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Marine Drive (Isle of Man)

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Marine Drive
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (19)
From:  Douglas (SC379752)
To:  Port Soderick (SC343728)
Via:  Marine Drive
Distance:  4.2 miles (6.8 km)
Old route now:  B80, A37, B52, B23
Highway Authorities

Isle of Man

Traditional Counties

Isle of Man

Route outline (key)
B80 Marine Drive
A37 Marine Drive
A37 Marine Drive
Marine Drive Gateway

Marine Drive is a road built into the side of a cliff between Douglas and Port Soderick on the Isle of Man. It was started in the early 1890's as a clifftop promenade for Victorian visitors to Douglas, and was partially opened in 1893. Before the drive was completed it was decided to build a tramway along the route, and this was installed in 1896 and 1897, extending to 3 miles. The original wooden bridges were replaced with metal structures, while a power station and tram sheds were also built, the site now being a car parking area next to the Pigeon Stream. In order to get people to the tramway, funiculars were built at either end, one climbing up from the harbour to Douglas Head, and the other from Port Soderick to Marine Drive above.

The Tram was closed for the duration of World War One, and only operated during the summer season afterwards. It then closed for good at the end of the 1939 season, and most of the tracks and infrastructure were removed in 1946/7. The route was, however, retained and after several years of work, was opened to traffic in 1956. The work included the removal of some of the metal bridges, and blasting of the cliff to enable the road to negotiate around the gullys formerly spanned by the bridges. Twenty years later, however, there were a number of rockfalls, and the central section of Marine Drive was closed to traffic. It remains open to pedestrians and cyclists, however, with parking at either end of the closed section.

During the period when the route was open to traffic, it was numbered as the A37. Since closure, it seems to have been depicted on maps with various classifications, but today the northern end from Douglas is the B80, while the southern end remains as the A37, a bizarre detached section of A road, connected only to the rest of the A roads by B roads. The B52 and B23 being the routes in question. For a time, the B52 at the northern end of the A37 appears to have been a spur of the A37, perhaps after Marine Drive was closed, although this is not always shown on maps. The B23 forms the road connection between the end of Marine Drive and Port Soderick at the bottom of the cliff (and also connects back to the main road network).


The Bridge and gate from the sea

To reach Marine Drive proper, the B80 starts at a roundabout on the A41, South Quay in Douglas Harbour. It climbs up Fort Anne Road and Douglas Head Road to the top of the Douglas Head Gardens above the Camera Obscura and Lighthouse. The route then curves around to head south along the cliffs. Ahead the magnificent castellated archway can be seen, perhaps originally designed to match the hotel on the hillside above. The road is soon cut into the hillside, and the only surviving bridge crossed, although the coastal side of the bridge is barricaded off with priority signage. The archway follows soon after, with a lane for traffic in each direction either side of the central pillar. There is a small viewing area protruding out over the cliff.

The road then curves gently along the hillside, with only a very small rockface on the landward side at first. At the first gully, the road cuts deeper into the hillside with another cliff section, but beyond the hillside slopes down almost to the road. The next gully is that cut by the Pigeon Stream, where the foundations of the buildings survive as a parking area, and the road carried over the stream on an embankment, replacing the bridge that originally spanned here. The road continues to meander southwards, small cliffs rising up where the road cuts into the hillside, but in between the fields slope down to the roadside. There is good forward visibility in places, but all too often blind bends mean that cars can be hidden when the road looks clear.

Looking down at the sea at the larger landslip

The cliff then starts to rise again on a right hand bend, and just around the corner are the gates blocking the road, marking the end of the B80. There is plenty of room for cars to turn in the road and park up, and exploration to continue on foot. Just around the bend is the first of the two main landslip sites, a substantial stretch where the road has been undermined, and has continued to slip since the road was closed, with the old wire fence now hanging in mid air. On a map it looks as though the road originally followed a much straighter line, and the bends appear too tight for the tramway, although a viaduct structure carried the trams across. The 1906 and 1921 OS One Inch Maps do, however, show that the current road line at this point, and throughout the closure zone, is little changed today from then, as far as the scale allows.

The cliff appears to be formed from very friable, soft and loose rock, which crumbles easily, and there are a number of piles of rock at the base of the cliff on the landward side all along the road. The next slip is in a much narrower gully, but actually appears to be more unstable, cutting sharply in, presumably along a fault in the rock. The road then comes back out of the gully and winds alongside the diminishing cliff until the fields come back down to the roadside. The gate at the other end of the closure is here, and more parked cars just beyond. This section is actually unclassified, and winds gently along for a short distance, before turning inland again, around a big horseshoe bend cutting deep into the hillside with high cliffs rising above the road. This, at first glance, looks like another landslip zone, but the slopes below the road look far more stable than the other stretches. There doesn't appear to have been a viaduct used here, showing that the trams had to negotiate quite tight bends.

The A37 above Port Soderick

Another cove has to be navigated before the road reaches a junction. This is with the B52, shown as a spur of the A37 on the 1970 OS One Inch Map. The unclassified section of Marine Drive has to give way at the junction, but the road to the left is the A37. This is still Marine Drive, as it curves round past some houses, and continues along the cliff top. As it finally turns inland, a path continues along the clifftop to the top of the former funicular, although there is nothing left to see. The A37 continues, curving round past a car park and drops down to another junction. This is a TOTSO, marking the end of the A37. The B23 comes in from the right and has to give way as it continues down to the beach at Port Soderick. The old hotel has been demolished, but a car park on the riverbank offers the opportunity to explore.

Marine Drive (Isle of Man)
Related Pictures
View gallery (19)
Gate - Marine Drive. Isle of Man - Geograph - 32197.jpgMarine Drive - Horse Leap From the Sea - Coppermine - 2664.jpgMarine-dr-arch2.jpgMarine-dr5.jpgMarine-dr6.jpg
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