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August, 2018

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Castletown, at the mouth of the Silverburn River, was the power base of the Norse rulers of Mann in the C12th. A settlement grew up under the protection of “Castle Rushen”: It was the the capital of the Isle of Man until it transferred to Douglas in the mid C19th. The tourist boom in the C19th largely passed Castletown by.

Fishing was the traditional livelihood and breakwaters were built to provide safe anchorage for fishing boats. There is little fishing now, but small pleasure boats still moor in the inner harbour at the mouth of the Silverburn Burn, reached under a narrow swing bridge.

The old part of the town is around Castle Rushen and Market Square. Narrow alleyways run down to the shore. The tall monument in front of Castle Rushen is the Smelt Monument erected by public donation to the popular Lieutenant General Cornelius Smelt, who died in 1832. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough money for the statue. Queen Street with its brightly painted houses is the main road into the town from the south. Arbory Street is the main shopping area with its small family owned shops..

“Tynwald”: met in the castle until the start of the C19th when it moved to what is now the Old House of Keys, just off Parliament Square. It later moved to Douglas when that became the capital. The Old House of Keys is now in the care of the Manx National Trust and has been restored to what it would have looked like in 1866. It is open to the public and you can join in a daily debates here.

The Old Grammar School overlooks the breakwater and across to the Langness Peninsula. Built around 1200 as the Chapel of St Mary, this was the first church for the new settlement of Castletown and is the oldest roofed structure on the island. It became a grammar school in 1701 and a new extension was added. In 1931, the school was closed as numbers were falling and the building was in poor condition. Manx National Heritage acquired the building in 1950 to save it from demolition. It is now part of Manx National Trust and is preserved as a Victorian schoolroom. In August 2018, there was scaffolding around the building and it was only open for events or prebooked groups.

The “Nautical Museum”: on Bridge Street overlooks the Silverburn Burn. Captain George Quayle, a member of the powerful Quayle family, lived in the big house. He was a politician, business man, founded the the first Isle of Man Bank and inventor. There were stories that he was a smuggler, although those are now disputed. The carriage shed next to the house was converted into a boathouse for Quayle’s yacht, The Peggy.

The railway arrived in 1874. Castletown Railway Station on the edge of the town is a splendid building constructed from the local limestone. Trains regularly pass here.

Castletown is still a bustling and busy place with a lot of eateries. The main attraction is Castle Rushen which dominates the town. It is also the start of a popular walk along the Silverburn to the ruins of “Rushen Abbey”:

There are more pictures “here.”:


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