Isle of Man Destination Guide Print this page

Isle of Man Destination Guide

Set in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is a unique destination with over 10,000 years of history. Surprisingly large at over 33 miles long and 13 miles wide, there is far more to the Isle of Man than, at first, meets the eye. Venture away from the capital, Douglas, and you’ll find rugged cliffs, sandy coves, miles of uncrowded beaches, enchanting glens and unspoilt countryside, where you can indulge your passion for the great outdoors as you meander through glorious wooded glens drinking in the colours of the purple heather covered moorland. The ancient Celts, Vikings and Christians left the island with a legacy of their lifetime and all around the island you will find evidence of these early settlers - Celtic crosses, medieval fortresses and Viking burial grounds. Its most famous symbols are the Manx cat and the island’s emblem the three legs of Man whose meaning is “whichever way you throw me I stand”.

The sights

Douglas - very much the Victorian style seaside town with a curving row of impressive buildings arching along the Promenade, although the capital is now a busy financial centre with thriving shops, cafés, bars and places of entertainment as well. A walk around town will unearth a myriad of places of historic interest from the Tynwald Buildings, the Gaiety Theatre, quayside pubs to the many memorials to sailors lost at sea. Douglas is the starting point for the steam and electric railways departing from opposite ends of the Promenade and linked by horse drawn trams which "clip clop" along the prom – a reminder of days gone by.

Gaiety Theatre – the island’s magnificent theatre, the Gaiety has regular performances from both local and professional companies ranging from 'top line acts' to the classics. It's also worth taking the tour of this superbly restored Victorian theatre. The theatre sits alongside the gardens of the £15million flagship Villa Marina, which presents an exciting programme of entertainment, theatre, film, art and music year round.

Manx Museum – with its cinema and many 'hands-on' exhibits, this award winning museum in Douglas, offers an educating, fun and exciting time for all the family for those wishing to learn about the Story of Mann.

National Sports Centre – located just outside the town, a superb sports facility with indoor fun and competition pools, health and fitness suites, indoor bowls and a wide range of outdoor activities.

Noble’s Park – beautiful park and gardens with crazy golf, tennis & refreshment facilities. The park is also home to the TT Grandstand, the focus for motorsport on the Isle of Man.

Port Erin - Port Erin is the largest resort in the south and is a popular holiday destination, offering both hotel and self catering accommodation. The promenade overlooks one of the most scenic bays on the island surrounded by the rugged coastline. A sandy beach that shelves very gently, which is superb for children, complements the bay.

An added attraction to Port Erin is the excellent range of small individual shops and the town is also home to the Erin Arts Centre, where the world famous Manannan International Festival of Music and the Arts is held every summer - a gathering of world class artists. During the remainder of the year many other productions are held in these intimate and very special surroundings... an experience not to be missed.

Port St Mary – just along the coast from Port Erin, Port St Mary also has a very good and safe beach for children. The walking and views around the inner and outer harbour are relaxing and for those who prefer something more challenging, the walk from the “Port” to the Chasms is stunning.

Peel – the ancient capital of the Isle of Man retains a traditional atmosphere and sits prettily around its old harbour with Peel Castle on the hill above. The castle ruins by the harbour sit in an impressive location with views out to sea and fresh fish (especially kippers and crabs) are landed by fishing boats daily.

Ramsey – a sleepy little harbour town tucked away in the north of the island and the end station for the electric tram. Pay a visit to the Grove Museum and Gardens – the house is a time capsule from the Victorian era and also has a display of vintage vehicles and agricultural equipment.

Laxey – apart from the famed Laxey Wheel, the village of Laxey itself is worth a stop. A sleepy village set around a small, picturesque cove.

Castletown –Castletown was the ancient capital of Mann. Castle Rushen, one of Europe’s most complete medieval castles, dominates the town and a walk around the quaint old harbour will pass a pleasant hour or two.

St Johns – the home of Tynwald Hill, the place where the island’s parliament meets once a year and holds and open air session of the House of Keys. This is an important day for the island and an official bank holiday. Close by is the Tynwald Mills Craft Centre, which offers over 30 shops selling everything from toys to fashions.

Ballalheanagh – just to the west of Laxey, the gardens at Ballalheanagh are a true delight.

– the highest mountain on the island. In summer, take the tram up to the summit and on a clear day, admire the magnificent views.

Niarbyl Visitor Centre – located near the village of Dalby on the west side of the island, the new visitor centre is situated on a coastal site of significant social, archeological and geological importance. This is a location of outstanding natural beauty and one of the most scenic coastal stretches on the island.

The place


The capital of the island, Douglas, is very much the typical Victorian style seaside town with a curving row of impressive buildings arching along the Promenade. Although the capital is now a busy financial centre with thriving shops, cafés, bars and places of entertainment there are still many places of historic interest including the Tynwald Buildings and the Gaiety Theatre. Douglas is the starting point for the steam and electric railways departing from opposite ends of the Promenade and linked by horse drawn trams which "clip clop" along the two miles of Douglas promenade – a reminder of days gone by. The steam railway has been meandering its way through the countryside since 1874 and travels from Douglas to Port Erin. The 17 mile electric tram railway travels from Douglas to Ramsey following the rugged eastern coast for much of its journey.

Just outside Douglas is Groudle Glen with its own steam railway which travels for only three-quarters of a mile along the cliff top. Not to be missed is a visit to the village of Laxey. Here you will find the impressive water wheel – the Lady Isabella, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2004.


The heritage


The Manx Museum - with its cinema and many 'hands-on' exhibits, this award winning museum in Douglas offers an educating, fun and exciting time for all the family.

Castle Rushen - an impressive quayside limestone medieval castle, once home to the kings and lords of Mann, whose interior reveals realistic room settings with the sounds and smells of the era.

The House of Manannan
- Manannan himself, the ancient Celtic god of the sea, will guide you through the era of Celtic roundhouses, the arrival of the Viking warriors, stories written in stone, incredible maritime escapades and you'll even be transported back to the quayside in old Peel.

Cregneash Village
- this folk village illustrates the way of life for a 19th Century Manx upland crafting community, offering an insight into the traditional farming methods used. Inside the cottages, demonstrations of long-established methods of wool and cloth dying, spinning, weaving, woodturning and black-smithing can be seen.

Rushen Abbey - a visit to the islands carefully restored early Christian site offers a revealing insight into the austere life of the monks and how the Abbey became a school.

The Laxey Wheel – the largest working waterwheel in the world celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2004. This marvellous feat of Victorian engineering was built to pump water out of the thriving lead mines. The view from the top is not to be missed.

Peel Castle – the trail within the walled castle takes you around the ruined castle, which was once the home of the Norse rulers. Inspect the “murder hole”, the Bishop’s Prison, the haunted guard room and you may even encounter the black dog of Peel.

The Old House of Keys – one of the most recently restored sites, this was the assembly and debating chamber for the Manx parliament. An opportunity for you to vote on some of the laws which were passed gives a real insight into the island’s unique political heritage.

Calf of Man
– one of the island’s most important breeding areas for seabirds with a new visitor centre giving panoramic views over Spanish Head, the Calf of Man and Ireland’s Mountains of Mourne. 


The shopping

Strand Street in Douglas is the main shopping street and it has many of the familiar High Street names, as well as a variety of local speciality stores. Outside Douglas, the Tynwald Mill Craft Centre at St John’s is worth a visit for its Manx rural craft products.


The nightlife

The island stays open until the 'wee small hours' and the Manx are noted for their hospitality and for enjoying the nightlife. Many of the larger hotels around the island have regular seasonal entertainment for all to enjoy and you'll find the local pubs have many a good night with anything from quizzes to karaoke. 

The walks

If you are a walker, or perhaps you used to be and have forgotten the pleasure of 'putting your best foot forward', then the Isle of Man is exactly the island you have been looking for. Stunning coastal walks give views of spectacular cliff scenery covered in a profusion of flora and fauna. With 17 national glens, all with no admission charge, and a network of footpaths, the walker, rambler or even just the stroller can enjoy discovering the beauty of Man. The tourist board produces a number of local guides which have details of the best walks on the island, so you can plan your tour before you set off for the day. 


The cycling

With cycle hire readily available what better way to discover the countryside? There are six dedicated routes to follow, these include trails around Douglas, Port Erin, Castletown, Peel, Laxey and Ramsey, all of differing levels. Pedal cycles can even be transported, at a modest cost, on both steam and electric railways, giving even more time to discover the island. 


The food

The clear blue sea and beautiful countryside mean local produce is of the highest standard – lamb, crab, lobster, kippers (which are still naturally cured over oak chips) and real ales brewed like beer should be with no artificial ingredients. All around the island, cafés, restaurants, wine bars, town and country inns offer cuisine to suit all tastes whether it’s a quick snack or gourmet dining. You'll also find locally produced ice creams, chocolate, mineral water and Manx Spirit, 'a drop of the hard stuff'. 


The sports and leisure

Whatever your sport, the island offers a host of excellent facilities and pursuits. The Isle of Man has eight superb golf courses, including Castletown Golf Links rated in the UK’s top 100 courses. Douglas boasts the National Sports Centre with superb amenities for swimming, athletics, an all-weather pitch, sports halls and a superb indoor bowls hall.  The island is, of course, renowned for world-famous motor cycle events both on and off the road. Fresh or seawater anglers are spoilt for choice with rivers and reservoirs well stocked with rainbow and brown trout and licences are readily available. 


The facts

Geography: lying less than 60 miles off the coast of Lancashire, the Isle of Man is 33 miles long and 13 miles wide. Over 40% of it is uninhabited.

Travelling times: the Isle of Man is just a short flight from mainland UK and accessible from a wide range of regional airports or alternatively, you can travel by fast sea cat from Liverpool in around 21/2 hours or conventional ferry from Heysham in around 4 hours.

Transfer times: travelling time from the airport to Douglas is around 20 minutes and most places can be reached within 30 minutes, although Ramsey in the north of the island is a little further. For sea arrivals, the port is in Douglas just minutes from most town hotels. Hotels around the rest of the island are not usually more than 30 minutes away.

Passports: You don’t need a passport to travel to Isle of Man, but many airlines do require that you produce photo ID at check in.

Currency: The Isle of Man’s currency is sterling. They do have their own coins and notes, although they are identical in size to ours. UK sterling currency is accepted in all shops, hotels etc, although you may receive change in Manx coins and notes which are not accepted in the UK!