The Town of Douglas:
Douglas, the pretty little capital of this tiny island country, edges a beautiful bay into which the River Douglas flows. Travelers endure the remarkable landmarks that the town has in place to offer such as the Harbor and the Tower of Refuge, of which is a small castle-like structure that was established to accommodate sailors who were shipwrecked on St Mary’s Isle.
Some of the very best views on the Isle of Man can be had from Douglas Head, a rocky outcrop overlooking Douglas harbor and accessible along historic Marine Drive. Perched on the hillside, the Grand Union Camera Obscura is a unique renovated 19th century attraction uses natural light and a series of mirrors to project images of the surrounding area onto the darkened building’s walls to stunning effect.
Held each July 5 since 1417 on Tynwald Hill at St John’s, an ancient Bronze Age burial mound, the Tynwald Day ceremony sees the proclamation of all laws passed by the island’s parliament over the course of the previous year in both Manx and English. Thousands of spectators travel to St John’s to watch the ceremony and its lengthy procession, as well as to participate in the accompanying fair and market, free concerts, and a superb fireworks display.
The excellent Manx Museum deals with the more than 10,000 years of island history. Of particular note is an important collection of material from the Celtic and Viking periods, including a collection of Manx crosses. The museum is also home to the National Library, as well as a tearoom and gift shop.
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm
Address: Kingswood Grove, Douglas, Isle of Man, Douglas
Castletown and Castle Rushen:
Castletown, for many centuries the capital of the island, is where you’ll find Castle Rushen. Highlights include the clock in the south tower (presented by Elizabeth I in 1597), a unique sundial with 13 dials, and one of the island’s greatest treasures: a Celtic crucifix brought from the little offshore islet, the Calf of Man. Also of note in Castletown is the Old Grammar School, set up in St Mary’s Chapel in 1702 and now a museum documenting education in the Victorian period, along with the Nautical Museum with its fascinating collection of historic model ships.
Hours: Daily, 10am-5pm (Mar-Nov)
Admission: Adults, £6; Children, £3
Address: Arbory Rd, Castletown, Isle of Man
The Isle of St Patrick and Peel Castle:
Outside the harbor in the small community of Peel and linked by a causeway is the rocky Isle of St Patrick on which sits Peel Castle, an impressive red sandstone structure surrounded by an imposing old stone wall. Afterwards, be sure to visit the nearby House of Manannan with its replica Celtic roundhouse and a Viking longhouse.
Hours: Daily 10am-5pm (Mar-Nov)
Admission: Adults, £5; Children, £2.50
Address: W Quay, Peel, Isle of Man
The Isle of Man TT:
Thanks to a lack of speed restrictions on many of its rural roads, the Isle of Man has long been famous as a competition ground for motorcycle racing. The Tourist Trophy – now often known simply as the TT – was one of the first formal races here, tracing its roots back to its inaugural race in 1907. The circuit used for the event, which runs from late May to early June, is in the north of the island. It begins and ends in Douglas, taking in Crosby, St John’s, Kirk Michael, Ramsey and the highest point on the island, Snaefell (2,036 ft) for a total distance of 37 mi.
The Laxey Wheel and Island Railways:
A fun way to get to Laxey is via the Manx Electric Railway, which links the town to both Ramsey and Douglas. It’s in Laxey you’ll find the equally entertaining Snaefell Mountain Railway. There, the four countries of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales can be seen on a clear day. But the town’s most famous tourist attraction is Lady Isabella, a huge 72 ft waterwheel built in 1854 to pump water out of the lead mines of the (once) Great Laxey Mining Company. A second waterwheel, the Snaefell Wheel (Lady Evelyn) is located in Laxey Glen Gardens just a few minutes away on foot.
The picturesque resort of Port Erin lies at the head of a deep bay sheltered by 400 ft tall Bradda Head. It’s the terminal point of a small old-time steam railway from Douglas, the 15 mi Isle of Man Railway. In places, the cliffs plunge dramatically straight down to the sea, offering numerous excellent views and picnic spots.
Tourists in fact travel to Port Erin from across the island for its sandy beach in the enclosed harbor, its lovely gardens, cafés and memorable sunsets over Port Erin Bay. Be sure to look for the commemorative plaque to a famous Manxman who came from Port Erin: Fletcher Christian. He instigated the famous mutiny on the Bounty; his adversary, Captain Bligh, is said to have married on the island.
Cregneash Folk Village:
Located on remote Mull Hill (430 ft) and the most southerly town on the island, Cregneash is where you’ll find a group of six chamber tombs known as the Mull Circle, or Meayll Circle. The village itself is famous for its role as a “living museum” that preserves the traditional Manx way of life. Farm animals include plough horses, Loghtan sheep and shorthorn cows (and, of course, those Manx cats). Demonstrations of crafts and old farming techniques are available, as is a first-rate tearoom. Another “living museum” to check out is the wonderful Grove Museum of Victorian Life, located in the former summer house of Duncan Gibb.
Hours: Daily 10am-4pm (Mar-Nov)
Admission: Adults, £5; Children (under 18), £2.50