Lockdown hey? Remember that? It may already feel like a distant reality, cocooned as we are in our Island bubble, but lockdown has a lot to answer for. Not only did it pen us into our homes, imprisoning us for a three month sentence of Netflix, takeaways and functioning alcoholism; it also made us realise just how much we need our holidays. So many travel plans were delayed indefinitely. The cancelled once-in-a-lifetime trips, the delayed weddings, the postponed festivals. Everyone has their own version of gallivanting curtailed. All these disappointments meant that there was an onus on us to make the most of things. When basic freedoms eventually eked their way back to us, like guilty puppies, tentatively trudging in our direction, the euphoria was overwhelming. We saw, truly saw, what we had here – the simple, understated beauty of our Island. But man, how many of us are aching for a holiday right about now…

Thank Jezebel then for Island Escapes, the Isle of Man’s largest provider of self-catering holiday cottages. There’s something for everyone – idyllic escapes scattered all over the Isle – Andreas, Port St Mary, Ballabeg; holiday cottages both coastal and countryside, glamorous and simple, pet or kid-friendly. My family and I had the pleasure of staying in Laxey Holiday Home – Mariner’s House. Nestled snugly behind the stentorian roar of Laxey Beach, Mariner’s simultaneously combines homely warmth with crisp and clean modernity. 

The first thing that hits you is the soft swell of sea salt caught in the breeze, carried from frothing sea to gleaming door. The location is ideal, literally a stone’s throw from the beach.  The house itself is spotless – seriously, Kim & Aggie levels of clean here – everything sparkles ivory-white. As the youngest of our brood bulldozes his way into the living room, snot charging from his nose, sickly sticky ice-cream-inflected fingers keen to tarnish anything and everything in the room, I fear bringing him here – whilst mandatory – was maybe ill-advised. As sand pours from his pockets like a shattered hourglass, I become concerned. Thankfully, such fears are soon curbed. One wicker basket is a treasure trove of kid’s toys, books, games, cards and, much to his delight, an array of animal figurines. In fact, as I write this, him and his Mother are en route to the beach and I hear the immortal sentence “You can’t carry a pig and ride your bike”. I hear the faded echoes of an argument that suggests, actually, you can. The home is deceptively spacious; a classily decorated open plan living area with lots of room for entertaining or as in our case, for your offspring to explore like tiny Indiana Jones’.

The attention to detail sets Mariner’s apart immediately. A hand-penned welcome note is a nice touch, as are the ‘goodies’ the scribe mentions are left for us. Some of our fair Isle’s finest produce is bequeathed: Creamery peppercorn cheese & milk are in the fridge while Ross Bakery’s sumptuous bread and a plethora of biscuits adorn the kitchen counter. Wandering through the property, it becomes apparent each room offers fresh towels, linen and, less expected but still a wonderful surprise, is the appearance of Alexa in all three bedrooms and lounge. I nod approvingly and mentally prepare myself for the arguments I’ll have with her later, after wine number three.

“Alexa….play Elton John”

“Now playing…Olivia Newton John”

“Alexa…”

“….”

“ALEXA!!!”

“I can’t find Alexa Alexa in your music library”

*Collapses to knees, howls at the skies* “WHY!!!”

A cricket set, tennis rackets, buckets, spades and bodyboards are all hidden away in a cute cubby hole. More importantly, when cooking dinner, I spot not only kitchen roll but fairy liquid and dishwasher tablets. It’s enough to make a middle-aged man weep! 

We spend the day at Laxey beach. The eldest, on the provided bodyboard, bobs and weaves in tune with thundering turquoise waves. The youngest settles alongside his big bro, momentarily startled by a fearsome wave that he ingests whole. Youngsters celebrating the end of the school year skim stones and dart into the choppy waters whilst elders sip lattes’ and eat ice-cream on nearby benches. 

Back at Mariner’s, a game of jenga turns momentarily hostile and another wicker basket of delights is discovered. There are warm throes, ready for romantic nights in the courtyard garden, listening to the gentle hum of the night. 

On the Saturday morning, we make our way back to the beach. It is early, the tide is out and our only companion is the burning terracotta sun causing our eyes to squint and the lapping sea to shimmer. There is the faint sound of birdsong in the distance, echoing through the still of the woozy morn, and I watch my boys charge headlong into battle with the pulsing, raging, sonorous sea. It’s easy to forget such tranquillity resides on our doorstep.

Island Escapes are helping remind us of that and providing the reasonably priced alternative holiday many of us need. It’s safe to say the impact of lockdown has yet to be fully felt. Spending locally is certainly the way to help re-energise the economy and that won’t just be Island Escapes and its property owners benefitting from your stay, they work with a vast array of local suppliers – the laundry, housekeepers, gardeners, food and drink providers – all of whom could do with the boost right now.

And remember, spread the word!  Bark like a demented dog; bellow like Brian Blessed! To all your friends, family, acquaintances and heck, even your enemies; anyone who is looking to visit our resplendent rock burrowing in the middle of the Irish Sea. Give Island Escapes a try and immerse yourself in a different part of the Island, escaping to a wilderness in your back yard.

For more information or to book your holiday retreat, head to www.islandescapes.im. All locals can get 10% off their stay when the code STAYCATION is selected at checkout.

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