On our first day in the Isle of Man we were keen to fit in as much as possible and I was eager to revisit some of my favourite spots from my childhood holidays, the first being Laxey. The great thing about the Isle of Man is just how easy it is to get around the island, especially with a Go Card which then gives you unlimited travel on scheduled services of the Steam Railway, Manx Electric Railway, Snaefell Mountain Railway, Douglas Horse Trams and buses. We were gifted our Go Cards for use during our stay and we made full use of them, starting with the Manx Electric Railway.
The Manx Electric Railway was built between 1893 and 1899 and connects the Island’s capital, Douglas, with Laxey in the east and Ramsey in the north. It takes you along 17 miles of some of there most scenic stretches of railway in the British Isles and for me, it was a real trip down memory lane remembering the last time I had sat on those trams, all those years ago.
The children have never been on an Electric Railway before and that in itself was such an exciting experience although due to the first carriage being very full we were positioned in the second open air carriage which made for quite a breezy ride to say the least! That said, it was worth every moment of cold to take in those views!!
We got off the tram at Laxey station and decided to spend the first part of our day visiting Laxey Wheel. Laxey is a picturesque village located on the east coast and although in the past it was a thriving mining and fishing village, these days. it is a popular tourist spot on the island.
From Laxey station the area is well sign posted and yet there was one place I was desperate to take the children and that was to Laxey Wheel and the Mine Trail which has free admission for National Trust members.
I love how Laxey has stayed true to its roots and, although the mines are no longer in use, they are still very much a part of the village. The Laxey Mines were actually the deepest minutes in the whole world during the 1800’s and The Great Laxey Wheel, ‘Lady Isabella’, was used to pump water out of the mines.
Despite Laxey being a small village, I can see why tourists flock there each year as there is still so much to do, especially for the children. With our visiting taking place just before Easter we missed out on the steam trains running throughout the Summer, something we plan on doing during a return visit in a few months time.
As we approached Laxey Wheel it felt like no time at all had passed since my last visit, despite it being thirty years at least. There is something so special about revisiting childhood holiday destinations with your own children and as I saw their eyes grow wide at the sheer size of the wheel, I saw myself at their age and how it had seemed like a sky scraper to me back then.
It’s funny because I remember as a child how my Dad had held my hand as we climbed the steps to the top, and my Mum had sat at the bottom refusing to go up the wheel as it was “just too high!”. Returning as a grown-up, with so many new fears of my own, I was literally gripping that staircase for dear life whilst the children bounded up beside me without a moments fear or hesitation.
The Great Laxey Wheel is the largest surviving wheel of its kind in the word and stands at an impressive 22 metre diameter, every metre of which I felt as we made our way to the top!!
Despite my fear of heights there is no denying that the view from the top is incredible and you can see for miles around. The countryside in the Isle of Man is breathtaking, and completely unspoilt, and it was so special to share a moment at the top together.
I couldn’t resist asking the children to pose for a photograph with me in the exact same spot I posed for a photo myself at the same age. I feel as though I spent the entire weekend telling them about the things I did during my holidays on the Isle of Man and yet they drank in every story with such interest and I’d love to imagine that one day they’ll do the same with their own children.
Having conquered Laxey Wheel, and with our feet firmly back on the ground, we decided to make the most of the lovely weather and enjoy a walk along the Mine Trails, spanning through the Glen Mooar Valley and across to the old Compressor House.
I love the information points along the way which tell a little more about Laxey Wheel and the mines along with images of how it used to be. It’s hard to imagine that a popular tourist spot such as this was once a thriving mining workplace and really interesting to read all about it.
The children love trails of any kind and loved following the sign posts up and down the hillside, down towards the stream, and back again several times as we took a wrong turn! We did speak to a member of staff on the way out who told us that they are planning on improving the sign posts on the Mine Trail as they were a little misleading at times but, for us, it was all part of the adventure!
And I love days like this one, just wandering along together, exploring the countryside, taking in the views, and breathing fresh air into our lungs. Whilst Eva, Megan and Harry ran ahead, waving sticks and fighting imaginary dragons, it was nice to spend some time with Lewis and just chat about nothing at all in particular, just enjoying each others company. I long for these days when the holidays are over and am always grateful to have so many lovely photographs to look back on and remember.
There was just one thing left to do before we left and that was to go into one of the mines, something which the children were very excited about! I think there is something very exciting about putting on a hard hat and going “into the ground” when you’re little, and actually it’s still pretty exciting as a grown up.
You can only go part way into the mines these days, most likely due to health and safety reasons, and yet it was still so exciting for the children and the perfect way to end our morning!
We had such a lovely time at Laxey Wheel and the Mine Trails and I’m sure we could have kept on exploring even further had we not had plans for the rest of the afternoon.
After a short walk back into the village, where we enjoyed spotting some of the local businesses and popped into one of the tea rooms for a quick drink and a cake, we arrived back at the station ready to board the Mountain railway to our next stop, Snaefell!
The Snaefell Mountain Railway is the only electric mountain railway in the British Isles and takes you right to the top of Snaefell. I did the journey as a child and can remember feeling as though I was on top of the world, and also how cold it is up there!!
Even for those who have no real interest in reaching the summit, the views on the way up are worth the journey alone. With stunning views of Laxey wheel and out across to the countryside, we spent the whole journey just staring out of the window and listening to the commentary from the driver.
The railway winds its way up 2000 to the top if Snaefell, the only mountain on the Island, and as we went up and up the children couldn’t believe how small everything appeared below us.
When we got to the top the driver told us the return time back and you can either ride back down again on the same train or wait for another if you’d like to spend a little more time up there. As soon as we felt how bitterly cold it was at the top we knew it was a case of getting a hot chocolate in the cafe, taking in the views, and jumping straight back in the carriage again!
Peaked at 2,036 feet above sea level, it is said you may be able to see some, or all, of the Seven Kingdoms – England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the kingdoms of heaven and the sea.
As we got back onto the tram it felt like another tick on our bucket list of experiences shared with the children, and I love that their very first mountain they ever climbed was right here in the Isle of Man, in just the same way as it was for me at that age.
Back down the mountain into Laxey we had a short wait until our tram back to Douglas, not that the children seemed to mind as they found one of the un-used carriages to play in. All three of them love vehicles of any kind and it was so lovely to see how happy they were playing at being the train driver and conductor, and I realised that often the simple pleasures are the ones which bring the most fun.
We had such a good day at Laxey and Snaefell and as we arrived back at the holiday house, tired and windswept, I knew that it was one of those days we would always remember, and that’s all I ever ask for from our travels.
** We were invited to the Isle of Man in exchange for an honest review of our stay. All words and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated **