The Minibus arrived at 9:30am on Thursday morning to pick up the first of 6 riders, taking them to Heysham for the Isle of Man ferry. With the rear seats removed, it easily accommodated the six of us with bikes, panniers and other assorted luggage. By 12:30, we arrived at the Ferry terminal at Heysham, with plenty of time to spare to enjoy our packed lunches before boarding for the 2:15pm sailing, where we met three more of our riders.. It was a calm day. Perfect for the crossing.
It was a 3.5 hour sail, but we were all in good spirits, spending sime time on deck watching Heysham disappear before relaxing in the bar, discussing the 4 days touring ahead. Two of our riders were taking part in the British Cycle Quest - A sort of treasure hunt, so our routes were planned to take in the locations for the islands six clues.
The Ferry docked in Douglas at 5:30pm. Our hotel was only a mile down the coast from the Ferry Port, so we just had a short ride down the prom before checking into our rooms, meeting the final member of our contingent, and sitting down for our evening meal.
Friday was our first complete day exploring the island, and our destination for the day was Port Erin. We headed south down Marine Drive, which was a gated road, so no traffic - Just how we like it. However, the gates did present a small problem for our tandem riders, as it wouldn't fit through the pedestrian gate. We had to lift it over. Thankfully there were only two. The views along this section were great, with rocky cliffs and amazing strata.
Heading inland at Port Soderick, we stopped for a light lunch at Castletown, and the first of our BCQ questions, (after full Manx breakfasts, we didn't need much fuel yet). CTC labelled bollards next to some railings marked the perfect spot to secure our bikes. After lunch, and replacing a broken gear cable we headed west through Port St. Mary, and on through Cregneash to the tip of the island where we spotted seals basking on the rocks between us and the Calf of Man.
Heading north we reached or destination, Port Erin, where we boarded the Isle of Man Steam Railway for our return journey to Douglas. 25 miles covered.
Our destination for Saturday was Peel, and we headed cross country taking in Parliament Hill (or Tynwald), the origin of the Manx Parliament. The return trip was via Cronk-y-Voddy for our next BCQ question, and then along part of the famous TT circuit, but unfortunately the weather was against us, with rain and sleet seeing us arriving back in Douglas a little earlier than expected. 33 miles covered.
A surprise was awaiting us back at the hotel, however, as we discovered that the Raleigh Pro Racing Team had taken over our cycle storage and were having a turbo trainer session prior to the Pro race on Sunday. The team staff were most accomodating though, and our bikes were soon saftely stored away for the evening. We even got a good look at the Pro racers bikes, sleek, red and yellow carbon machines, weighing less than one of our helmets!.
After the rain and sleet, it turned into a glorious evening, and as we were back at the hotel early, we passed the time before dinner with a casual stroll along the prom for a coffee.
Sunday was to be our longest ride. We split into two groups, the first jumping on the Electric Tram to Ramsay, whist the second group rode the coast road following, for the most part, the tram track. Calling to look at Old Lonan's church, for another BCQ question.
We then took a slight detour to look at the famous Laxey Wheel before continuing on to Maughold for another BCQ question, before heading into Ramsay for lunch at the Leisure Centre by the harbour.
After lunch we headed further north to Andreas for our final BCQ question of the day, before returning to Ramsay Tram Station to meet the other group of riders, who had been up to the northern tip of the island "Point of Ayre".
The challenge was now set. Who would be the first group back in Douglas? - Those catching the 4:40 tram, or the riders, leaving at 3:45? No doublt was in anybody's minds, it would take the riders a good three hours, and the tram would win by an hour. How wrong they were! On pulling into Douglas station, who was waiting to greet them. Arriving in Douglas 5 minutes before the tram, the riders had won!. You can see the shocked expressions on their faces if you look closely at the photos.
Monday was our final day, and not wanting to stray too far from Douglas, we took a leisurly ride back to Laxey for those that hadn't yet seen the wheel. A light lunch by the sea, and returning along the TT course past the Grandstand.
We stored the bikes at the hotel for the rest of the afternoon to have a short look around Douglas, and enjoyed a Fish and Chip tea before returning to the Ferry terminal for our sail home.
It was a late sailing, arriving back at Heysham at 11:30pm, where the minibus was waiting, getting the last rider home by 2:30am Tuesday morning.