Seven kingdoms claims the popular saying but, in all truth, I am only interested in four. Let it not be said that I am a greedy person. It is possible to have a surfeit of kingdoms. Four is surely enough to satisfy most travellers.
The four kingdoms in question are England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. And there is one place on earth where it is possible to see all four of them at the same time. Where? The summit of Snaefell Mountain, on the Isle of Man.
For stats-fans, the distances involved are: Galloway, Scotland, 50kms; Scafell, England, 82kms; Mountains of Mourne, Northern Ireland, 106kms; Snowdon, Wales, 128kms; Dublin, Republic of Ireland, 156kms.
The day had not started promisingly. Or, more accurately, it had started promisingly but, by the time I had stirred my lazy self, weather conditions had deteriorated. As I was buying my ticket at Laxey Station to board the Snaefell Mountain Electric Railway, the weather was distinctly unseasonable. I dodged the rain under the––meagre––shelter offered by the ticket office’s protruding roof, with the pessimistic opinion that my journey would prove ultimately fruitless. After all, what is a mountain without a view? Just another piece of land. On most occasions I like to travel hopefully, however, with thick grey clouds above obscuring my destination, this was not one of them.
Nevertheless, it was still with a sense of excitement that I boarded the small, electric train. The highly polished, dark brown wooden seats reminded me of the pews in an Italian village chapel. I had been advised to sit on the right-hand side for the best views. Or had I misremembered? Should I be on the left?
With a slight judder, the train began its 4-mile journey. There were good views of the valley and of the Laxey Wheel. Was it my imagination, or was the cloud lifting? By the time we passed the Bungalow station, close to the summit, the rain was a distant memory and the horizon was rapidly expanding.
Arriving at the summit, the wind was sufficiently ferocious to send most of my fellow travellers scurrying for the café and gift-shop, leaving me alone to enjoy the view. The seven kingdoms––the three extra ones are the Isle of Man; the sea; and heaven––were all in evidence, even if I had to make use of an informative plaque and a little bit of creative imagination to see them all. Scotland was very visible; England and Northern Ireland reasonably so; Ireland believably so; Wales… well, it was out there somewhere.
© E. C. Glendenny
Travel writer E. C. Glendenny is ruler of all she surveys.
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