Reasons to visit the Isle of Man

Our boys, currently aged 7 & 9, have requested that we complete a ‘Bucket List’ before we leave our beautiful Island to travel the world.  They want to bank some memories and images before they leave, and I know why!  The Isle of Man is such a unique and quaint place.  It has an abundance of character, its very safe and the people are some of the nicest you will even encounter! (I may be a little biased!)

Therefore, before we go I thought I would share with you the best family friendly qualities about my home and why you should come and visit the Isle of Man:

 

Beautiful scenery

From rugged coastlines to rolling hills, the Isle of Man has miles and miles of open space for you to enjoy.  On a blue sky day enjoy a scenic climb up Snaefell (the islands only mountain at 2,037ft) and see England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  It only takes us 25 minutes to walk up, but if that seems a bit too challenging, especially for small legs, then there’s always the Snaefell Mountain Railway.

We spend a huge amount of time enjoying the many beaches around the island.  If you time Laxey beach when the tide is out, it’s a great spot with a flat sandy section.  The rest of the time it’s a skimmers heaven!

One of my personal favourites is Port Erin beach with it’s sandy beaches in a beautiful cove.  Having grown up here it has a special place in my heart and I’ve spent many days sitting and listening to the waves crashing on the shore.  It’s situated in a lovely bay and if you’re lucky you may even spot a basking shark!

The boys enjoy Peel Beach, where you can get the best ice-cream and local manx kippers – they even created a kipper ice-cream!

But most notably the Isle of Man has received a prestigious status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  The only entire jurisdiction to ever receive such a status.  It just shows the amount of conservation work that has been put in place to establish longevity of the islands nature, wildlife, habitats and the environment.  Very proud to be Manx!

 

Walking trails

The island has plenty of established routes from easy to challenging depending on your ability or desire. When the boys were younger we would walk along sections of the old railway line between Douglas and Peel.  They especially enjoyed spring time so they could watch the baby lambs leaping around the fields.  As they grew up this soon became a popular cycle route.

We enjoy many walks through the islands stunning glens.  There are too many to name but some of our favourites are Silverdale Glen, Glen Helen, Ballaglass Glen & Dhoon Glen.  Our walks have become a little more adventurous and now we enjoy walking along sections of the Raad ny Follin (coastal footpath).

One of my favourites is from Port Erin Beach to The Sound.

Whichever we go, we usually try to make things more interesting for the kids by throwing in a few geocache treasure points to keep them entertained on more ‘challenging’ routes.  You too can download the free app here.

Note: Be aware of mobile data.  I’d advise checking before you arrive as not all providers have an agreement with the IOM telecommunications companies.  You may want to consider a Pay as you go SIM for use while you are on the island.

The only sticking point can be the weather.  However, it shouldn’t stop you, especially if you have waterproofs.  I’d just choose a sheltered plantation for those wet and wild days!

For more options, check out https://www.visitisleofman.com/things-to-do/activities/walking-and-hiking

 

Cycling

As a family this is one of our top activities and something which the Isle of Man is becoming more renowned for.   Inspired by IOM residents, Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh we have lots of budding cyclists.

 For us as a family, we enjoy nothing more than loading up the bike rack and heading out for a cycling adventure.  As with the walking trails there are plenty of family friendly routes you could try, click here.

 

 Marine Life

As we wander the coast we often keep an eye on the water to see if we catch a glimpse of anything.  So far I have seen minkie whales, common dolphins and more regularly the cheeky inquisitive seals which frequent our waters.   If you visit the Sound with views across to the Calf of Man you are likely to see many seals basking on the rocks or swimming through the currents.

Unfortunately the elusive Basking Shark (they are actually quite easy to spot and most people I know have seen them!) has evaded me thus far!

The Island has an abundance of sea birds from diving Gannets to Guillemots and hundreds of very cheeky Seagulls, so guard your ice-cream with your life! If you have time to enjoy a boat trip from Peel look out for the colony of Puffins off Peel Hill.  These numbers are in decline so the Manx Wildlife Trust are working to encourage them to breed on the Calf of Man. http://www.manxwt.org.uk/manx-wildlife/manx-marine/seabirds – just another reason why we received the UNESCO Biosphere stamp of approval!

 

Wildlife

Aside from the Marine Life we also have some unexpected wildlife around.  The most interesting are the non-native Wallabies who managed to escape from the Wildlife Park in the north of the island some years ago and are living quite happily in the wetlands around Ballaugh.  If you fancy spotting some then follow the Wallaby Trail here.  https://www.visitisleofman.com/things-to-do/wheres-wally-the-wallaby-p1302521

 

Another escapee were a herd of European Mountain Goats and that live around the Laxey, Bulgham and Dhoon Glen areas.

For a more local find; the animals which continue to provide  intrigue are our cats with no tails (manx cats) and the sheep with 4 horns (Loaghtan sheep).  You may also be surprised to learn, that other species haven’t been introduced into the manx countryside such as Moles, Foxes, Badgers, Deer or Squirrels.  If they ain’t on the list they aren’t gettin’ in!

 

History

The island is steeped in History.  We have the largest working Water Wheel in the world, Lady Isabella – Laxey Wheel.  The wheel was built to pump the water from the old Laxey mines.  Some of the old mines are still accessible.  If you are feeling really adventurous there is a beautiful walk from Agneash up to the old Snaefell mines, but it’s quite a hike for little ones.

Victorian trams, pulled by horses continue to run along Douglas promenade and are a firm favourite with my boys.  As is the Home of Rest for old horses, who look after these animals at the end of their working life.

A visit to the island would not be complete without viewing a traditional manx cottage with thatched roof.  These can be found in abundance at Cregneash where you can see how life used to be.  It’s also the most likely place to find our more unusual animals (Manx Cats & Loaghtan sheep).

The boys really enjoy visiting the medieval castle, Castle Rushen, with its dark corridors, steep spiral stairs and horrors of the past.  It provides a great history of Castletown and other areas of the island.  There is also Peel Castle which is more of a fortress than a castle, but has wide open spaces for the kids to run around, plenty of viewing points & tales of the Moddey Dhoo!

We also have 2 museums providing a history of the island, Manx Museum with free entry and the House of Mannanan in Peel which focuses on the islands Celtic, Viking & Maritime past.

For just £25 (£12 for children @ April 2018) you can access all of this and more at the Manx National Heritage’s sites for 14 days. Click the link here.

 

Manx Oddities

To say that the Isle of Man has a few superstitions is an understatement.  It’s quirky, quaint with a little touch of craziness and I love it!

There’s not many places in the world that can claim to have such interesting facts, which I plan to enjoy sharing on our travels:

  • The Isle of Man has its own currency
  • Tynwald is the oldest continuous government in the world
  • There is no national speed limit
  • We have our own language
  • The famous TT races (motorcycle road race) and our normal roads turn into an adrenalin pumping race track!
  • The IOM is a crown dependency and not part of the UK or Europe
  • Gef – a talking mongoose from Dalby
  • Wave or say Laa Mie to the Fairies at the little white bridge in Santon to bring you luck
  • Moddey Dhoo – a phantom black hound which haunts Peel Castle
  • Our national dish is Chips, Cheese & Gravy… o.k. so it isn’t but it’s soooo yummy! You also need to try Manx Kippers and Queenies!
  • Mannanan & his cloak – he gets very annoying when you have a flight to catch (i.e. curse of the coastal fog)

Weather

As I mentioned it earlier, I felt this needed some attention as the Isle of Man is predominantly an outdoors place.  We have a few indoor options such as Manx Museum (Free!), House of Mannanan, Fun Barn soft play,  laser blast, NSC Swimming Pool etc… but it gets very busy when the weather decends.  My personal favourite for a wet day is having the whole wildlife park to ourselves!  The distraction of the animals is plenty to keep the kids occupied.

So yes from time to time it does get a bit turbulent and grey and chilly, but then it’s all about the clothes you wear and the places you go.  We’ve tried not to let it bother us and the kids usually make the most of it.

Just make sure that when you have a wet adventure planned that you enjoy one of our local cafes for hot drinks and delicious cakes afterwards.  You’ll find them dotted all over the island.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom and when the sun shines and the wind dies down it is pure bliss!  There are so many parks & beaches to enjoy and Glen Whyllin is a popular camping site in the summer right on the beach near Kirk Michael.

We love to frequent Onchan Park during the Summer with the large play area, mini golf, boating lake, go karting and bumper boats.   Or we head to Mooragh Park in Ramsey for it’s larger boating lake with kayaks or pedal boats & splash park.  It has a huge park area and nearby BMX track or skateboard park.

If you haven’t noticed, Port Erin Beach is my favourite place to be!  It’s also a great place to go rock pooling.

The boys tell me that Peel Beach is at the top of their list for it’s marine life (flat fish and seals) and maybe the ice-cream!  And they also love skimming at Laxey Beach.

Check out my blog post here about days out on the Isle of Man for some ideas on family days out.

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