When you leave the Isle of Man Railway steam train at the terminus of Port Erin, a short walk from the station brings you to the most spectacular harbour on the island.
It’s no coincidence that the railway’s southern line terminates here.
Port Erin – in Manx Phurt Chiarn, the “Lord’s port” referring to the British sovereign, the Lord of Mann – was already a modest fishing port before the Manx economy developed with the arrival of steamships in the nineteenth century.
A huge breakwater, constructed with much effort between 1864 and 1876 at a cost of £80,000, was severely damaged by a storm in 1868, and the finished pier was utterly destroyed by a further storm in January 1884, which scattered concrete blocks weighing up to seventeen tons.
While the Port Erin harbour was being constructed, the railway lines from Douglas south to Port Erin and west to Peel were built.
Work on the railway began in 1872, but the unexpected arrival on the island in June 1873 of the Duke of Sutherland, chief of the railway company’s promoters, a month before official opening date, slowed the progress he had come to inspect.
Track was hurriedly shifted from the Port Erin line to Peel so that locomotive No 1 Sutherland could with appropriate ceremony enter Peel station, where it derailed, leaving the Duke to adjourn to the Creek Inn. The Peel line opened on July 1st 1873, followed by the Port Erin service on August 1st 1874.
As the terminus of the steam railway line from Douglas from 1874, Port Erin slowly grew into a small town.
In 1900 the Port Erin Building Estate was laid out by Horrocks & Lomas for Richard Cain of Castletown. In 1901 the managing company was reorganised and renamed the Athol Park Estate Company (Port Erin) Ltd, but there was little development before 1914.
In the optimistic climate of this period the Isle of Man Railway rebuilt Port Erin station in 1904.
Port Erin became neither the major harbour nor the thriving holiday resort its promoters intended.
Instead, it’s a charming and relaxing destination for Isle of Man holidaymakers.
There are few finer Manx experiences than sitting in the conservatory of the Falcon’s Nest Hotel [http://www.falconsnesthotel.co.uk], gazing out at the remains of the breakwater in the bay, or eating and drinking in the bar of the Bay Hotel [http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g616277-d1773319-Reviews-The_Bay_Hotel-Port_Erin_Isle_of_Man.html] on the harbour front.
The 72-page, A4 handbook for the 2014 Manx Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.