The Isle of Man is a hidden gem in the Irish Sea, halfway between the British Isles and Ireland. Belonging neither to Great Britain nor Ireland and not even Europe, this crown dependency has a rich and intriguing history. Filled with loads of the best things to do on the Isle of Man, from hills to climb, glorious scenery, stunning beaches, towns and villages to explore.
For an amazing long weekend break or longer, if you can, you will find plenty of things to do and see on the Isle of Man and you will want to come back for more.
Best way to get to the Isle of Man
Book your ferry to the Isle of Man from Heysham, Liverpool, Belfast or Dublin via the Steam Packet website. Steam Packet operate the only boat to the Isle of Man with a choice of the Ben-My-Chree or the Manannnan. Travel as a foot passenger, take your own car, van or campervan.
If you prefer to fly, there are flights to the Isle of Man from some of the larger UK cities, including London, Bristol, Newcastle, Liverpool, Belfast and Edinburgh.
Although the public transport on the Isle of Man is very good, I would recommend hiring a car. You will have the freedom to explore those out of the way places and will make visiting the Isle of Man so much more enjoyable and fun.
TOP TIP: Do remember to pick up a Parking Disc on the boat or at Ronaldsway Airport and use it when you see the signs. You can also pick them up at the Isle of Man Tourist Information Centre in Douglas and at most post offices.
Whether you fly or take a boat to the island, you will probably begin your holiday in the capital, Douglas. However, there are so many more places to visit in the Isle of Man.
15+ of the Best Things to Do in The Isle of Man
To help you make the most of your trip, I have put together some of the best things to do on the Isle of Man to whet your appetite for this gem of an island.
If you are travelling by ferry to the Isle of Man, you will arrive in the port of Douglas. Douglas is the capital, and you should take some time to walk along the promenade, the harbour and explore the quaint streets.
To learn the most important facts about the Isle of Man, visit the Manx Museum. You can learn a lot about the island’s 10,000 years of history, learn about the wildlife, the TT, The Manx Parliament, Manx customs and much more.
Wandering around the harbour there are plenty of bars and restaurants. Favourites include Noa’s Bakehouse in the Market Hall, Ocean or 41 North along North Quay.
Head up to Douglas Head for sweeping views over the port and bay. At the foot of the Head is Douglas lighthouse. Above it is the green and white Camera Obscura building. Inside using mirrors and lenses the surround reflect a 360˚ view of Douglas.
Castletown is about a 20 minutes’ drive from Douglas and near to the airport. One of only four towns on the island (there are no cities) Castletown is the old capital of the Isle of Man.
It is one of the best places to visit on the Isle of Man for history. Start off with a tour around Castle Rushen. The 13th Century ruins sit next to the outer harbour and dominate the skyline.
Inside the castle, you can wander through the rooms, see the prison and 17th Century dining room. If you climb to the battlements at the top, you have a stunning panoramic view over Castletown and the surrounding area.
Don’t miss out the House of Keys, the Old Grammar School and the Nautical Museum all in easy walking distance from each other.
If you want to explore the coastline, take a walk over to Scarlett Point where you can see volcanic rocks, limestone quarries and limekilns as well as lots of birdlife. Other walks include along Derbyhaven beach or over to Langness or St Michael’s Island.
Take a Trip on the Manx Heritage Railways
One of the best things to do in the Isle of Man is to take a train ride. There are three railway experiences on the Isle of Man, one steam and two electric ones.
In the South, the Victorian Steam Railway takes you from Port Erin through beautiful countryside and coastline to Douglas.
Watch as the steam streams past the window and the whistle blows. There are six other stops on the hour-long journey. It is a real treat for kids or adults.
From Douglas you go along to the far end of the promenade and pick up the Manx Electric Railway. Look out for the large ELECTRIC RAILWAY sign up on the hill and the terminus is below.
The beautiful wooden carriages date back to the Victorian and Edwardian era. Starting at Douglas, the train goes northeast to Laxey and then on north to Ramsey.
The third of the Manx Heritage Railways is the Mountain Railway. The five mile railway takes you from Laxey up to the top of Snaefell, the only mountain on the island.
On a clear day from the top of Snaefell you get to see the Seven Kingdoms: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the kingdoms of heaven and the sea and of course Isle of Man itself.
Admire the Laxey Wheel
When you are in Laxey, the Laxey Wheel is a must see. The giant red wheel is one of the best Isle of Man attractions and an iconic landmark.
“Lady Isabella” as she is affectionately known, is the largest waterwheel of its type in the world. A feat of Victorian engineering and ingenuity the Laxey Wheel was built in 1854 to provide water for the Laxey Mines.
You can climb to the top of the waterwheel for panoramic views over the surrounding countryside. Take some time to explore the mines and trails to learn about the harsh life of the miners who worked at Laxey.
A quick drive up the A2 from Laxey is King Orry’s grave, the legendary king and founder of Mann. Two megalithic tombs are on the site. King Orry’s is around 5,000 years old and is the larger of the two cairns. Across the road is a smaller chambered tomb.
TOP TIP: Buy a GO Explore Heritage Pass which gives you entrance to all National Heritage sites and Isle of Man Transport for 5 consecutive days –
Check out Ramsay
Further up the coast from Laxey is the third of the four town on the Isle of Man, Ramsey. There are plenty of thing to do in Ramsey.
Ramsey is full of quaint independent shops, cafés and restaurants. Look out for the sculptures around the town, including The Chess Players outside the old courthouse.
Take a walk around the town and cross the harbour on the red and white swing bridge to the Northern Swimming Pool and the long sandy beach. Ramsey is meant to be one of the sunniest places on the island, so make the most of the beach.
At the far end of the town is Mooragh Park, where you can hire kayaks and boats, and there is a play park for children. You often see people out with model boats on the boating pond.
Take a stroll around Peel
Across on the west coast of the Isle of Man is Peel. The town gently spills down to the beautiful sandy beach.
Sitting proudly on St Patrick’s Isle is the 11th Century Peel Castle. Walk amongst the ruins to get a feel of what life was like. Several of the canons are still in place. You can also walk around the outside to see how impenetrable the castle was. If you are visiting in May or June, there is a tour of Peel Castle every Tuesday morning.
Fenella Beach is to the side of the castle and great for a dip in the sea. Above the beach is Peel Hill which is a steep walk, and if you are lucky, you may see some puffins in the spring and early summer.
To learn about the Viking history on the Isle of Man, head to the House of Manannan along the harbour. You are guided by dialogues from the Mannanan, the legendary sea god.
With interactive exhibits showing the life on the Isle of Man from its Celtic and Viking roots through the ages there is plenty to keep you entertained. There is even a replica of a Viking longboat, Odin’s Raven which was sailed from Norway to the island in 1979.
Before you leave Peel, pop into Davidson’s for an ice cream or grab some seafood delights at the seafood stand on the end of the quay.
Port Erin, the perfect seaside destination
One of the best beaches on the Isle of Man has to be Port Erin Beach. A horseshoe-shaped bay protected on all sides it is a perfect spot for some sunbathing, paddling or sandcastle building.
If you want something a bit more active, try paddle boarding, kayaking or go out on one of the boats to try diving, fishing or looking for marine life.
Take a walk up Bradda Head to Milners Tower where you get stunning views back over Port Erin and to The Calf. On a clear day, you can glimpse the Mounts of Morn in Ireland in the distance.
Quench your thirst over at Foraging Vinters and for amazing food head over to Versa, a sustainable restaurant that uses only produce from the island. On a hot day head to Scoops is the best place to get an ice cream to cool your down.
Visit the Calf of Man
Off the south coast of the Isle of Man sits the Calf of Man. A nature reserve that is home to many of the seabirds and a stopping point for migratory birds during the year. At the Observatory on the Calf, migratory birds are caught and ringed
You may be greeted by seals on the rocks though they can also be seen on the other side of the island at Cow Harbour. Try not to get too close to the seals when they have young as they can be aggressive and defend their calves.
There are paths that take you around the island and past three of the four lighthouses on the Calf. The fourth, Chicken Rock, is to the south of the island.
Take the boat from Port St Mary, or Port Erin across for a 2-3 hour visit. The boat trips are subject to favourable weather, so don’t be put out if it is postponed.
On the way out to the Calf you will pass the Chasms, Spanish Point and see many of the different birdlife that nest along the way.
Step back in time at Cregneash
With spectacular views out to The Calf, Cregneash is a working museum of white-painted houses on the hill between Port St Mary and Port Erin. One of the last places to see Manx traditions, Cregneash gives an insight into farming practices, ancient customs and crofting on the Isle of Man in the 19th and early 20th Century.
You can visit the Manx whitewashed houses with their distinctive thatches. Inside you are met by volunteers in costume explaining and demonstrating how life was. Enjoy a wander around the gardens and enjoy a cup of tea in the Creg y Shee Café.
In the fields, you will see Manx four-horned Loaghtan sheep with their shaggy brown coats and amber eyes, shorthorn black cows and some of the working horses. Inside you can stroke one of the tailless Manx cats that live in the village.
Visit Ancient Burial Grounds
There are several ancient burial grounds scattered around the Isle of Man. All seem to have been built up high with views to the sea.
Above Cregneash is the ancient burial ground of Meayll HIll. The burial ground is believed to be over 1,000 years old and has twelve burial chambers in an 18-foot ring with six entrance passages.
Outside of Castletown is the the Balladolle site. With views off to the coast, excavations in 1945 discovered a 10th century Viking boat burial with the bodies of two adults.
Cashtal ny Ard in the hills overlooking Maughold on the east coast of the island is a well-preserved chambered tomb dating back over to around 2,000 BC. Possibly a communal burial place for Neolithic chieftains and their families, it is a beautiful site surrounded by hills, but with a view over to the sea.
Drive Around the TT Route
One of the biggest draws to the island and one of the best things to do on the Isle of Man is watching the TT Motorbike Race. Held every June the motorbikes race around the island on a route leaving from Douglas.
The road heads west towards Peel then north through Kirk Michael, round to Ramsey and up to the Mountain Road past the famous Bungalow and back down towards Douglas and the home straight.
As it is a road track, you can follow the route in your car or bike but please go slower than the average speed of 135.452mph. Enjoy the course’s famous corners including the Creg Ny Baa pub, Gooseneck, Braddan Bridge and don’t miss the Joey Dunlop statue at the Bungalow.
Joey Dunlop was known as “King of the Mountain” and won the TT 26 times before tragically dying in 2000 in Estonia.
A walk around the island Raad ny Foillan (Way of the Gull)
If you enjoy walking, the Raad ny Foillan is the perfect way to see the Isle of Man. The route is approximately 100 miles long at takes you on a complete walk around the coast of the island.
The Raad ny Foillan – or Way of the Gull – takes you through beaches, glens, countryside and coastline in 12 stages. You can pick up the trail at any part along the route.
There are different levels of difficult and depending on your walking speed, the whole route around the island can take 4 – 12 days to complete.
Blue signs with gulls on them show you the way as you take in the epic scenery around you.
Take a walk in nature in the Glens
The Isle of Man has some glorious glens to explore. There 18 of them around the island, coastal and inland.
Try Dhoon Glen, between Laxey and Ramsey for beautiful waterfalls that lead you down to the pebble beach. It is the steepest of the Manx glens with 190 steps down, but it is worth it.
Groudle Glen, outside Onchan, is famous for its Waterwheel and Groudle Glen railway that winds around the Glen.
On the west coast Glen Maye is 11 acres of forests, ferns and woodland flowers with the Rushen River running through it and a magnificent waterfall.
Colby Glen near Port Erin and Silverdale Glen near Ballasalla are delightful to walk through without too much effort. Each glen is slightly different and all are beautiful.
Niarbyl – where two continents meet
It is not often that you get to stand with a foot on two different continents, but at Niarbyl you can. There is a clear geological fault between the two ancient continents where the tectonic plates met.
To the south are the mudstones which originate form Gondwana, dating back over 480 million years. On the north side the sandstone is from the northern continent Laurentia.
The long quaint white Manx thatched cottage at Niarbyl was ‘Ned’s Cottage in the film ‘Waking Ned’.
Niarbyl is particularly picturesque at sunset and is one of the 26 Dark Sky sites on the island perfect for some stargazing.
If you go up to the Niarbyl Café, there are binoculars and information boards. Have a look out for seals, sea birds and the occasional basking shark on calm days from May to August.
Go looking for wild Wallabies
One of the most fun things to do on the Isle of Man is go looking for wallabies. Yes, you read that correctly, looking for wallabies.
There are a group of wild wallabies hanging out at the back of the Curraghs Wildlife Park. A pair escaped from the wildlife park in the 1970s and have been breeding ever since.
These gentle creatures are great at hiding away, so you have to have sharp eyes to see them.
You can take a walk around the Ballaugh Curragh on your own or join one of the Manx Flowers walks around the Ballaugh Curragh with John “Dog” Callister. Contact John on firstname.lastname@example.org for more times and dates.
Say hello at the Fairy Bridge
A favourite with locals and tourists alike is to greet the fairies when you go over the Fairy Bridge at Stanton on the A5 between Douglas and Castletown.
It is said that if you don’t say hello to the fairies, they may spoil your day with their mischief! You have been warned.
Be amazed at Magnetic Hill
One of the most unusual things to do in the Isle of Man is take a trip to Magnetic Hill.
On the A27 Ronague Road, this optical illusion will make you think your car is going backwards up a hill while in neutral!
Start at the stone marker on the left hand side of the road.
Put your car into neutral and sit in wonder as your car travels backwards (or forwards depending on which way you are pointing!).
Be careful as the car will start to go quickly, and you still have to steer.
Note: Please only attempt this when the roads are clear and there is no danger of collision.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at some of the best things to do on the Isle of Man. Let me know which you would like to try.
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Larch lives a semi-nomadic life. Her life changed 20 years ago when a silly accident left her with restricted use of her right arm and neck and was told she would never work again. She turned her life around, retrained herself and set up as a self-employed website designer. This allowed her to work wherever she was in the world. Her passion for travel led her to start up her travel blog The Silver Nomad, to inspire over 40s to explore new destinations and expand their horizons. In 2019 Larch qualified as a CAA Drone Pilot which she combines with her travels.