Isle of Man Destination Guide

Last updated at 16:18 18 December 2008

Laxey beach, Isle of Man

Laxey beach is great in the summer and rarely gets crowded


Once the playground of millions who poured off the Steam Packet ferries that continuously ploughed across the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man like many Victorian and Edwardian resorts has suffered at the hands of cheaper foreign travel. Recently however it has picked itself up, dusted itself down and embarked on promoting itself as more than just a bucket-and-spade destination.

For one so small, the Isle of Man has more than its fair share of attractions: swathes of dramatic and diverse landscapes, biscuit-tin pretty villages and harbours, medieval castles, prehistoric forts, ancient burial sites, stately homes, 26 miles of sandy beaches and a lively capital come nightfall. It's perhaps little wonder that film-makers are now clamouring to make use of its quiet natural beauty and rich mixture of historic buildings.

Laxey waterwheel

Laxey Waterwheel was built in 1854 to drain water from the mines and named the Lady Isabella honour of the governor's wife.

Heritage attractions

A number of attractions relate the story of the Manx people and their heritage including the Manx Museum in Douglas and House of Manannan in Peel. Both use traditional and high tech displays to make the discovery experiences fun and interesting for all.

The Old House of Keys in Castletown (bookings advised) is a recreation of a Manx Parliament sitting where visitors actually take part in some of the more interesting debates of the past helped by a guide and plasma technology.

Cregneash Folk Village is a living and working illustration of Manx rural life in the 18th and 19th centuries, while the town of Laxey is almost an Industrial Heritage theme park in itself, crowned by the iconic Lady Isabella waterwheel. Peel and Castletown castles are both worth a visit, and there are over 141 scheduled ancient monuments including Viking and Neolithic burial sites.

Climing the Snaefell mountain railway

Unless you walk, the only way to reach the top of Snaefell mountain is by the charming railway

Wildlife attractions

The islands distinct ecology was created over 10,000 years ago when it separated from mainland Britain. Polecats, ferrets and wallabies flourish wild in the landscape while marine mammals such as seals can be seen and heard all year round at Peel and the Calf of Man.

Dolphins, whales and basking sharks regularly stop by and can be seen up close on chartered boats or even sometimes from coastal paths. Many sites for bird-watching include the famous sanctuary on the Calf of Man islet and The Ayres, an internationally important wetlands coastal area.

For families, the Curraghs Wildlife Park brings animal and bird species together in geographical walk-through enclosures so they can be seen as they would in the wild. For flora and fauna, Ballaugh Curraghs and Close Sartfield are home to wildflower meadows and wild orchids.

The Isle of Man at night

The Isle of Man: much more than a bucket and spade destination

Outdoor activities

There are two well established walking festivals, one in summer and one in autumn, which attract enthusiasts from across the globe. Walks are graded by distance and terrain and led by local people with a passion for their homeland, including local Members of Parliament.

For the hardy there is also the 95-mile coastal path and the 2,000 foot climb to the summit of Snaefell. For those less inclined to exertion the electric tram will take you close to the top. Road, mountain and quad bikes can be hired to explore the island, and plenty of pony trekking and riding is available for absolute beginners through to experienced riders.

For water-based adventure, there is sea kayaking at Peel, surfing at Castletown Bay and the annual spectacle of powerboat racing in Douglas Bay. Freshwater fishing is available from spring to the end of summer and there is no shortage of sea angling choices based either on terra firma or by chartered boat. There are nine golf courses to choose from, open all year round, where queuing at tees is the exception.

Traditional Manx dance

With an abundance of live music events isitors, the Isle of Man caters for fans of all genres

The Manx Film Factory

Back in 1995 when the Isle of Man Film Commission was established, it must have been hard to imagine just how many films would eventually be made here, and how many Hollywood superstars would visit to work. The number of films and television dramas currently stands at over seventy.

The locals, seemingly underwhelmed by it all, have many tales of Guy, Madonna, Alicia, Ewan and Renee eating or drinking here and there. The Tourist Board have produced a map which traces some of the famous film locations used on the island.

Getting there

Ronaldsway airport is well connected with the UK and Dublin, while car and passenger ferries can be boarded from Liverpool, Heysham, Belfast and Dublin to Douglas Sea Terminal.

Getting around

In addition to buses, taxis and hire cars, the island has a unique and fascinating public transport system. The wonderfully maintained Victorian steam trains, electric railways and horse-drawn trams make it possible to travel halfway round the coastline from Ramsey in the north east to Port Erin in the south west on a misty-eyed journey back in time. It's even possible to enjoy the unique experience of being delivered to the airport by steam train. Look out for the versatile Explorer pass which you can use on all three systems.