Spend a day in Laxey – a great favourite with the IslandersOne of the joys of a visit to the Isle of Man is the sheer diversity of the localities packed into its 227 square miles. High among the favourites of many locals and visitors is the picturesque village of Laxey, about 7 miles up the East coast of the Island from the capital town, Douglas.
The best way to visit Laxey is to climb aboard the Manx Electric Railway, a delightful survival from the earliest days of electric traction. A half-hour journey from Derby Castle Station at the Northern end of Douglas Promenade, either inside a glazed Victorian tram-car, or for the more adventurous riding in the open-air trailer, will bring you to Laxey Station, one of the prettiest on the Island. Here you can change onto the Snaefell Mountain Railway, celebrating this year its 125th anniversary, for the journey to the top of Snaefell, at 2036 feet the only true mountain on the Island.
Back in Laxey, Christ Church among the trees at the edge of the station has been adapted to incorporate a small Visitors Centre recounting the tale of Laxey’s mining past – it’s hard to believe today but at peak output in the 1870s the mines at Laxey produced more zinc than all the other British mines put together. Lead, zinc and copper were mined up to two thousand feet below ground from the eighteenth-century until the mines closed in 1930, but because of an accident of history, Laxey is not disfigured by the towering waste-heaps we associate with mining areas. All the waste at Laxey was carted away at the start of the Second World War to be used for runway construction at new fighter stations in the North of the Island.
One of the iconic emblems of the Island is the world-renowned Laxey Wheel, built in 1854 to pump water from the mines, and still turning today. Don’t be fooled by the large waterwheel on the former washing-floors just below the station – this is the Lady Gwendoline, who has had a chequered history but started her life at the Snaefell mine much further up the Laxey Valley. The Great Laxey Wheel, or Lady Isabella to give her full title, the largest waterwheel in the world, is a short twenty-minute walk up the valley – or you can take a hopper-bus, or on Saturdays use the volunteer operated Great Laxey Mine Railway to take you most of the way to the Wheel. Allow yourself at least an hour to visit the Wheel and Mines Trail which includes a short section of underground workings.
For some the main attraction at Laxey is the beach – a wide extent of sand at low-tide with rock-pools to entrance the youngsters and a bathing raft for when the tide is high. At the end of Laxey Promenade is The Shed – rapidly establishing itself as one of the go-to destinations on the Island for coffee and cakes, with comfy outdoor seating and plenty of throws and blankets to keep any chill away.
Of course nowhere on the Isle of Man is very far from Laxey, but if you wish to stay within the village Island Escapes offers a choice of properties. From Thie-Ma-Chree, a traditional cottage beside the Manx Electric Railway at Fairy Cottage to the modern Workshop Apartment in the heart of the village, and Mariners House down by the beach.
This blog was been prepared for Island Escapes by Chris Callow of Island Heritage Tours, Chris can offer private or group tours of many areas of the Isle of Man, including Laxey.
Island Heritage Tours,
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Photos: Island Escapes & Visit Isle of Man