Top 10 Family Days out on the Isle of Man
Has panic set in yet?? Are you struggling to come up with family days out on the Isle of Man?
6 whole weeks to fill and we live on the Isle of Man, how on earth will we survive!! Fear not parents… I have some ideas on how to keep your little ones entertained for the summer holidays and hopefully without breaking the bank.
There is actually plenty to do, you just have to find it! So if you haven’t booked them into 6 weeks solid of sport with the MSR schemes https://www.gov.im/categories/leisure-and-entertainment/national-sports-centre/sports-for-reception-to-year-11-pupils/
Then check out my favourite family days out. I love nothing more than heading out for the day with the boys, most days taking a packed lunch to keep costs down. Most of our trips involve getting outside, and sometimes Manx weather isn’t the kindest, so pack waterproofs and check the forecast before you go!
Along with the recommendations below, we love visiting the plantations and glens during a rainy day as they can offer the best days out. It’s suprising how much shelter the trees provide and there are loads of trails! My kids love it!! Check out my other blog post Top 10 rainy day activities on the Isle of Man. Also check out the Out2Play Schemes which is well organised by the IOM Childrens Centre. The sessions are free, but donations are recommended.
If this hasn’t provided you with inspiration then here are my favourite days out:
Rushen Abbey, Ballasalla (1 ½ hrs to full day)
if the suns shining, this is a great day out! Rushen Abbey is a former home to monks. Today it has been converted to teach about the days of the monks and also has a number of interactive games/puzzles. The boys love the Strawberry Jam! The best part though is the wide open gardens – great for playing hide and seek. There are some bouncy hoppers put out on nice days and the kids have a great time while we enjoy a relaxing picnic.
Note: there is no café on site, only a small shop selling a handful of drinks or snacks, so come prepared. The nearest shop is down the road but it’s only a small village so not a great deal on offer. Alternatively, you could pop to the Whitestone Pub if you want something more substantial.
Top tip: For younger ones you can ask for a play bag which contains small toys and a small blanket.We take the train from Douglas to Ballasalla to make this a whole day out. Who doesn’t love the steam train!
After a play at Rushen Abbey and lunch, the boys love to cool off in the ‘Ford’ just in front of The Abbey Restaurant. The river is great for playing in but be wary of cars coming through the area. (Don’t forget your towel). A gentle walk back to the train station for the late afternoon rock back to Douglas. I’m tempted to catch a few zzz’s with the boys on the way back. This is my favourite family day out.
Curraghs Wildlife Park, Ballaugh (all day)
My boys love animals and so the Wildlife Park is a firm favourite for a family day out and can be suitable for sunny or wet days. It’s open 10am to 6pm and has a feeding timetable that you can follow or just stroll around at your leisure. The park only has 1 café and so can be rammed on a busy day so if it’s nice I highly recommend a packed lunch.
I love how you can wander amongst some of the animals and get up close to them. The boys are always gentle and respectful especially when in with the lemurs or Capybara. There are lots of animals to see and lots of wide open space for them to roam in.
It’s not just about the animals, there are also 2 parks, a small indoor play area for little ones and a bouncy pillow to burn them out completely. On Thursday’s throughout the summer holidays they add more bouncy castles and activities. On Sundays they also have a miniature railway for only 70p a ride! Keep an eye out for events too, such as falconry days or Hop-tu-naa specials.
House of Manannan, Peel (2 hrs to all day)
The House of Manannan is an educational visit about the Celts & Viking days. Lots of scenes set up with hands-on rooms but not so much interaction as I would have expected from such a large establishment. There are a couple of places the kids can get involved but it didn’t seem to capture my boys imagination very much. It could do with some activity sheets to keep their focus while walking around. Easily accessible by bus routes if you don’t have a car and plenty of eateries (as well as a small onsite café) to cater for hungry mouths.
For a whole day out there are regular bus services to Peel. The service takes about 1 hour from Douglas and is usually a Double Decker (always a bonus if you can get the top front seats!).
If it’s a nice day, then we venture over to Peel Beach, although Fenella Beach (over the bridge) is just as good and can sometimes to be easier to contain younger children. It also provides some rock climbing opportunities for more adventurous ones.
If you aren’t a beach lover then you could use your Manx Heritage card for a stroll through Peel Castle.
I personally wouldn’t go out of my way to attend here but it’s a change of scenery if you have an ace/annual card. Alternatively, the walk around the outside of the castle is short but enjoyable. Take a pair of binoculars to spy marine and bird life which are usually in abundance. Your little ‘pirates’ can use their imagination to play a few games and check out the dungeons!
No trip to Peel is complete without an Ice-cream from Davidsons… no matter what the weather!!
Laxey Wheel, Laxey (1 ½ hrs to all day)
This is the largest working water wheel in the world, the lady Isabella. There is a nice little walk up to the wheel where you can get up close to see how it all works. For those with a head for heights you can even walk up the steep steps to the platform at the top. Note: the steps are steep and only wide enough for 1 person so if you meet someone coming up or down, someone has to back up! When you do reach the top it offers some superb views but even if I started to get wobbly legs!
If you walk further along the pathway you reach the old Laxey Mines. One a small portion of the mine is open but it offers some experience about what it was once like in the old mining caves.
With routes from Ramsey or Douglas by Electric Tram this can be a good family day out if the weather is not horrendous. If walking, head towards Browns café and on the opposite side of the road you will see some steps heading down to the lower glen. This is a great playing/picnic area but also takes you off the main road and the path leads straight to the Laxey Wheel.
Why not extend your day out. You can either take a short walk along the main road towards the Laxey Pavilion and Glen or take a trip down to the Laxey beach too. It’s quite a walk for little legs along the glen road though. During the summer months a bus service runs from the Laxey Wheel to the Laxey Promenade, bus number 15.
Trout Farm, Cornaa (40 mins)
In my view one of the islands best kept (but short) secrets and known as ‘Lag Vollagh Freshwater Fish Hatchery’. It’s only open on Wednesdays from 10am to 4pm (at the moment) during Easter and Summer holidays. It really is only a small place but it has lasting memories from my childhood. Remember to bring a £1 for the fish food pots! It’s situated in Cornaa, near Maughold & down the road from Ballaglass glen. The entrance is not well signposted but if you look for a sign ‘Meadowcroft’ at the bottom of the hill, on the left, imbeded into a stone entrance you’ve got the right place – trust me!
Ballaglass Glen, Cornaa – it’s been a long time since I’ve been there but there is a lovely walk next to the stream. It’s a fairly easy walk but uneasy under foot so wear sensible shoes. Theres a hidden gem (a link to the Wizard of Mann Map) in the glen and it’s a great place for a picnic spot.
It has easy access from the electric tram, which stops at its top entrance. By car, turn down to Maughold Village at the Hibernia, on the main Laxey to Ramsey road, then turn right down the road marked Cornaa. A large car park is provided at the bottom entrance to the glen.
Bradda Head walk, Port Erin (2 hours to a full day)
One of my favourite walks. It can a bit of a challenge for little ones but o.k. for 5 year olds. Park at the Bradda Glen Café (Great coffee & treat for afters) and follow the sign posts along the Cliffside walk. The start is a gentle walk before an uphill climb to Milners Tower. You can even access the top of the tower but it’s a single staircase and is very dark. The kids love to roll down the hill afterwards, just watch out for rabbit holes and poop.
Port Erin has a lovely long sandy beach with a few cafes along the beachfront for a play and splash after or for a more relaxed affair, just head to the beach and view the walkers from afar!
Trains leave Douglas and arrive an hour later in Port Erin. With 2 fidgety boys I tended to drive to Castletown and get on there to shorten the journey time.
Cregneash & the Sound (3 hours)
Cregneash is a traditional manx village where you can see, touch, smell and feel how life was in Victorian times. There are a few animals around the village, including the local manx loaghtan sheep. You can pop in and out of the old traditional houses and the kids love asking questions about what life used to be like.
Afterwards I always find the kids are ready to go a little crazy so we head down the road to The Sound where my boys love to spot the local seals and climb over the rocks. Grab and hot drink and snack/lunch in the Sound café, which has a beautiful panoramic view across to the Calf of Man.
ADD ON: If you feel the little ones still have energy why not stop at the Home of Rest for Old Horses, Santon (30 mins) on the way home. It’s only a small venue but it’s free! There is an onsite café with homemade cakes and drinks and a souvenier shop where you can buy a small bag of horse food for 25p. From there you just walk along the pathways to meet the residents and give them some snacks. We do tend to take carrots or apples for smaller hands as they do get a bit nervous around the large tram horses.
Another option: There is a fantastic walk from Port Erin (1 ½ hours each way) along the coastline with some tricky bits so I wouldn’t recommend it for very young ones but if you have fresh legs and can fancy a challenge then this has some fabulous views.
Mooragh Park, Ramsey (all day)
This has to be one of the boys favourite parks on the island. It’s a great place for all the family, which includes a large park, tennis courts, crazy golf, water splash area and a recently opened Costa Coffee. If it’s a hot day we love nothing more than heading to the splash area, have a picnic then go for a play on the park afterwards.
All these activities are all based around Mooragh lake with it’s walkway around the edges, creating a lovely gentle walk and a lovely family day out. The lake itself has numerous water activities available including paddle boats and kayaks which can be hired from the café situated at the end of the lake.
We tend to take the bikes/scooters whenever we go as there is a great skateboard park and BMX Track which they love.
Castle Rushen, Castletown (2hrs to full day)
Although there are outdoor areas, the main aspect of this heritage site is indoors. There are some lovely views from the top and well worth the climb. Staircases can be small and definitely isn’t suitable for buggies & bulky bags. I should note that there are a few dummies around the place to add a feel for what it used to be like, these can sometimes be a little scary for smaller children. But no-one jumps out on you!
Here comes that choo choo again (but there are regular bus links too).
If the weather is bright you can enjoy Poulsom park with a large grass area, good park, ducks to feed by the river, zip wire at the end of the park and a BMX/Scooter park to play on before getting on the train again.
Alternative options: If you check out my Best family cycle rides on the Isle of Man you will see there is a route from Ballasalla to Castletown alongside Silverburn river so you could choose this option for a park/picnic day.
Onchan Park, Onchan (1 hour to all day)
Another great Onchan Park and in close proximity to us that this is one we frequent often. A nice large traditional park, but as you turn the corner from Easter and throughout the Summer there are lots more activities. There is Crazy Golf, Golf Putting, Motor Boats, Bumper Boats, Go Karts, Tennis, Go Karts & Monster rides. New for 2017 was the introduction of a day pass £10 for adults and £5 for children (Except Go-karts and Monster rides). Great value if you anticipate spending all day here.
For wet days, there is also a small indoor play area and jump zone (http://www.funfactoryiom.com/) but these should be booked in advance to ensure there is availability.
If hunger strikes there’s a great café, ice-cream hatch and family friendly restaurant (the Views) on site.
Finally, don’t forget all Manx school children are given an annual Ace Cards, giving free access to all Manx Heritage sites. If you are planning to access more than 4 then I recommend getting a Manx Resident annual pass or 14 day holiday pass (both cost £20).
Hopefully that’s just a few ideas to ease the summer holiday pressure!