Arlesburgh is an ancient port. As its name implies it was a burgh or fortified town at the mouth of the River Arle. Situated opposite Douglas on the Isle of Man, it is likewise a deep water harbour formed by the same geological rift. It was probably stockaded first by King Godred MacHarold. King Godred Crovan strengthened it as a base for his first and unsuccessful takeover attempt on the Isle of Man in 1075.
Arlesburgh has withstood many sieges, not always successfully, but the town has generally held out long enough to enable second lines of defence at Gob-y-Deighan (Devil’s mouth), and Ulfstead to be put in a state of readiness to repel unwanted visitors. Following the Island’s acceptance of Henry IV in 1404, Arlesburgh’s defences were no longer needed, and fell into disrepair. Very little now remains.
The place has always been a port, and had a period of high prosperity in the 18th Century when mining began in Arlesdale. This rose to a peak from 1880 to 1930 when Arlesburgh was a recognised calling place for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s steamers from Douglas and Ramsey. The Mid Sodor Railway, operated a boat train service in connection with the steamers. The town became the port for the inland Peel Godred.
The North Western Railway built a branch line from Tidmouth to here in 1916, it was initially intended to reach Harwick but this was dropped when the Admiralty found the line to Arlesburgh sufficient. The extension was again considered during the 1940s, but again was dropped. A naval base was established at Arlesburgh during the First World War.
The steamer service ended when the Mid Sodor closed its passenger service in 1936, and when the last mine in the valley closed in 1947, the port fell into sad decay. Revival began in 1965/66 when the NWR decided to use the port as a supplement to Tidmouth. They relaid the harbour extension, built new jetties, and installed up to date dockside equipment. The 15” gauge Arlesdale Railway, opened in 1967, does not generate much port traffic, as the ballast it carries is taken away by rail, but it does bring visitors and therefore trade to an interesting old town which is a useful starting point for the exploration of a very lovely valley.
Two railway station are located here; Arlesburgh West where North Western and Arlesdale railway trains meet, and Arlesburgh Bridge Street, served by just the Arlesdale. Arlesburgh Bridge Street station was formerly served by the Mid Sodor Railway. The North Western Railway engine sheds at Arlesburgh are home to Duck, Oliver and sometimes Donald or Douglas.
The North Western and Arlesdale railways run through the town. The Arlesburgh Maritime Museum is located here, near the harbour, and is served by a small halt. The Harwick Branch Line splits from the Little Western here, and runs north along the coast to Harwick. Arlesburgh Yard serves as the base of the branch line, and is located just outside of the town.
- When Arlesburgh returned in CGI, the town and harbour were completely redesigned from the model version.
- Several early maps of Sodor, including ones drawn by the Reverend W. Awdry, have Arlesburgh spelt as "Arlsburgh". This was also seen on a signpost in the first series episode, Toby and the Stout Gentleman.
- A picture of Arlesburgh from the third series is seen at the Sailor's Cafe in Big World! Big Adventures!.