quickly that you do as your told in Vals company. At the first pub there was a group of girls singing on the stage, within minutes, Val had instructed the manager to get up on the stage to introduce me and to organise a collection...
We were then up and away to the next pub, there was a band playing there too and Val soon had them on side and all the people in the pub turning out their pockets !!! The band broke into a rendition of 500 miles by the Proclaimers and the lead singer challenged me to dance around the circuit of the pub for the duration of the song, if I did, he would chuck £50 into the collection !!! 🍺 What a night and it was about to get better. Val introduced me to David, a very nice man who I noticed wasn't drinking. While we were chatting, David asked if I'd had a chance to travel around the circuit they use for the TT race. I hadn't so David offered me a tour. Naturally I thought the following morning would be best but no, right now he said, there'll be no traffic so I'd get a proper feel of the circuit... Wow, in the excitement, I think David said his sports car had around 300bhp and he certainly knew how to drive it... What an experience that was and as he knew the circuit
very well, I was given a running commentary as we expertly navigated the racing lines.
I didn't know at the time but David is actually the father of the Cycling world champion & Tour De France winner Mark Cavendish, unbelievable !!! What a top guy, he delivered me safely back to the pub just after 1am, the TT course is 37 3/4 miles long so it took us about an hour to get round... the pub was still in full swing having a lock in and I was buzzing, another couple of pints never killed anyone...
Val kindly offered me the use of her motorhome to save me pitching my tent and I think it was about 3am when I finally crashed out on the bed !!!
I was up and out for 8 o'clock, my last day of walking the final stretch of coast was tough going. Tired, ill and carrying a bloody big bag full of cash made it a tough day !!! I eventually got to a bank and counted up.... to be precise, £266.87 !!! Oh, and 5 Australian dollars and 16 Euros... unbelievable... I paid it into my account and made the transfer into the fund, and to think that I was going to bed at 9.30 feeling like death.
What a night it had been, but for 5 minutes, I would have left the pub, pitched my tent and missed out on all of that. It was a pleasure meeting you Joyce, Gill, Val and David, beautiful people all of you.
It wasn't over yet, Val had been invited to a roof top cocktail party in Douglas which would be on my last night on the Island, she blagged me an invite. The party was attended by many prominent people from the Islands business community, we stood out on the roof terrace sipping champagne and watched the Red Arrows do their aerobatic display.
Definitely the best seats in the house but unfortunately I had to leave early, Rob had arranged for Phil, the Provincial Grand Secretary to open up the Lodge room for me to have a look round so I had a very steep hill to walk up to find the lodge. I was late
But I found it and it was stunning, a huge facility and I pledged that one day, I would return to attend a meeting there.
I eventually said my goodbyes and climbed the hill out of Douglas to pitch my tent in the same place as I had done on my first night on the island, a quiet little picnic area looking down over the harbour. I was exhausted, physically and mentally, the Isle of Man and its wonderful people had not disappointed. Far from it, I had been spoilt rotten. I'd added nearly a thousand pounds to the MCF fund, I had watched some bike racing both from the grandstand, pits and from the track side and I'd had a personal guided tour of the circuit in a sports car at 1 o'clock in the morning. I'd met some amazing people, oh, and I'd done a bit of walking too.
It was time to leave, I was going home for the weekend for a good rest before heading back up to Scotland to crack on with the task in hand... Thank you The Isle of Man. 🥰