Thursday, June 01, 2006

Postcard from the Isle of Man (4)

Monday, 22nd May 2006

The final day of this current trip and the morning opened with the omnipresent rain. However, the agenda for the day consisted of two museums, both of which were indoors. So, undaunted, we set off for our second visit to Peel, over on the west coast.

Apart from Peel Castle (about which I have already commented in a previous postcard), Peel is home of the award winning House of Manannan.

Manannan is the ancient Sea God, worshipped by the earliest of the Manx peoples. He is used at the House of Manannan to narrate and guide the visitor through the history of the Isle of Man from the earliest of Celtic days, through the arrival of the Vikings and on into the modern era. It is a concept that works very well.

Indeed, the entire museum works very well and is probably the best I have personally come across anywhere in the world. Utilising the most modern of computer technology, reconstructed, walk-through settings of life in a Celtic roundhouse and a Viking longhouse are brought vividly to life, as are scenes of the old 19th century quaysides and kipper factories, etc. Additionally, the museum is home to Odin’s Raven, a reconstructed Viking longboat, which was actually sailed from Norway to the Isle of Man as part of the Millennium of Tynwald celebrations.

The entire tour (which again we made as almost the only two visitors – which we were for most of the time) takes about three hours and I can honestly say that it is worth every minute. Every step of the way captivates and holds your imagination.

One spin off for me was the prompt to learn more about the Celtic races as a whole, a matter about which I previously had only sketchy knowledge. As a result, I am in the process of reading a book entitled The Celts, First Masters of Europe by Christiane Eluère, which gives a most informative overview of the Celtic history.

* * *

The afternoon was spent back in Douglas, visiting The Manx Museum. Compared to The House of Manannan, the Manx Museum is a more conventional and dry museum. However, that said, we were treated to a most interesting film (in a modern auditorium and as the only two viewers) regarding the history of the island and its people. Perhaps if we had visited this museum on our arrival to the island, we would have found it of greater interest.

What is certainly true is the fact that the Manx National Heritage has put together an island-wide historic trail (known as The Story of Mann) in a way which is most inspiring, educational and entertaining. It cannot be praised too highly. Indeed, the judges of the European Museum of the Year Award (just one of the many accolades won by the island) are quoted as saying:

“Now and again one comes across an achievement which is truly revolutionary and which is capable of having great influence on development elsewhere in Europe…and the Isle of Man has become an essential place to visit for anyone who wishes to see how to do the job better.”

I know that we will most certainly return, for we have only just begun to scratch the surface of what this gem of an island has to offer.

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