Peter kennaugh’s isle of man by bike isle of man travel the guardian rosemary garlic focaccia bread recipe

The isle of man has spawned an astounding number of internationally acclaimed cyclists but, at london’s 2012 games, peter kennaugh became its first olympic gold medallist in over a century. He takes oliver pickup on a two-wheeled tour of his favourite manx spots

There are 83,737 people living on the isle of man, according to the last count, and almost a third of them reside in its east coast capital, douglas. This is where peter kennaugh was born in 1989 – and where his tour on two wheels begins, by the island’s main port, where the isle of man steam packet company ferries pull in.

And the first stop is … noa bakehouse, an artisan bakery in the centre of douglas. It’s important, he says, to regain one’s land legs after a ferry crossing and carb load for the ride ahead. “I love the scrambled eggs they do here,” kennaugh enthuses.

“the sourdough is the best in the world – and I’ve tried it everywhere.”

isle steam packet

Suitably energised, kennaugh rides due south from douglas, linking up with marine drive. It’s the perfect opening to the island biking tour; the views of the jagged coastline are breathtaking, and there are no cars allowed at the start of this 6km (3.7 mile) stretch.

“to be honest, you barely have to worry about cars anywhere on the island, but I really like this bit,” he says. “marine drive is special for me. From the age of six I used to do time trials here with my dad. It has undulating terrain with a few corners, and the scenery is jaw-dropping. In truth, it’s stunning across most of the island – although I confess that sometimes I take it for granted, having grown up here. I especially love cycling here at 8am on sundays. Everyone is still in bed and there is an eerie, quiet atmosphere. It’s as though it’s christmas day, and magical because you feel as though you have the whole place to yourself.”

isle steam packet company

At ballamodha straight, kennaugh peddles north on foxdale road and begins to curve around towards the top of “ the sloc”, the highest point of this particular ride. “you can see down to the east, south and west coast from here,” he says. “and over there is cumbria. On a really clear day you will be able to see ireland.”

Asked about the island’s cycling culture, kennaugh confesses the sport wasn’t always so popular. “we had a very close-knit cycling community here,” he says. “it felt like you knew everyone who rode a bike on the island. Interest has boomed across the country over the past decade or so; it’s amazing to think that it’s now a mainstream sport.”

From the sloc, kennaugh freewheels further south-west, around mull hill (also known as meayll), and on to a “small, lovely village” called cregneash. Home to a flock of the rare four-horned loaghtan sheep, cregneash is also a living museum to the traditional manx ways of life.Here says many of its thatched cottages have been preserved from victorian times, displaying original farming and fishing equipment.

From this point, close to the southernmost tip, cyclists can spot the calf of man, a 250-hectare (618-acre) island and manx national heritage bird sanctuary, a ram-horn’s throw from the isle of man. “it’s good for a day trip,” he says.

All that’s left to do is return to douglas, and what better way than to take the isle of man steam railway, the longest narrow-gauge steam line in britain that still uses its original locomotives and carriages. “having not used this for about a decade I’ve been on it three times in the last month – mostly because my young son, axel, loves trains,” he says. “but it’s a lovely way to see the island, whether you like trains or not. And it allows you to rest your legs after all that cycling.”

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The isle of man steam packet company has regular ferry sailings from heysham and liverpool (birkenhead during the winter) and seasonal sailings from belfast and dublin. Sail to the isle of man with your car or bike (cycles travel for free), or as a foot passenger – there are some great offers available this year