Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man grew rapidly in the 18th century. A key factor in this growth was the development of sea links to Liverpool. To this day, our island shares a strong cultural bond with Liverpool and its iconic port. Douglas serves as the hub for the Isle of Man’s many business sectors including finance, legal services, shipping, aerospace and precision engineering, e-business and technology.
Self-governed and independent for many centuries, the Isle of Man is proud of its Norse Celtic heritage, which can be seen throughout Douglas town in street names and the ever-present iconography of the Manx three legs, or triskellion.
Being situated in the middle of the Irish Sea it’s perhaps no surprise that Douglas gets its fair share of wind and rain but throughout the year the climate is very moderate. Summer on the island offers all kinds of healthy outdoor pursuits: hiking, cycling, kayaking, swimming and diving. Many locals are sports junkies and run, walk or cycle to work with most journeys taking somewhere between five and twenty minutes. My own route takes me along a long stretch of Douglas promenade, passing the horse-pulled trams and the Victorian era guest house terraces which hark back to a golden age of tourism in the early twentieth century. I also pass by Douglas quayside. This area has been redeveloped in recent years and is populated with pretty boutique restaurant cafés which look out over the small boats and yachts bobbling in the marina.The island has a very busy film industry, and the quay was used as a location in feature film Spooks: The Greater Good. Locals have grown accustomed to the film trucks and well-known actors that are often seen around the town.
"My own route takes me along a long stretch of Douglas promenade, passing the horse-pulled trams and the Victorian era guest house terraces which hark back to a golden age of tourism in the early twentieth century."
Situated close to the quayside is Douglas Market Hall. Once the trading hub of Douglas, the Market Hall is thriving once again thanks to a partnership between the local council and College of Further Education. Arts and tech undergraduates are now working side by side in small studio units at this fantastic converted urban space, purposefully chosen for its proximity to the retail and business areas.
As with many town and cities in the UK, businesses and cultures are returning to lost traditions and artisan crafts. Just across the street from the Market Hall you’ll find a popular local sourdough bakery, Noa Bakehouse, which is a magnet for artists and creative professionals. At night the bakehouse transforms into a pop-up art gallery, cinema or music venue. Either here or around the nearby pubs, you’ll find traditional folk music sessions and hear conversations held in Manx Gaelic, the indigenous language which has witnessed a major resurgence in recent years.
For me, Douglas offers the perfect mix of culture and business; the jewel of the Irish Sea.
Mike Reaney works at Isle of Man Government’s Department of Economic Development with responsibility for Film and Creative Industries. Mike has worked as a guitar tutor, having performed and written music for games and interactive media. He has lived and worked in the Isle of Man, London, Leeds, Bournemouth and Boston, MA.