Cruise Specialists Hosts Steve and Wendy are on the road (or high sea’s in this case) once again with the Voyage of the Vikings. In fact, this is their 7th time doing this particular journey! They started with some amazing sites in Bar Harbor, Norway, Rotterdam and now they’re exploring the British Isles .
One of the more unique places one can visit is The Isle of Man, part of the United Kingdom.
This is a large island, hundreds of miles from anyplace in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Great Britain. We were at anchor off the coast of its largest city and capital, Douglas. Quite a few years ago, we were here for a day and have very distinct memories of our visit which included a train ride and a beer overlooking the waterfront. They are famous for:
- electric railway
- Giant Laxey Wheel
- Isle of Man TT Motorcycle race
- tailless Manx cat, which resides all over the island
We did take a walk along the waterfront and through the shopping district but our main destination was their Heritage Trail. This is an old railroad bed where the tracks have been removed and turned into a hiking/biking trail connecting Douglas with the town of Crosby about 11 miles away.
It started in the city and meandered through some commercial areas before opening up into gorgeous farmland. Thousands of sheep were grazing on the hills above us, most of the time completely disinterested in those who passed by.
It was a beautiful place to walk – completely flat, partly paved and wide enough to walk comfortably two abreast. We only had time for about 6 miles of the walk. In the interest of full disclosure, we admit that we were motivated by the fact that this is also a geocaching power trail – meaning there are caches placed every one, two or three tenths of a mile along the entire route.
Our day in Belfast, Northern Ireland was pleasant but not as special as some of our other ports. Belfast is a very big city and in our opinion, not very pretty or unique and far less interesting than Dublin. We were, as is often the case, docked several miles away from the downtown. We would normally have walked in, but it started raining, so we opted to take the free shuttle and were dropped off at City Hall. This is the heart of the shopping district. Many of our fellow guests jumped on the Hop-On/ Hop-Off bus, but we had seen much of the city several years ago when we took the “Duck Tour”. So we headed instead toward a section we had not seen before known as the Titanic Quarter.
This area of the city preserves and displays Belfast’s part in the building and launching of the RMS Titanic in the early 1900’s. There is a beautiful modern experience center which recreates much of the history and is surrounded by real remnants of the ship’s early environment. We walked several miles along the river Lagan and got to see the shipyards where the famous vessel was built, the docks where she was berthed and we had a view back to the city and of the port that most visitors never see. We managed to get in 11 miles but returned to the ship early, having had enough “big city”.
If we return here again, we will want to get out to the countryside for some more serene Irish scenery.
Dublin, Ireland is famous for: Guinness, the Old Jameson Distillery, Trinity College and the Book of Kells, St Stephens Green, the Liffey River, and St Patrick’s Cathedral just to name a few.
It’s a huge bustling city but still has a lot of charm. We’ve walked here extensively in several previous visits and have taken the required castle tour out of town.
This trip, we looked at the city map and found a giant green space that didn’t look familiar, outside the main downtown district. So we jumped in a cab and had the driver take us directly to Phoenix Park. It turned out to be a wonderful place to visit with lovely trails, great open spaces and the Dublin Zoo.
Nearby is the official residence of the President of Ireland and the mini White House where the American Ambassador lives. Our favorite place of the day was the Irish National War Memorial and Gardens honoring the 49,000 plus Irish men and women who died in World Wars I and II.
The Liffey River runs through the city and in this area, you can take a stroll along the banks on a quiet path and watch people practicing their rowing skills. Making our way back toward the port on foot, we quickly left the serenity of the parks and gardens as we passed through the Templebar District, where the cafes and bars were loud and crowded even in the middle of the day. Live music was all over and the streets were teeming with people. We continued to follow the Liffey with its interesting bridges every few blocks and rather than take the shuttle, we did finally walk all the way back to the ship.
Don’t miss out on the 2017 Voyage of the Vikings!