Isle of Man Staycation: Port Erin & Port St Mary

The Isle of Man just screams, outdoors – Coastal walks, glens, beaches, hidden coves and plenty of green rolling hills.  There is so much to do.

Granted, it needs some good weather to give it that special touch and boy did we hit the jackpot during our first Isle of Man Staycation.

When you think of holidays, for us it always involves travel.. and lots of it.  But as the Isle of Man is only 48km by 16km, so it doesn’t really feel like a BIG adventure.  I mean, you’re not really on family holiday unless you have endless whinging about hunger, a fistful of squabbles and at least 3 complaints of boredom!  Well we have none of them, so maybe we are onto something!

With the impact of Covid-19 and the closing of the Manx borders we were forced to consider a local!  Sadly, it’s not something we or many of my fellow Manxies consider doing often.  But we need to invest in our community and so we headed down south to enjoy the areas of Port Erin, Port St Mary & Castletown.

Having pinched my mum and dad’s Motorhome, we packed up and headed south – with the aim of imagining we were ‘away’ and forgetting that our house was only a mere 30 minute drive away.

 

Stop in Castletown

Clearly it doesn’t take long to get anywhere on our little island, but we decided to break up our journey with a stop in Castletown!  In fact, we headed just outside to an area called Derbyhaven.

It’s situated at back of Ronaldsway Airport and is part of the Raad ny Follin coastal footpath.  It’s a lovely area, but the bay appeals more to watersports as the beach is quite shingly and appears to be a magnet for smelly seaweed.  But when the tide is in, the views are stunning!

What we really enjoy is the walk from here out to Langness peninsular.  It’s a flat and easy walk with lots of open spaces so that smaller children can roam freely.  If you prefer a shorter walk then you can easily park at Langness making it easier for little ones.

The walk leads through the Castletown Golf Links Course, before hugging the coastline with views out to Port St Mary and Calf of Man in the distance.   We’re always on the lookout for sea life and spotted plenty of  local seabirds, such as oyster catchers and Cormorants.

The area around Langness is great for letting the kids run wild, with lots of wide open spaces, but this is a popular spot for dog walkers too.  As you wander around the peninsular there are several pathways leading down to a few small coves where you can find lots of shells.  For the more adventurous there are plenty of rocks to climb and explore.

Where to stay in Port Erin & Port St Mary

For our staycation we booked into the family friendly Glendown Farm Campsite.

https://glendownfarm.com/Camping/campsite-and-glamping.htm

When you first arrive, you can’t help but smile at the stunning views from this gorgeous spot.  It was perfect!  The campsite is based on a farm and run by the lovely and very hospitable Cain family.  They were so lovely, checked up on us regularly throughout our stay, directed us to the rope swing in the glen and even took the kids up to feed the baby lambs.

Our motorhome was parked in spot number 3 (right next to the gate).  There was plenty of space for an awning and our spot enjoyed the sun for the longest – perfect during the warm summer evenings.  I just couldn’t get enough of those views along the coast to Castletown and over Port Erin!

The campsite itself consists of 7 motorhome/caravan spots with hook-up, a full size field & side grass area for tents, 4 glamping pods and a self catering farmhouse sleeping up to 6 people.

For tents, the area is on a slightly sloping field so it pays to get there early to ensure a good and more even spot.  From the campers we spoke to this wasn’t much of an issue, but something to bear in mind.

If camping isn’t for you and you don’t have the luxury of a motorhome then there are 4 great little wagons or glamping pods.  They are basically a step up from a tent, providing slightly more comfort but without ensuite facilities. Inside is a bunk bed (double lower and single upper) as well as a single sofa bed.

The campsite has a modern kitchen facility and shower block which was regularly cleaned with all the comforts you would expect.

Other accommodation:

Through the years Port Erin & Port St Mary have lost a large amount of their hotels to new apartments.  And alas there appears to only be one left… The Falcons Nest Hotel (https://www.falconsnesthotel.co.uk/)

And so now the buzz is more around the self-catering cottages and apartments in the area, such as Seaside cottages (www.seasidecottages.im), who are currently offering a 10% discount for manx residents!  There are plenty more options, check out www.visitisleofman.com for more information.

Things to do around Glendown Farm

It’s all about the outdoors.  There are sandy beaches, coastal footpaths, parks, water sports and wildlife.  How much you can do and where you can go does rely heavily on the weather.

However, during this crazy Covid-19 we have experienced some of the most amazing driest, calmest days I have ever known.  The Isle of Man can be a challenging place on a wet, wild and windy day.  But on the calmest day it is most definitely the most amazing place you will EVER visit.  But that’s not to say you can’t enjoy it in any weather – you just need to be prepared.

 

But saying that, we were sooooo lucky with the weather that weekend!  It was a scorchio, with only a few cloudy moments, and so we packed in as much as we could.

  • Port Erin – A short 15 minute walk along the main (but fairly) quiet road you arrive in Port Erin.  We walked along the top until we arrived at Danny Hill Cul De Sac where there is a steep path which leads down to the beach.  There are lots of routes to the beach, but this is one of my favourites overlooking Port Erin Beach.  Plus it was the closest to our destination, La Gusto Pizza.  Unfortunately, the government rules weren’t quite relaxed enough for us to dine out.  But our takeaway pizza sat overlooking the beach ticked every box for us!  We are so lucky to have these views.

  • The Chasms – After a good nights sleep we were up and out early to enjoy a stroll from our campsite over the hills towards the coast.  This walk can be steep in places, but nothing too onerous as most of it is on roads/paths.  The farmer directed us through a lovely glen on our walk up towards the Howe and a hidden tyre swing to keep the kids entertained en-route. It’s a lovely walk, but be mindful if you have very small children (or anyone with vertigo) as the pathway which leads up to the chasms hugs great big drop-offs – there are no safety barriers or fences. But our boys loved it and enjoyed navigating the huge crevices and spotting the manx sea birds nesting on the cliffs.
  • Port Erin beach – we headed back into Port Erin that afternoon as we had booked 2 Double Kayaks (£25 each per hour) with https://www.7thwave-iom.com/  .  To be honest an hour is more than enough to meander around the bay and mooch in and out of the coves in the area.  Unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to have any basking sharks visit but I’m holding out hope that this is my year to see one!  The kids loved it and just this little activity made us feel like we were on holiday and happy memories of our trips in Guatemala & Mexico!

  • Castletown – although this is walkable, we decided to cycle the 19 mile route to Castletown.  Again, it’s part of the Raad ny follin coastal pathway so more spectacular views.
  • We began our route by heading into Port St Mary, along the top promenade before riding down to Chapel Bay to begin our route.  It’s pretty much flat the whole way so an easy route. Plus they have recently made the Gansey stretch a cycle and walkway meaning it was much less stressful with the kids.  Once you reach the bottom of fishers hill (took us 20 minutes) there is a small road which leads around the headland and past the quarry.  The only issue with this route were a couple of steep crossing steps that we had to carry our bikes over, but it was better than navigating the busy roads.  Within no time we reached Scarlett where we stopped and began searching for fossils. (https://www.visitisleofman.com/experience/scarlett-visitor-centre-and-nature-trail-p1292071).  We then pushed on through Castletown over to Poulsom park where we enjoyed a picnic and play at the park/BMX track.  The boys did become tired on the return journey (1 more than the other) and so make sure your kids are capable of completing the distance.  Alternatively you could catch the train back home!

  • Port St Mary – it was checkout day; our holiday has literally flown by! But before leaving we decided to take another short walk through Port St Mary along the coastal walkway from Chapel Bay to the breakwater.  It reminds me of some of the Cornish coves we have visited.

Other things to do:

  • Steam Railway – the railway line runs just below the farm campsite and (when running) would be easy to catch a Steam train from either Port Erin or Port St Mary.
  • Bradda Head Walk – I love this walk, but I’ve done it so many times!  You can either start in Port Erin and talk the coastal footpath through Bradda Glen and up to Milners Tower.  Or for littler legs, just park at the Bradda Glen Café & Restaurant and walk from there.  The end section is a little steep, but worth it for that climb up to the top of Milners tower! One of my absolute favourite views on the island.
  • Port Erin to Cregneash – we only completed this walk a few weeks ago, so decided to take explore other routes on this visit.  A round trip to the calf, up to cregneash and back to Port Erin tends to take 2 ½ to 3 hours (allowing a bit of seal spotting & rock climbing).  Break up the walk with a stop at the Sound Café for lunch and it’s a fantastic day out!  Although, again there are no safety barriers and so you will need to be mindful of little ones.  There is a bus which runs this route, so if you time it right you could always enjoy a one way wander.
  • Port to Fleshwick Bay – I haven’t done this one yet, but it’s meant to be a bit more challenging.  I’m sure this one will feature on our next southern adventure!

Places to eat in Port Erin & Port St Mary

When we visited we were still adhering to social distancing rules so restaurants and bars were only offering takeaway service.  But we did enquire with a few friends in the area as to the best places to visit.  So when things ‘return to normal’ we plan to check out a few more local eateries on our next visit:

La Gusto Pizza – we did actually try out this Italian Pizzeria takeaway and it was (as everyone said) delicious!

Foraging Vinters – we didn’t get to stop this time, but I visited a few years ago (before our travels) and swore I would come back.  They have expanded in that time – building an enviable viewing terrace overlooking Port Erin bay, added more fizz & ciders to the menu and joined forces with Versa to offer some locally sourced snacks.  Be warned, it’s busy so bag a seat quickly and early if you want to enjoy the best sunset spot!

Port Erin Chippy – A classic and you can’t beat fresh fish and chips on the promenade watching sunset – I mean, it’s a winner everytime!

If things stay as they are we will definitely be enjoying more culinary delights on our next visit including Chutney Mary’s Indian Restaurant in Port St Mary and the Secret Pizza Co in Castletown!

Overall

I love Port Erin & Port St Mary –o.k. I’m biased as I was brought up there.

But even though I have covered most of this area it was nice to enjoy it with the family.  By the end of our stay I was nicely shattered, not only because it was late nights and early mornings, but also because we did so much in just 3 days.

It just goes to show there is more to do on your doorstep than you think.  I didn’t even consider just sitting on a beach and doing nothing – although you could totally do that too!

I just loved exploring the area and enjoying our outdoor lifestyle.  We really did strike it luck with weather, which always helps, but it also shouldn’t stop you.

We will definitely be back to Glendown farm in the future and maybe next time our adventures will include a boat trip to the Calf of Man, Paddleboarding, snorkelling and maybe tackle that Fleshwick bay walk.

Hope you enjoy your stay as much as we did!!

 

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