The Isle of Man In the heart of the Irish Sea, off the north west coast of England, lies Britain’s best kept secret – the Isle of Man.
Just 33 miles long by 13 miles wide, the Isle of Man is a must for all countryside lovers with its many different landscapes and breathtaking views. It is said that every type of scenery found in the British Isles can also be found on the Island: layered cliffs, purple mountains, gorse clad valley slopes, sandy beaches and woodland glens. Walkers can enjoy unspoilt coastal and hillside footpaths, and this little kingdom is perfect for bicycles, following clearly signposted routes, which make a series of cycle tracks throughout the Island.
Those looking for a more gentle means of exploration can sit back and admire the view on board one of the Island’s vintage transport systems. Steam and electric railways weave their way coast to coast from Port Erin in the south to Ramsey in the north. In the Island’s capital, Douglas, Victorian horse-drawn trams transport visitors along the main promenade. But perhaps the most spectacular ride of all is aboard the Snaefell Mountain Railway. Beginning at the old mining village of Laxey – home to the world’s largest working waterwheel – the line climbs to the Island’s highest point from where it is maintained, it is possible to see the kingdoms of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Mann, Heaven and the kingdom of the sea.
Steeped in tradition and ancient history, the Isle of Man has retained its independence with its own currency, stamps, government and even language – although English is spoken everywhere. Strong Celtic and Viking influences survive, indeed thrive on Mann today, highlighted by the names of the people and places. Visitors are invited to step back some 10,000 years and retrace “The Story of Mann” which is brought to life by a series of open air sites and museums.
But it is not just heritage enthusiasts who enjoy visiting the Isle of Man. With eight quality golf courses and a mild winter climate, the Island is a must for golfers of all abilities. The Island also offers excellent water sports facilities, especially diving and sailing. Special events such as the world famous TT motorcycle races as well as car rallies, railways, arts and music festivals are ideal themes around which to base a visit to the Island. Quality restaurants abound and national dishes include the famous Manx kippers, local scallops called Queenies and real dairy Manx ice cream.
Getting to the Isle of Man has never been easier with regular flights available from a wide spread of regional airports across the UK and Ireland, while ferry and SeaCat crossings operate from Liverpool and Heysham.
Probably the best way to explore the island is by car. This gives the freedom to take in all the main resorts (from Castletown and picturesque Port St Mary in the south, to bustling Ramsey in the north and Peel in the west), as well as accessing more secluded spots. But there are other ways to get out and about; the Snaefell Electric Mountain Railway for instance, or the Victorian railway and tram systems linking Douglas with Port Erin and Ramsey. The island also has a wealth of special interest activities, from fishing and golf to bird watching and walking. For more information on these, Isle of Man Tourism is happy to help. Please visit their website at http://www.visitisleofman.com/
Despite its modest size, the Isle of Man boasts eight 18-hole and one nine-hole course. The King Edward Bay offers magnificent views across Douglas Bay, while Castletown is a beautiful links course which played host to PGA cup matches against the US in 1979. Pulrose in Douglas is an enjoyable course and good value for money. Other courses include: a delightful nine holes at Port St Mary; Rowany in Port Erin; Peel; Ramsey Golf Club; and Mount Murray Santon, which also has a driving range. Glen Truan in the north of the island is the latest addition and is proving to be popular with the locals and visitors alike.
- Walking and rambling
To enjoy the island’s beauty at its best there’s probably no better way then on foot. Choose from long paths such as the Millennium Way between Castletown and Ramsey or short walks through beautiful glens. Some paths have been temporarily closed for repair due to flood damage, particularly Groudle and the Dhoon, so it’s worth checking with Tourist Information. The Bayr ny Skeddan (Herring Road) from Castletown to Peel was once frequented by Manx fishermen.
- Indoor water sports
The water sports complex at the National Sports Centre on Groves Road in Douglas includes a competition pool that is 25m long by 21m across, laid out in eight lanes. This boasts a floating floor, which can be raised or lowered as the occasion demands. The serious larking begins in the separate leisure pool, where you will find a bubble tub, flow pool, jets, water cannons mushroom sprays and two excellent slides.
There are two major angling events each year: the Ramsey Angling Festival, which sees competitive beach fishing in May; and the Mannin Angling Club Boat Festival in Port St Mary, August, which has boat and shore angling. Fishing is also excellent in the Island’s rivers and reservoirs. The Neb, Dhoo, or Sulby rivers can be fished between April and October on a seasonal license and the reservoirs from March until October. Licenses for the season are great value, permits are sold at the Island’s main post offices and the Tourist Information Centre, Douglas.
- Water sports
In the summer, those who like the action a little faster can try their hand at jet skis for hire on Douglas and Gansey Beaches most days at very reasonable rates. Windsurfing is also popular and Derbyhaven in the south of the Island is a favoured spot.
- Quad bikes
Quad bikes are a great way to see the Island, you don’t need any experience, just a sense of adventure and a love of the countryside. There are great views from 1,000ft, where you can see the sea on both sides of the Island. Enjoy an exhilarating day out on a working Manx farm in the old tradition with tea and home-made cakes after your ride!