24 August – Our introduction to Peter and Andrea’s island hospitality started off with an amazing breakfast to kick-start our day. Orders were taken for anything from a very adequate continental to the ‘full IoM’. The latter makes a ‘full English’ seem quite tame in comparison!
We were destined to share the home-stay accommodation with a group of motorcycling enthusiasts, Kiwis Mark and Paul, Germans Martin and Walo, and lone Englishman Neil, for all the common reason for being there being the Classic TT & Manx GP race series. The first couple of days there was practicing each evening for riders to learn the lines of the 37 mile track on closed roads around the mountain circuit. Bob watched the practice at Parliament Square in Ramsey.
25 August – Mark was not feeling too well on arrival in the Island and on visiting the Ramsey A&E was quickly whisked by helicopter to Nobles Hospital in Douglas where a blood clot on the lung was diagnosed, a consequence of dvt from flying from New Zealand to Germany ten days previously. We made the trip into Douglas to visit Mark, taking the backroad route via Laxey as the roads were still closed for practice. One night in hospital, a CAT scan for confirmation and a few pills was sufficient to see him back on his bike to enjoy the rest of the tour – probably quite a lucky chappie.
Several of Bob’s racing friends from NZ were over to compete or sponsor a rider, with ambitious targets of their own. We met up with all in the pits during the day before racing got underway next day on the Saturday.
26 August – Neville Wooderson had the ambition to see his BSA Gold Star complete the first 100 mph lap by one of these bikes and rider Chris Swallow did not disappoint him, with an excellent 10th place finish in the Senior Classic TT. Three times he circulated above this speed and also achieved a total race time over the magic 100 mph average, so Neville goes home a happy man. Dave Kenah’s rider got the Manx Norton around in this Senior race with impressive average speeds 0f 107 – 109 mph before losing a footrest, forcing his retirement. The afternoon’s Lightweight race was won by kiwi Bruce Anstey in record lap and race times, apparently unreported in the kiwi press, unlike Grant Dalton’s fall in practice on his 750cc Kawasaki. Uninjured in the fall, Grant did compete and finish in the Lightweight event.
This first day of race viewing was at Stella Maris – a spot just outside of Ramsey before a sharp hairpin. We were able to set chairs on the grass outside a house being renovated right above the course, with good views as the riders came around a couple of right hand bends known as May Hill before heading into the Ramsey Hairpin. The unexpected arrival of a race bike up the house driveway, stopping just behind us was a novel moment!
27 August – Jurby display day today. What a huge crowd. The carpark was probably just as interesting as the displays inside the grounds – there must have been in the order of two thousand bikes parked. It was really difficult to move around inside and view any of the trade displays but we did stop and watch some of the bikes doing demonstration laps on the circuit. We probably didn’t stay for more than a couple of hours before giving up and returning back home, where Andrea and I prepared a meal for the boys.
28 August – Monday and the second day of racing. Went went to view at the Gooseneck just outside Ramsey, but low cloud and mist on the mountain eventually forced a cancellation for the day. After returning to Jurby, Bob went into the local motoring museums whilst I decided to walk back to our accommodation – must learn to read the map properly, as it took longer than expected! With the pub kitchen out of action, our hosts’ family surprised everybody with a great and quite unexpected evening meal.
29 August – A reserve day for racing, so we returned to the Gooseneck for the first race, the Junior TT for under 350cc bikes from the Classic era, and seated just inches away from them as they entered this slower corner. Cameron Donald on kiwi Ken McIntosh’s Manx Norton was right up there with the leaders until a misfire caused him to drop back out of the top ten by the finish. For a change of pace, Bob then went along to the Grandstand via a dodgy little country lane to view the pit stops and I got him to drop me off on the esplanade at Douglas so that I could take the electric train back along the coast to Ramsey via Laxey. Quite a novel and enjoyable experience which involved finding a bus for the rest of the journey back to Andreas. Best kiwi performance in the afternoon’s Classic Superbike racing was again Bruce Anstey, who came away with second place.
30 August – Decided to view the first race from the Bungalow today on top of the highest part of the mountain circuit. An expansive view of 2-3 kms of track. The wind was bitterly cold, but some protection was found behind an old building. For the second race of the day we took the scenic road down to Sulby and viewed from Ginger Hall. It went from struggling to hear the loudspeaker commentary at the Bungalow to being almost deafened! It seems that many found the pub on this corner to be as interesting as the racing.
Mark had organised a joint meal out with our hosts’ extended family at a Ramsey bistro, to thank them for their great hospitality far exceeding the call of duty. A nice evening with a large table of new friends.
31 August – Free day for exploring a bit more of the Island. We headed first to Kirk Michael to view the collection of bikes at the ARE private museum, then on down to Peel. A quaint little harbour town with a castle overlooking the town and out to sea.
From Peel the drive down to the southern end of the island was very scenic and we timed it just right to arrive at Port Erin for me to hop on the steam train back to Douglas – leaving Bob to go and explore the town and view another little bike museum near Castletown before meeting up again at Douglas. My little train journey was just over an hour – winding through green farmland before coming to the coast at Douglas. A nice leisurely way to explore the island. Back at Douglas I had time to walk around a bit more of Douglas. The gardens on the foreshore in the town are just lovely – nicely maintained and so colourful. One long pedestrian street runs parallel to the seafront promenade. Rendezvous with Bob was successful and we made our way back home – via Ramsey for fish and chips on the waterfront.
01 September – Last race day for the Senior Manx Grand Prix and our viewing site of choice was the Ballaugh Bridge. Got a good spot on the stairs behind the hotel, which was an exciting place to be as the bikes did a very awkward angled leap into the air over the bridge. The techniques were varied with some nailing it much better than others – fortunately no mishaps here or elsewhere on the course.
Our now tight little group of enthusiasts decided on a final meal out at a local Indian restaurant to end a great stay in a wonderful island full of charm and interesting things to do. A return trip should involve much more walking and a proper exploration of the various attractions.
02 September – With fond farewells we headed off back once more to Douglas and with time to spare paid a quick visit to the Manx museum – they had a tribute to Mick Grant, one of the legends of the TT race track, as well as many other exhibits relating to the Island’s history. From there it was down to the harbour to join the queue for the ferry – a little more efficient loading at this end – and off over the Irish Sea on very calm waters for the 2 1/2 hr run to Liverpool.