March 13 , 2010

The Isle of Man



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Either Ruskin or Wordsworth—I forget for the moment which—says somewhere that the English Lake Country begins where its mountains first become visible over the sands of Morecambe Bay. This, indeed, is a proper rebuke to the foolish modern tendency—so entirely subversive of all real aesthetic appreciation—which wishes always to hurry us (too frequently by railway) into the very heart of a beautiful district, instead of encouraging us to approach it by insensible gradations, thus allowing its beauties to work up gradually to their natural and proper climax. Luckily this mistake is impossible in the case of the Isle of Man, which is necessarily approached by water. It is astonishing, indeed, from what great distances its mountains are visible over the Irish Sea. On any fine evening they are plainly conspicuous from anywhere along the level strip of land that constitutes the south-west coast of Cumberland; it is not necessary, in fact, to climb to the summit of Black Comb in order to see
Main ocean, breaking audibly, and stretched
Far into silent regions blue and pale—
And visibly engirding Mona's Isle.
The prospect thus afforded is one of singular distant attractiveness, though the Isle of Man presents no such splendid group of huddled peaks as the Cumberland fells present, in their turn, as seen from the Isle of Man. Only North Barrule, indeed, towards the north end of the island, rises to a distinct and graceful cone.
The Isle of Man has suffered, if we may say so without paradox, from the excess of its own popularity. For many years past it has been the favourite touring ground of holiday-makers from the crowded manufacturing district of South Lancashire; and this, perhaps, has rather tended to discourage those quiet lovers of Nature who, though not exactly addicted to taking their pleasures sadly, at any rate prefer to enjoy occasional solitude, and do not always appreciate the joys of a noisy crowd. Douglas, indeed, in the season is crowded with merry trippers, who pour into it from steamer after steamer, and tax its accommodation to the breaking point. And what is true of Douglas is perhaps also true, in a modified degree, of Ramsey, and even of Port Erin and Peel. These, of course, are centres from which brakes and char-à-bancs and waggonettes perambulate every corner of the island; even the culminating summit of Snaefell itself is now climbed by a double line of electric railway, and crowned by a huge hotel. "Pretty as the island is," says Mr. Haskett Smith, "its hills are nothing more than hills, except where they are also railways or tea-gardens." Tea-gardens, no doubt, are abundantly in evidence; and there is scarcely a glen in the whole island that is not rigorously kept under lock and key, and only to be opened at a price. The tripper element, again, in the Isle of Man is probably responsible for the absence of the old-fashioned mountain inns—like Wastdale Head, in Cumberland, or Penygwryd, near Snowdon—that form so pleasant a feature among the mountains of England and Wales. There even was once a dancing saloon in the lonely recesses of Injebreck; and no one who loves mountains tolerates dancing in their secret recesses, unless indeed it be the fairies dancing their "ringlets to the whistling wind."


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