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Unique weekend attractions on the Isle of Man including scenic routes, ancient stone circles, fairy doors, and local attractions
In April I got a Facebook message from a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of years: “Hi Tanya – I will be in Wales later this year and saw there was a flight from Bristol to IOM. I’d love to visit if we can work it out. How is your late May/ early June looking?”
What a wonderful opportunity to see an old friend and to show off this beautiful island! I love entertaining guests who have never visited before, there’s just so much to see and it’s a great opportunity to be a tourist yourself. If you too have guests on the way (or are just looking for some different things to do yourself) here are 14 things to do on the Isle of Man that will fit all into a two or three day weekend.
1. Track down Fairy Doors in Castletown
Fairy doors are tiny doors that lead to the cosy abodes of our famous diminutive residents. Well, perhaps not, but they are fun to find and pretend to knock on! The google map in this post shows where they are in Castletown but if you’d like to find them on your own, search along Malew Street.
If you want to see where the fairies live, visit the original fairy bridge. This is not the one on the main road but an ancient bridge hidden in the forest near Kewaigue school.
2. Stand atop Sugar Loaf Rock
The sea caves underneath this massive cliff are popular with divers but you can get to the top of it by walking along the public footpath at the end of Fistard Road in Port St Mary. It juts out over the sea and its vistas make it a great place for a picnic or just an amazing place to feel caught between sea, sky, and land.
3. The place where nothing happened
Some Laxey residents are very proud that they live in a sleepy little village. One even went so far as to install a plaque on Mines Road to draw attention to the fact that nothing happened there back in 1782. You can make plenty happen by stopping by for a quirky photo op on your next visit.
4. The Meayll Hill Stone Circle
Thought to be built around 3500BC, this stunning ancient monument is composed of 12 stone burial cairns set in a circle on the hill above Port Erin. It may be a little difficult to imagine the graves from the first photo but fortunately, I was successful in coercing my pals into modeling them. Traci was a bit reluctant to climb in but then remarked on how cosy the mossy ground was. Perfect for an afternoon nap or visiting on the Winter Solstice.
5. The TT Races
The girls just by chance booked to visit on the day of the Senior Superbike race. I don’t think they were initially overly excited by my suggestion of watching the races from the side of the road near the Creg Ny Baa pub. In the end, it turned out to be a highlight of the weekend and they were amazed at how close the bikes racing close to 200mph were whizzing past. It goes to show that even if you’re not a motorbike fan, you can still get super excited by the TT races!
6. Save a Hedgehog
Chances are that your guests will be visiting in the warmer months when these slow little creatures will be out and about. For six years I’ve never seen one alive but dozens of them hit on the road. Save some of them by keeping your speed down and your eyes peeled.
If you spot one daft enough to try crossing a busy road, stop and help them across. My experience with helping rescue two this year is that they stay calm and quiet, don’t bite and are unstressed if you’re gentle with picking them up. Their spiky coat won’t hurt you if you hold them carefully and it’s an amazing feeling to see one plod off into the grass once you’ve rescued it from certain death. If you’re a gardener, there are even more ways that you can help save hedgehogs.
7. Spot a Manx Cat
Chances are that many of your friends and family will have never heard of the Isle of Man. However, some of the crazier cat ladies in your social circle will have heard the term Manx! Manx refers to anything from the Isle of Man and Manx cats are a local breed of tail-less cat. They come in all colours but are called ‘Stumpy’, ‘Rumpy’, ‘Riser’, ‘Stubby’, or ‘Longy’ depending on their tail length. A great place to spot Manx Cats is at the Mann Cat Santuary. Dozens of free-range cats live in harmony at this non-profit haven for rescued cats.
8. Make a call from the Cregneash Telephone Box
Please do because this picturesque British phone box was nearly taken down a couple of years ago. Only about two or three actual calls are made from it a year so it ends up costing more to service it than it makes with telephone services. Sorry Zoe, mobile phone calls don’t count.
Cregneash is also home to a fascinating set of small vegetable patches. They are grown adjacent to the old cottages and are also home to an astonishing collection of traditional herbs used in medicine and cleaning.
9. Visit the Donkeys at the Home of Rest for Old Horses
Better known as the retirement home for the draft horses that pull the horse trams in Douglas, it’s also home to a gang of donkeys. They’re smaller, more gentle and actually softer to touch than their more famous cousins.
The free-to-visit Old Horses Home is on the main road from Douglas to Castletown and is home to dozens of equine beauties that also include this little pony below. He kept greedily kicking against the wooden fence to get more treats (sold at £1 per bucket from the gift shop). So cute!
10. The Smaller Laxey Wheel
The larger Laxey Wheel, called Lady Isabella, is the more famous of the two and it turns cheerfully on the hillside behind the Manx National Heritage guardhouse…err ticket booth. If you feel like your day will be complete without paying the £5 per person entry charge to climb it, then visit the smaller wheel in the Laxey Gardens for a closer look at how the wooden wheel is built.
Lady Evelyn is much like her larger sister and is a hydraulic water wheel that was used in lead mining. Both wheels were used to keep the mines from flooding but Evelyn (also called the Snaefell Wheel) has a long history of being used in mining, being shipped off the island to Cornwall, falling into disrepair, and then finally making her way back to the island.
11. Speaking of mining…
By chance, we ran into a group of modern-day miners in Laxey and this fellow was headed down to help his crew clear one of the mine shafts of debris. You can still ride the Laxey Mine Railway which runs through a tunnel and along the same track as the old mine railway.
12. Walk along the Coastal Footpath
The Raad ny Foillan is a public footpath that winds all along the coast of the Isle of Man. If you follow it around its 95 miles you’ll walk along beaches, glens, roads, and through fields of sheep and livestock. No matter where you are on the island you’ll be close to a section so take the time to show your guests some of the countryside. The photo below is from the path above Port St Mary.
13. Ride the Manx Electric Railway
There are three sections of the railway to ride: from the terminus in Douglas on the far side of the Promenade to Laxey, from Laxey to the top of Snaefell mountain, and from Laxey to Ramsey. I highly recommend all three! They pass through the countryside and give you a slower, and more personal view of the landscape than you would get from a car ride. Tip: ride the tram to the top of Snaefell and then walk back down to Laxey using the footpath that runs down to the Laxey mine and through the tiny hamlet of Agneash.
14. Watch the tide come in at the Castle Arms
Also known as the Glue Pot, this pub sits on the edge of the Castletown harbour and its outdoor tables and chairs give you a wonderful view of the marina and of Castle Rushen. Anytime is a great time to visit but if you’re there while the tide comes in you can spot the fish and waterbirds flow in with the tide as well. You’ll also be amazed at how quickly the water rushes in!
For even MORE ideas check out these 15 Quirky & Unusual things to do on the Isle of Man, Isle of Man Day Trip Idea, and 13 Spooky places to visit on the Island. All of the locations listed in this post and the others are the custom Google Map below.