Visiting Isle of Man - What to See and Do
(Isle of Man Airport IOM, British Isles)
The Isle of Man, best known as a tax haven for offshore finance, lies in the Irish Sea between Ireland
and Britain. Its head of state, known as the Lord of Man, is Queen Elizabeth II.
This tiny country is a Crown Dependency not regarded as part of the United Kingdom. The island's history dates back some 8,500 years to its first settlement, and the unique Manx language, derived from Gaelic, was established by the 9th century.
Douglas is the island capital and home to most visitor facilities. The town is linked to the Isle of Man's only airport by a regular bus, which services passengers arriving from major UK cities. The majority of the island's hotels are located in Douglas, with the most popular being set along the seafront Douglas Promenade. Due to its generally mild weather, the Isle of Man is a popular spot for short breaks and longer beachside stays.
Socially conservative and laid-back, the locals in Douglas and around the rest of the island seem to have turned time back to the UK's early post-war years, attracting visitors who yearn for a more settled way of life. The Manx people are proud of their island and its lifestyle, with the island's flag on display all over the towns and villages. The island's folklore is fascinating and includes fairies, a Celtic sea god, malevolent spirits, ghostly dogs and mythical giants, and the legend of the Grail Castle and Arthurian Avalon is firmly linked to ancient Peel Castle.
Ten things you must do in Isle of Man
- Travelling around the Isle of Man by way of its unique historic railway network gives an unforgettable journey, as well as superb island views. The heritage railways are powered by electricity, steam or horse power, and include the trams on Douglas Promenade, as well as conventional Victorian railways taking visitors to the mining village of Laxey, Groudle Glen and Snaefell Mountain. Many of the visitor attractions on the Isle of Man are conveniently found close to the railway stations.
- For an overview of Manx history, the Manx Museum offers everything from Viking artefacts and displays relating to the island's famous TT motorcycle races, to films, interactive attractions and exhibits linked to Manx culture and heritage. The Story of Mann trail begins at the museum and extends across the island to all of its historic and cultural sites of interest.
- Exploring the ancient monuments of the island will reveal Neolithic chambered tombs, iconic groups of medieval Norse and Celtic crosses, a Viking boat burial site, the 1,000-year old Maughold Church with its fascinating graveyard, the 4,000-year old Cashtal yn Ard burial site, and the mysterious Meayll Circle, located close to the summit of Meayll Hill.
- Nature-lovers are in heaven when visiting the Isle of Man, as more than 40 percent of the island is unpopulated, as well as uncultivated. Walking is the best way to see all the beauty spots, with coastal Glen Maye one of the favourites for its seclusion, waterfalls and beach. To the south of the island you will find the Sound, giving great views of the Calf of Man nature reserve and the seals basking on rocky outcrops above the waves.
- Gleaming white, historic Milntown House was built in the 16th century and lies in glorious landscaped gardens. Now in trust, its interior, complete with furnishings, silverware and paintings, can be toured, and there is also a fine collection of vintage cars and motorbikes (viewable by arrangement). The gardens are exquisite, while an excellent restaurant is located onsite.
- The Curraghs Wildlife Park makes for a great family day out, with over 100 wetland species from all over the world on display. Many of the species are endangered, and it is a chance to see pandas, penguins, monkeys and much more, away from the traditional zoo setting. If you've time, stop off at the Home of Rest for Old Horses, where numerous retired tram horses live out their days in comfort amid acres of rolling countryside.
- The Isle of Man is famed worldwide amongst motorsports fans for its TT and Manx Grand Prix races, run on public roads since 1907. The Grand Prix race takes place on the winding course up Snaefell Mountain, and both races draw many thousands of spectators from across the world. If you are planning a trip around the events, make sure to book your hotel well in advance.
- Castle Rushen lies in the island's ancient capital, Castletown, and is one of the best preserved medieval fortresses in Europe. Built in the 12th century for a Norse Lord of Mann, it has served over the centuries as a royal residence, mint and prison, and is reputed to be haunted. For a special evening out, consider attending the fun medieval banquets. Of note, the panoramic views from the towers are superb.
- Set on St. Patrick's Isle, Peel Castle was built on a Celtic holy place for a Viking Lord of Mann in the 11th century, predating Castle Rushen as the island's premier fortress. This curtain-walled complex holds a 13th-century cathedral, a round tower and gate tower, St. Patrick's Church and the 16th-century Great Garrison Hall. Its only occupant is Moddey Dhoo, the ghost of a great black dog.
- For visitors searching for outdoor activities, the Isle of Man gives a good choice, especially for keen golfers. Nine golf courses are offered, eight of which are 18-hole, and all of which are set in stunning natural beauty. Other activities include horse riding, mountain biking, archery, sea and river fishing, shooting, rock-climbing, sea kayaking, abseiling and more recently, geocaching (hunting for hidden objects).