A few weeks ago, my outbound Flybe flight from Luton to the Isle of Man, scheduled for this past Monday morning, was canceled. Twice the airline emailed me an alternative itinerary. The first time I simply clicked the Reject Schedule Change link, only to be greeted with an ominous demand to ring a call center. Recalling my easyJet flight cancellation disaster of 2006, the fear of enormous rebooking surcharges ricocheted inside me with an entirely inappropriate vigor. I didn't ring the call center, hoping that some sort of intervention would save me from a near-inevitable charge. So when an Flybe sent me an identical email last week, it was a relief. I acquiesced.
My nearly two full days of running around the island had been reduced to one. (And in another unfortunate move, I forgot to take my camera with me. My absent-mindedness was really unfortunate, as the views coming down from Snaefell were truly extraordinary. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)
My flight arrived early, just before 9 p.m. From the airport—notable signage: a request that non-EEA citizens arriving from Ireland register upon arrival—I took off in a taxi for the Glen Mona, my b&b (£45 for the night, including breakfast.) I found a kebab place and ate takeaway on the Central Promenade overlooking Douglas Bay. It remained light quite late, and it was chilly but comfortable.
On Tuesday, with time of the essence, I woke up and hit the road. I bought a one-day Island Explorer Ticket (£13) and took the electric train from Douglas to Laxey. At Laxey I transfered to the Snaefell Mountain Railway, which I took up to Bungalow, an intermediate stop. Here I alighted and walked slowly, dodging sheep, up the remainder of the mountain to Snaefell, the summit of the Isle of Man. The views were outstanding, even with clouds all around and the whipping wind.
I walked back down to Bungalow. Seeing no rail car anywhere in sight, I decided on the spur of the moment to walk back all the way to Laxey. The attendant at the train station told me that the walk would take two hours and that trail markings were faint up to the old abandoned mine. So I set out, on the side of the sloping valley opposite from the railway tracks. There were times when the trail itself all but disappeared in the grasses. At another point, hopping through weedy marsh, it became clear that I'd lost the trail altogether. The enormous valley was very quiet, with just the sounds of the wind, the occasional clacking of the train, and, for a short time, the voices of some other hikers. The trail transitioned into rocky unfinished lanes and then paved country roads on the way into Laxey.
A few hours later, after a return to Douglas and a stroll through the city's commercial zone, I boarded the island's Steam Railway for Ballasalla, a town near the airport. When the conductor found out that I was headed to the airport, he arranged for a special stop for me and two other flight-bound passengers at Ronaldsway, just a jump from the airport of the same name. Ten minutes later, I had successfully checked in for my flight.
It was a short, action-packed visit.