After a recent brilliant long weekend there, I wanted to share some of my favourite things to do in the Isle of Man with you all. As usual when I start writing a list, it got a bit out of control… It is just a list though, so if you like background and detail, I also have a more in-depth guide to visiting the Isle of Man from last year, and if you’re looking for what to eat and drink in the Isle of Man, I have that too. And I’m going to write an itinerary for a long weekend without a car there because I didn’t half cram a lot in during my latest visit.
Like I’ve said before, the Isle of Man is a totally underrated destination. I don’t know why more people don’t know about it, although that’s part of its charm. The Isle of Man’s scenery rivals that of the Lake District and Highlands but it doesn’t have the same volume of tourists, which makes it much better. It’s often even quiet enough for you to get beaches or glens entirely to yourself. And as we all know, there is nothing better than being away from other people.
Anyway, onto 60 of my personal favourite things to do in the Isle of Man…
1. Gorge on fish and chips from Port Jack Chippy in Onchan
I’m kicking my whopper of a list off with this because if you’ve just arrived on the Isle of Man, it’s a great first port of call. I mean, I’ve not tried every fish & chip shop on the island (yet – I’ll get back to you on it one day) but so far I think it’d be hard to beat Port Jack Chippy.
2. Visit the Manx Museum to learn about the Isle of Man
I recommend doing the Manx Museum early on in your trip. This is because it’s a great place to start to understand a bit more about the Isle of Man and its history. It’s really well done inside – surprisingly large and loads of different exhibits. Despite lots of fascinating stuff in there, I have to admit my favourite things were the Enormous Elk and a pufferfish with an hilarious facial expression. It’s free to get in and is open 10:00 – 17:00 Mon – Sun.
3. Enjoy a starry, starry night
There are 26 official dark sky areas dotted round the Isle of Man. If you’re not familiar with these, I can assure you that 26 is a lot for an area that size. This just shows the wonderful lack of light pollution the island has. We’re all so used to seeing the night sky with a brown tint to it that it’s actually really impressive seeing it truly black. Also, you can sometimes see the Northern Lights there too (who needs Iceland or Norway?!). I’ve never caught them there but am determined to one day. There’s loads of info about stargazing in the Isle of Man here but even if you don’t have time to set aside to watch the stars on your trip, take a minute to appreciate how beautifully dark the skies are when you’re waddling home from your evening drinks.
4. Have a ride on a horse tram and wave at everyone going past
One of the most famous attractions in the Isle of Man is the horse tram. As a horsey person, I’m always wary of any tourist stuff involving horses, but these chaps are exceptionally well looked after. They’re all Shires, Clydesdales or crosses and they have GREAT human names: Andrew, Philip, Keith, etc. It’s only £3 a go and takes you along the full length of the waterfront – or you can use your GO card (an all-in-one travel card for all the public transport on the island). As ever with any kind of unusual transport (see tourist boats, cable cars…), riding the horse tram is a prime opportunity to wave manically at strangers.
5. Spot some wallabies (yes, really)
Over 100 wallabies are living wild and free in the Isle of Man after some escaped from a wildlife park in the 1970s. I am not joking. They’re thriving there and absolutely loving life. If you manage to spot one, you could 100% deceive your Instagram followers that you were in Australia. The best place to see them is Close Sartfield nature reserve.
6. Rootle around in rockpools in Niarbyl
This is possibly my favourite place in the whole of the Isle of Man. Niarbyl (meaning ‘the tail’ in Manx) is a craggy, rocky beach with a really good café overlooking it on the edge of a cliff where you can eat the freshest seafood, including their delicious crabby salad that I always go for. The beach is the best one on the island for rootling round in rockpools. If you’re around at the right tide time, you’ll see crabs, seabirds and the odd jellyfish. It’s also where the film Waking Ned was set. There’s a white cottage that makes for a good focal point of a photo but don’t bother nosing through the window. It’s not the cosy rustic lodge I was hoping for inside. Just some spartan Ikea furniture and a discarded crisp packet. It’ll only spoil the illusion. Wild flowers (harebells and more) line the cliffs, which you can go and walk along for some gorgeous views.
7. See the Tower of Refuge in Douglas
Originally built for sailors to await rescue, this tower in Douglas bay has become an iconic part of the Manx coastline. You can walk out to it in low tide, but it’s meant to be pretty dangerous most of the time due to how fast the tide can come in. If you attempt it, please try not to die. They do have an annual official walk to it, so I imagine you’d have less of a chance of dying during that if you fancy it. Or if the prospect of a watery death doesn’t appeal, you can spot it from a distance and still get a good photo.
8. Stroke a Manx cat
While you’re exploring the Isle of Man, keep an eye out for a classic Manx icon: the lovely tailless cats. Who needs a tail when you’re this fluffy? Side note: the below innocent-looking Manx cat murdered a vole just after we photographed him. Standard cat behaviour.
9. Nose at unsuspecting people through the Camera Obscura
This is going to be a running theme throughout this list, but lots of tourist things to do in the Isle of Man are actually from Victorian times when it was the ‘in’ place to go for your hols. The camera obscura is one of these Victorian novelties. When the weather is bad, they close it (because you’d not be able to see much!) so check the flag is flying before you go. That means it’s open. It’s also only open May to September at the weekends, 13:00-16:00 Saturdays and 11:00-16:00 Sundays. It costs next to nothing to get in as far as I can recall, but not entirely free.
10. Cry happy tears at the Home of Rest for Horses
The Home of Rest for Horses is just outside Douglas and is my favourite thing to do on the IoM. Fellow horsey people or just animal lovers in general will be in heaven. It’s a retirement home not only for the old horse tram horses, but for all kinds of equines, including some loud donkeys. It makes me cry happy tears to see all the old dears having such a good life. Chris has a particular thing with a cute little palomino who took a liking to him on our first visit. There’s a café if you need sustenance while you’re there and a gift shop, where I purchased my all-time favourite tea towel. I have a favourite tea towel. This is what life has come to. Anyway, the backdrop of rolling hills is stunning and it’s just an all-round heartwarming way to spend a few hours. It’s only open in summer and is free to get in – but you should obviously make a donation.
11. Drive on the magnetic hill
A magnetic hill is a rare optical illusion. Basically, a slight downhill slope looks like it’s an uphill slope because of the context of the surrounding land and not being able to see the horizon. This doesn’t sound that exciting, but it means that it looks/feels like water is flowing uphill or that a car in neutral will roll UP a hill! You can find the magnetic hill on the A27 Ronague Road, and there’s a stone marking the start of it at the bottom of the hill. If you’re going to mess about rolling your car around, again please try not to die. Thank you.
12. Stroll through the seafront gardens in Douglas
Douglas promenade has some really colourful gardens that you can walk along, next to the beautiful Victorian terraced houses. I’d recommend walking through the gardens rather than down the beach. It’s not one of the island’s better beaches. Soz, Douglas. But if you stick to the gardens and promenade, you can have a nice post-eating walk in Douglas of an evening.
13. Visit the Gaity Theatre in Douglas
You can’t miss the unexpected architectural treat that is the Gaiety Theatre, which you can also do a tour of on Saturdays in Summer for £8.50. It’s a stunning Victorian beast, definitely worth a look. Also it’s a fully functioning theatre still, with gigs and plays etc on. And er, a projection of Cliff Richard’s 60th Anniversary Tour last time I checked.
14. Have a scone in Bride Tearooms
Bride is a tiny hamlet but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in tearooms. There’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d be saying today. Bride Tearooms is one of our regular ports of call in the IoM. We usually bring the average age down drastically but as I’ve said in previous blog posts, we all know that pensioners can sniff out a top-notch scone a mile off so this is a sign of quality. Just be warned, from what I can remember, they only take cash. I’m so used to using contactless cards that I’ve ended up scrabbling round for change in the past.
15. Have a cocktail or five at Bath & Bottle in Douglas
For a drink in the evening in Douglas, I really like Bath & Bottle. They do craft beers, including local ones from breweries on the island, and amazing cocktails. You’re probably not going to be there for a massive full-on night out in Douglas (although I’m sure it’s possible) but if you’re after somewhere with life in it at the weekend, this is a really good shout. Last time we went, I did not feel out of place in heels and a jumpsuit. Not something that happens very often on a more countryside break.
16. Ride the Groudle Glen train
Groudle Glen was where Chris always stayed as a child so it’s always on our list of regular favourites to see on every visit. There are lovely woodland walks to be done but the main entertainment is getting a little train from within the glen (how cosy does that sound?!) up to the cliff edge, Sea Lion Rocks. The train station is full of retro posters for beer and soap and things, which I love. The ride itself is great – there’s nothing quite like coming round the corner where the sea views open up. Who doesn’t love a little train ride? It’s one of the must-do nostalgic holiday activities.
17. Visit the House of Manannan in Peel
Peel is a lovely seaside town and home to the House of Manannan, a museum all about the Isle of Man’s Celtic and Viking history, including a replica of a Viking longboat. This is a brilliant shout if you’re caught in the rain. FYI, Manannan is a mythical sea god and he guides you around the museum with an amusing voice. The whole thing takes about an hour, but is entertaining and good for understanding a bit more about the island.
18. Go up the Laxey Wheel
Laxey is a village and beach set into a valley that makes for some beautiful scenery with all the houses lining the hills. For anyone into the world of cycling, this is where bicycle-riding royalty Mark Cavendish is from. The Laxey Wheel, or Lady Isabella to her pals, is the big deal in Laxey and one of the main attractions in the IoM in general. It’s a huge, bright red waterwheel set into the hillside above the village and you can go up it to look at the view – although I think it makes the view in itself, so quite like just looking at it from outside. You can have a good lunch at the Ballacregga Corn Mill Tea Room next to it.
19. See the ‘seven kingdoms’ from the top of Snaefell
From Laxey, you can get the incredible Snaefell Mountain Railway up over 2,000 feet to the top of the Isle of Man’s only official mountain, Snaefell. My one warning to you is to try to pick a very clear day to do this, because on an overcast one it’s pointless. Assuming you have a sunny day, you’re in for a treat. Hopefully. It sort of has its own microclimate so you might still end up in fog… but have a go anyway. It’s worth it if you strike it lucky. The views are beyond anything and it’s the only place in the British Isles where you can see the ‘seven kingdoms’ of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Heaven, Mann and the Sea from one vantage point. You can only do it between April and September and it’s worth checking the timetable before you plan it in.
20. Admire the cliff-based view at Sea Lion Rocks
The aforementioned Groudle train (see #16 of this list) takes you to Sea Lion Rocks, where there’s a little café and the best views in the whole island. Despite the gorgeous views, the history of Sea Lion Rocks is really depressing. In Victoria times, sad polar bears, brown bears and sea lions were kept in horrible tiny cages and a cove there. You can still see the cove, with an artificial wall built into it. It was a major tourist attraction in its day. On a more positive note, the view is incredible.
21. Bundle up at The Shed on Laxey promenade
Laxey has one of my favourite beaches. It’s almost always raining when we go though, so I don’t have even one photo of it with a bit of light on it unfortunately. But rain is acceptable because there’s a bunting-strewn, snug little café called The Shed. It is a lifesaver. You can go and have a hot chocolate/a cup of tea/enough cake to feed a small army, all while wrapped up in one of their blankets looking out to sea. The dictionary definition of cosy. I’m sure it’s even better in sunshine but there’s something to be said for enjoying a brooding sky and a rough sea without getting soaked.
22. Have brunch at Noa Bakehouse in Douglas
Noa Bakehouse is always on our list when we go to Douglas. It does the best pancakes and the best ‘squassants’ (squashed croissants, and I’ve probably spelled it wrong). These two dishes together make a brunch of champions. Noa Bakehouse also serves almond/oat/soy/etc milk for your tea or coffee, which isn’t always a given when so is always good to know. As a bonus, it’s really beautiful and Scandi looking inside and always has a good atmosphere.
23. Stroll along Peel beach with an ice cream
The main deals in Peel are the castle (see #16 on this list) and the beach itself. The latter can only be walked on if you have an ice cream in hand. You have to buy one from the local ice cream parlour, Davisons. That’s the law. I heard that the sand just swallows you up if you’re without one. Horrific stuff. Peel also has a really pretty harbour, full of the sound of boats bobbing and jangling about. If you’re there when a trawler comes in, watch out for seagulls following it and pooing on you. Oh and don’t miss The Boatyard Restaurant. Highly recommend their afternoon tea if you’re not too full of ice cream.
24. Admire Douglas’s gorgeous Victorian buildings
I don’t like to compare anywhere I’m fond of to London… But you know those really pretty Victorian terraces that fashiony people always have their photo shoots outside of? Douglas has more than its fair share of those – with the added bonus that they’re not in London, naturally. The whole promenade is lined with them but you can find some of the best around the back streets – especially when walking up to the Hutchinson Square area. They’re mostly in muted pastel colours and I have a particular thing for the bluey-slatey grey ones. There are also some brighter-coloured versions of these sorts of buildings round Victoria Street, pictured below.
25. Have a vegan lunch in Ramsey at Rosa’s Pantry
I’m trying not to make this list all about food but if you’re a regular reader, you probably know that everything has to come back to eating on my blog… Anyway, Rosa’s Pantry was a new one on me for our last visit. It was so good to see somewhere new catering for veggies/vegans as well as something new to try up in Ramsey, a town in the north. I had a lovely home-made quiche with an excellent mixture of side salads. No soggy bottom on the quiche and some amazing looking cakes. Rosa’s is definitely going to be a new regular.
26. Explore Peel Castle
Peel has a castle on the seafront. An actual castle. Well, it’s more of a ruin, but still impressive. You can do a lap of it if it’s not too windy, and then walk down the beach to the other end of the town. Or you can go inside it, which is really worth doing because the views are great and there’s a lot to see inside – it’s actually bigger than it looks from the beach. It’s apparently haunted by a ghostly black dog called Moddey Dhoo. What a great name. If I was forced to pick what kind of ghost I saw, it would definitely be a dog one. Far less scary than humans. I won’t attempt to list the castle’s opening times because they’re complicated, but you can check its page on the Manx National Heritage site. It’s £6 to get in.
27. Pose with the Platform 9 3/4 sign at the railway station in Douglas
Calling all fellow Harry Potter fans. You don’t have to go to London to get a cheesy photo. There’s a handy platform 9 3/4 sign in Douglas station.
28. Explore Ramsey and do a bit of shopping
Ramsey is up in the north of the island and like pretty much everywhere I’ve mentioned so far, looks out onto the sea so has some lovely views. You may catch the lifeboat being taken out for a practice run. Ramsey’s centre has a handful of really nice shops to mooch round, including my favourite The Tide. You can find all kinds of trinkets, postcards and Isle-of-Man-themed bits and bobs. They stock Seasalt clothing, which can be a bit ‘southern yummy mummy’ but is ethically produced in the UK and sometimes has a few gems. I bought an emergency Seasalt cardigan from The Tide about 5 years ago (pictured in the crazy golf photo #51 in this very post) and it’s still going strong.
29. Scare yourself shitless on a ghost tour
I don’t believe in ghosts. Or that’s what my logical brain likes to think. I just don’t want to be proven wrong and the prospect of it makes me shudder. BUT, I do enjoy a good ghost tour (as long as I’m not on my own in the dark for at least a week after). There’s a haunted hospital in Douglas and if that doesn’t give you the willies, I don’t know what will. They also have tours in other towns round the island, all £5. You can find out where and when they meet on the IoM Ghost Tours site. Please leave a comment on this post or drop me a message if you ever see anything because I love stuff like that. Not that I believe in any of it of course.
30. Ride the Manx electric railway
You have to go on the electric railway from Douglas. Another Victorian treat. The train goes through stunning countryside, along the coast and past Laxey before depositing you in Ramsey. It stops at loads of scenic little stations on the way that have brilliant floral displays in summer. My only warning is to sit on an outdoor carriage at your peril. It will completely wreck your hair.
31. Buy kippers from the kipper factory in Peel
When in Peel, call in at the famous kipper factory to stock up on all your kippery needs. They’re perfect for an indulgent weekend breakfast or in a kedgeree situation. If you’re having the latter, don’t forget to sing to the tune of Tragedy, the following: Kedgeree. It’s a rice-based dish and it’s made with fish. Kedgeree! It never gets old that. Anyway, you can do a tour of the kipper factory if you’re there over summer (May to September) on Mondays. It lasts half an hour. They talk you through the smoking process and it’s only £2.
32. Get the seal of approval at The Sound
The Sound is where you’ll spot some seals. I was going to add ‘if you’re lucky’ but I don’t think I’ve ever gone there and not seen seals, so it’s really likely you will too. The Sound is right down in the south of the Isle of Man and as well as seals, it’s full of other wildlife. Dolphins and basking sharks sometimes call in and there are loads of seabirds. The best place to spot seals is to the left (if you’re facing out to sea), and if you walk around you can find some little steps that go down the rocks to a small seating area. Try not to fall and die. From there, you can quietly watch seals appear just past the edge of the rocks. They like popping their heads up to say hi. There’s a cafe (called the Sound Cafe) right next to the coast, which is designed so that most tables have a panoramic view. We’ve been on pretty much every trip we’ve ever done to the Sound because it’s such a good location. But it gets busy and can be slow, so if you’re doing your trip via public transport make sure you allocate plenty of time for your lunch and don’t miss your bus.
33. Have a local gin at Seven Kingdoms in Douglas
The Seven Kingdoms Distillery (named after the seven kingdoms you can see from #19 on this list) is a bar and restaurant on North Quay in Douglas. They do their own excellent rhubarb gin, as well as loads of other flavours (but rhubarb is the best, am I right?). I always enjoy a local gin or three and I was dead impressed with theirs.
34. Get blown away at the Point of Ayre lighthouse
Have you ever seen a more lighthousey lighthouse than this? The Point of Ayre is the northernmost tip of the Isle of Man. If you can brave the wind at this rather barren area, you can get some excellent photos of the brooding skies with the pop of colour from the oldest lighthouse on the island. The land around it is attractively bleak, if that makes sense. Out to sea, it’s only 16 miles south the Scottish coast and the sea goes really deep really fast. This means you’ll often see surprisingly large ships up close and it’s a popular fishing area. You can’t go in the lighthouse, so you don’t need long for a visit – it’s worth going to though, if you like lighthouses. And wind.
35. Explore Glen Maye and its waterfall
Glen Maye is a woodland with a brilliant bridged gorge and waterfall – SO many photo opportunities. The closest town is (I think) Peel so you can combine this with visiting there. Oh and it also has another bit of waterwheel – a wheel case in this case (ha). Possibly less exciting than the Laxey wheel but keep an eye out anyway. I do love a good waterfall so if that’s your thing, pencil this in for your trip. It’s actually not the island’s biggest waterfall though – that’s apparently at Dhoon Glen but we’ve not ventured there yet.
36. Travel back in time at Cregneash
Traditional thatched Manx cottages are beautiful. Chris’s Great Aunt Madge used to live in one in Bride (you can see a photo of it in my Isle of Man guide, if you’re interested). You’ll find these cottages dotted around the island but the biggest herd must be in Cregneash. You can also go inside them there. They’ve got it all set up how it was back in the day because Cregneash is a ‘living museum’ showing how life was for farmers/crofters in ye olden days. They have cows, pigs, sheep, horses and Manx cats. It’s £6 to get in and it’s open 10:00-16:00 most days but is closed in winter so do check the website.
37. Unleash your inner crazy cat lady at the Mann Cat Sanctuary
If you like kitties, there’s a cat sanctuary you can go and visit. We’ve not been yet, but it’s on our to-do list for next time. It’s not exclusively for the aforementioned tailless wonders that are Manx cats but it has lots of cats of all types roaming about for you to meet. There’s a suggested donation of £5 for visiting, which you can do on a Wednesday or Sunday throughout summer, 14:00-17:00.
38. See the oldest continuous parliament in the world: Tynwald
If you thought Iceland had the world’s oldest parliament, think again. And I’m not just saying this because I didn’t really like Reykjavik… The Isle of Man claims the oldest continuous parliament ever. Tynwald kicked off in Celtic and Viking days and is still going now. Also, the island’s national day is called Tynwald Day, on 5 July. On this day, thousands of people rock up at Tynwald Hill in St John’s, pictured below, where the parliament meets for a procession and ceremony. The hill is where the original parliament used to meet (they modernised and moved indoors, which was v sensible given the weather). There’s an adjoining church and a little exhibition centre to nose round. It doesn’t take long but is one of those things you have to do.
39. Eat at Just Pizza and Pasta in Douglas
Just Pizza and Pasta was another new one we tried on our last visit and I ended up having one of the best pizzas I’ve had outside Italy. We made our own veggie topping options but there were loads of pre-set options on the menu too. They do them in a wood-fired oven, which I always think makes it 10x better. I feel like Douglas needed somewhere like this – there are loads of Italians but this is a modern one with the kind of look and feel of somewhere you’d expect to find in a cool area of a city, if that makes sense. It wouldn’t be out of place in the Northern Quarter in Manchester or Bold Street in Liverpool. Oh and another nice thing about it was that I left a glowing TripAdvisor review (rare for me to do these days unless I hate somewhere!) mentioning that it would be great if there was a dairy-free cheese option for lactose intolerant people/vegans. The manager then replied that they’d got that! So we can gorge on cheese next time without the lactose-based side effects for one of us.
40. Spot the fairy doors in Castletown
This is probably aimed at children, but who cares. I thought it was brilliant. All round Castletown, a town in the south of the island, you can see tiny doors built into the sides of buildings. They belong to the town of Balley Cashtal Beg, which is Manx Gaelic for ‘Little Castletown’. A town within the town! You can do a whole walk/trail looking for them.
41. Visit Castle Rushen in Castletown
It was only on our latest trip to the Isle of Man in July that I finally went round Castle Rushen in Castletown. Check the website for its opening times but it’s £8 to get in and is worth it. Unlike the castle at Peel, it’s very much not a ruin. It’s pretty much in full working order and it has a lot to see. Most of it is indoors so it’s a good one for a rainy day. It features those standard-issue historical dummies where you’re not quite sure if they’ll suddenly start moving and make you jump and then die of shame. Please keep an eye out for the banquet scene and inspect what they’re eating. I swear there’s a plate of plastic smashed avocado on sourdough. Surely Instagrammable food wasn’t a thing then…
42. Ride the steam train to Port Erin
From Douglas you can get yet another piece of Victorian action: the steam train. It takes you all the way to Port Erin with various stops along the way, lasting about an hour. You can use your GO card too. I’d never done the journey until our last trip and Chris hadn’t done it since childhood, so it was kind of new to him too. The scenery was spectacular – seriously, the Isle of Man has all the scenery, from dramatic cliffs to rolling green fields. I think we may have been the only people using teh steam train as an actual method of transport rather than entertainment (to connect to the bus in Port Erin to take us to Castletown before heading to the airport on our last day). I enjoyed this immensely. Also another chance to wave at strangers, as mentioned earlier.
43. Stock up on generic birthday presents at Tynwald Mills
After visiting #38 of this list, the parliament of Tynwald, we inevitably end up in the neighbouring Tynwald Mills outlet shopping centre. Don’t tell me you come to this blog for serious cultural recommendations and not outlet shopping centres. I actually do highly recommend this place because they have great Cath Kidston/White Company/Le Creuset discounts. You can sort all your friends’ and colleagues’ generic birthday presents for the next five years in just one trip. Side note for all my fellow horsey readers: There’s also an equestrian shop there called Horse and Rider. It’s small if you’re used to the likes of Naylors or Robinsons, but it has a good selection and I somehow always come away with something.
44. Eat your own bodyweight in queenies at The Little Fish Café
My absolute favourite place for our evening meals in the Isle of Man is The Little Fish Café on the North Quay. Manx queenies (a type of titchy scallop) are a big deal round these parts, and you can get some amazing ones there. It’s also really pretty inside and one of those places that I’m confident recommending to my friends/family when they visit because everyone will love it. The food is exceptional and it always feels like a special night out without breaking the bank. I should also note that it’s the first place I ever got recognised in real life by a reader of the blog, which blew my mind. This obviously cemented it as my favourite restaurant of all time. Oh and I now charge for autographs.
45. Say your hellos at the Fairy Bridge or face the consequences
A trip to the Isle of Man would be incomplete without crossing over the famous fairy bridge while screaming HELLO FAIRIES (they’re slightly hard of hearing). If you don’t do this, they will hunt you down. So it’s better to just do it rather than have a load of disgruntled fairies turn up at your door wanting blood. It’s just a small bridge over the Santon Burn on the A5 Port Erin to Douglas road, and you’ll spot it because it’s surrounded by weird fairy/angel tat. And there’s a great big sign saying Fairy Bridge. Interestingly, it’s a modern invention and the ‘real’ fairy bridge is elsewhere on the island. I couldn’t possibly reveal where, though. You’ll have to ask the fairies to pin it on your Google Maps.
46. Find the best view in Bride
When you’ve had your scone at Bride tearooms (see #14 on this list), you can go and have a look at Bride’s excellent viewpoint. It’s in a field but it is well signposted. You can see the Point of Ayre lighthouse (#34 of this list) in all its lighthousey glory, along with delightful rolling countryside and of course, the sea. On a clear day, you can even see Scotland. There’s also a playground on the way back into Bride. This has excellent swings. And I can assure you that no one notices if anyone in their 30s has a quick go on them. Ahem. There are also some beautiful little cottages and houses in Bride, which you can gawp at before wandering round the lovely churchyard. I know it sounds odd to want to walk round a churchyard but it’s a really nice one, with another good lighthouse-based view.
47. Have a pint at the Shore Inn in Laxey
Not only is there a beautiful dog sometimes in this pub, but the Shore is somewhere you can get a reliably good pint of local Bosun’s Bitter. Ideal if you’ve been on the beach at Laxey and it’s just started raining and need shelter and/or beer. It’s nothing fancy but is a real locals’ place. Did I mention the lovely dog? All holidays are made 100 x better by meeting dogs.
48. Have afternoon tea at Milntown House and Gardens
Just outside the centre of Ramsey (it’s a grim trek if it’s wet and windy, mind) you’ll find the lovely Milntown House and Gardens. There’s a tearoom where you can have lunch or afternoon tea overlooking the pretty gardens, but you can also do a tour of the house to tick all the National-Trust-style boxes.
49. Look out for the legs of man everywhere
The three legs of man symbol is on the Manx flag, it’s on money, and it’s on some rather nice doors. You’ll see it all over the show when you’re on the Isle of Man. It has a motto linked with it that you often see written around it in a circle: ‘Whichever way you throw, it will stand’. That will come in handy in a pub quiz one day, mark my words.
50. Conquer the Isle of Man coastal footpath (or a bit of it)
Raad ny Foillan is Manx Gaelic for ‘The Way of the Gull’. You can make like a gull and see (sea, gull – help?) the island at its best by walking its amazing coastline on this path. The whole thing is about 100 miles long and covers the whole nation! But unless you’re a seasoned walker with a Go Outdoors membership card and one of those poles in the boot of your car, you don’t have to attempt the full thing. There are loads of portions you can do as more manageable walks, even if like me you’re uncomfortable with the concept of ‘practical’ footwear or ‘waterproof’ clothing. I don’t think there’s walking anywhere else in the world with such varied coastal scenery in a relatively compact space.
51. Play crazy golf at Mooragh Park
My favourite thing in Ramsey (if it’s not raining) is the crazy golf at Mooragh Park. Alright, this may not be at all unique to the Isle of Man, but it’s fun nonetheless. Especially when you are crowned the victor.
52. Put your photography skills to the test
There’s a photo opportunity around every corner in the Isle of Man. If you’re not into photographing landscapes, there’s plenty of other things – pretty cottages, carpets of wild bluebells in spring, Instagrammable doors, wallabies… The usual.
53. Walk through Hutchinson Square gardens
Now notable for its beautifully manicured garden full of big blue hydrangeas, Hutchinson Square in Douglas was actually an internment camp. It was known as the ‘artists’ camp’ because of the internees’ artistic skills, particularly Kurt Schwitters who became famous for his work. You can find traces of their art within the gardens but the Tate also has a collection of photographs. As a side note, Hutchinson Square is a good base to stay if you’re wanting to be in Douglas for your holiday. I massively recommend Raymonds B&B there (more on that later).
54. Watch the boats coming in and going out at Port St Mary
Port St Mary is another town in the south east of the island. It’s good for having a sit watching the yachts and fishing boats coming in. The town itself is small but there’s a nice sandy beach you can walk along.
55. Visit the sandy beach and gardens in Port Erin
Port Erin is in the south west of the island. It has a little high street, a railway museum and a sheltered beach. If you’re into sandy beaches, this or Peel will be right up your proverbial street. We’ve not spent that much time in Port Erin to be honest – it was full of children last time we went and I’m allergic so we didn’t stick around – but it’s worth calling in for a mooch round, especially on a nice day. I always really enjoy the gardens of the houses along the beach. They put my efforts back home to shame. If you fancy a beautiful walk while you’re there, Bradda Glen has panoramic views over the bay.
56. Go for drinks and a stroll round the pretty North Quay in Douglas
You’ll naturally end up in the North Quay at some point because it’s where a lot of the best bars and restaurants are, including my favourite the Little Fish Café. It’s quite picturesque with all the boats bobbing and one of the best photo spots too. Not unlike Nyhavn in Copenhagen in the right light…
57. Visit the Grove Museum of Victorian Life in Ramsey
If you’re not all Victorianed out by all the other Victorian things to do in the Isle of Man, you can go the whole hog and experience life as it was then in the Grove Museum. It’s another good rainy day activity. A guide shows you around the home of the Gibbs sisters, which is all set up as it was. They were from Liverpool, my home town, so I enjoyed that fact. This is another place where you may experience potential ghostliness (if you believe, obvs). It costs £6 to get in and is usually open 10:00-16:00 but shuts in winter.
58. Look out for pretty station shelters
How pretty is this little station, Minorca? You can spot it from the electric railway, or walk up to it from Laxey. 10/10 for the hanging basket efforts. Let’s just gloss over the broken glass in the window though. You can’t have it all. There are lots of these little beauties along the electric railway line to look out for.
59. Find the Viking burial, featuring a boat
Near Castletown, there’s a Viking burial site: Balladoole. It dates from 850 AD to 950 AD. But it’s not just any old Viking burial site (if there is such a thing as that), oh no. This Viking couple were buried with an actual boat. How swank is that? Oh, just bury me with a few things dear – a nice necklace, my best blouse, and a 36-foot BOAT.
60. Go to the TT… if that’s your thing
I’ve left this until last because a) it’s not my thing and b) if you’ve heard of the Isle of Man, it’s likely to be because of the TT race anyway so you don’t need me to tell you about it. It’s famous all over the world and brings heaps of tourists in every summer – I’m sure somewhere more qualified can give you loads of information on it better than I can. Everything on this list is something I like or enjoyed doing/seeing/eating personally, apart from this one. But it seemed wrong not to mention it at all when it’s such a ginormous deal in the Isle of Man. So if you are heading to the island for the TT, do make sure you check out plenty of other brilliant things to do in the Isle of Man while you’re there.
Other things to do in the Isle of Man…
So that’s the end of an absolutely mammoth post. I’ve hit 60 and I intended to do 20, but I apparently have no self control. Well done if you got this far. I’ve actually left quite a few things to do in the Isle of Man off this list but I could go on and on. Let me know in the comments if you do any of these suggestions and what your favourite things to do in the Isle of Man are – especially if it’s a hidden gem or if it involves eating. I like hearing about other people’s experiences in my favourite places. Just keep it to yourself if you’re having too good a time while I’m stuck at work. Ta.
Things to do in the Isle of Man: useful information for your trip
How to get there (and away)
We usually get the ferry from Liverpool with our little car. It’s an experience in itself and takes just under 3 hours. You can also fly into Ronaldsway airport (which looks like a toy airport!). This is what we did on our last trip, flying from Liverpool with EasyJet. An amusingly short flight. It worked out at roughly the same cost. Public transport with the GO card was really reasonable, so I think it worked out better overall for a short break, especially if you hate driving like me.
Where to stay
There are loads of self-catering places and also B&Bs all over the island. We used to stay at Groudle, in a self-catering cottage, which has amazing views and easy access to the beach. On our last trip, we stayed at the frankly amazing Raymonds B&B. We had a really gorgeous massive room and it was only £75 a night, complete with brilliant veggie breakfast. Being in or near Douglas is your best bet for getting to most places easily. There’s the most going on there at night too, so you can have a drink in the evening and not worry about paying loads for a taxi ‘home’. You’ve also got all the Douglas restaurants to hand. But it depends what you want from your holiday – I can definitely see the appeal of a cottage in the middle of nowhere. The only thing is, you may struggle for anywhere convenient to eat of an evening if you’re too far out in the sticks.
How to get around
The only downside to the Isle of Man is that some of the best bits are most easily done by car (much like my other fave, Kirkcudbright). This is a problem because we both hate driving. However, it can be done by bus and historic railways too. We did this recently for a long weekend and it worked out beautifully. You should get a GO card, which you can find out about here. You can use it on all public transport and I think it must have saved us a small fortune considering how much we crammed into 3 days. The buses are very reliable in my experience. As is the steam train!
When to go
We usually go in August, June or July for a short break. This goes against all my child-avoiding logic, being in the middle of their summer holidays, but it’s never that inundated so you can always avoid them. Also, the weather is slightly more reliable and everything is open, which is always a bonus.
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You might also like my other Isle of Man post[s]:
- an Isle of Man travel guide: the hidden gem of the British Isles
- 20 of the best Isle of Man restaurants and places to eat and drink
- 3 days in the Isle of Man by public transport [coming soon].
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