Must see places and quirky things to do on the Isle of Man including the Old Fairy Bridge, a Manx giant, ancient monuments, and the Magnetic Hill
by Clare Bettison
For me, the Isle of Man was a holiday destination for many years and I am delighted it is now my home. I have long been fascinated with the unique history of the Island incorporating many different aspects. I have gathered stories, information, and pictures and am delighted to share this knowledge to allow others to immerse themselves in the ‘Other Mann’ with its hidden sites and untold stories. It is vital we share the beauty of our Island to promote this fascinating heritage.
1. Magnetic Hill
See a video of rolling up Magnetic Hill here.
Location: Between Ronague and the Round Table. See it on Google Maps.
2. Old Fairy Bridge
Many are familiar with the Fairy Bridge, but less known is the ‘Real’ Fairy Bridge situated over Middle River near Kewaigue. The newer bridge was designated such by some who felt it would be more suited to the tourists visiting the Island, yet the true magic and mystery surround this older bridge. Sadly many people are leaving items at the bridges that are non-biodegradable, so while we would encourage you to go and pay your respects (Lay Mie Moonjie Veggey – Good day little people in Manx Gaelic), perhaps a gift of flowers, shells or just a wish would be best to keep the fairies’ home a natural beauty.
3. Wallabies living in the Wild
In the 1960s a breeding pair of wallabies escaped their confines at Curragh’s Wildlife Park and while not a native species, they have certainly become a naturalised species. They are now a thriving population and can be seen throughout the north of the Isle of Man. What better than a day spent wallaby spotting, without needing to travel to the other side of the world?
Today more than 120 of these Australian immigrants now live in the area surrounding the park and are often seen on footpaths, in fields, and sometimes on the road. The best time to view them is early in the morning or in the early evening. It’s during these times that they’ll be out grazing in open areas.
Location: Close Sartfield & Ballaugh Curragh Nature Reserves. Though it’s free to visit and watch these cheeky immigrants, please consider leaving a donation to the Manx Wildlife Trust who built and manage the reserves. See it on Google Maps.
More on Manx Wallabies: A Walk on the Wild Side and Wallabies on the Isle of Man
4. Meayll Hill Neolithic Stone Circle
This unique archaeological monument dates to around 3500 BC and consists of 12 burial chambers with 6 entrance passages leading into each pair of chambers. Many small finds have been discovered on excavation here and people have also reported strange sensations when visiting this ancient monument. For more ancient and neolithic sites on the island read this post. And you can see the stone circle at the Winter Solstice here.
Location: From Port Erin, take the Ballafurt road towards Cregneash and you’ll find ‘Mull Hill’ or Meayll Hill Circle signed on your left about halfway there. From Cregneash, take the single lane road off of Howe Road towards Port Erin. The site will be on your right. The site is at the top of a hill climb so wear sturdy shoes and sensible clothing. See it on Google Maps.
5. Niarbyl Fault
As you head down to the shore at Niarbyl many will miss the diagonal line to the right of the cove as you face out to sea that represents the collision point of two ancient paleocontinents – Avalonia on which present day England is found, and Laurentia which contains present-day North America and Scotland. By climbing the rocks, one can stand on the Lapetus Suture fault line, with one foot in North America and one in England, without needing expensive air/sea tickets to leave our lovely Island. More on this fault line.
Location: Niarbyl in Dalby. See it on Google Maps.
6. Camera Obscura
There are still a few camera obscuras around the world, but no others with eleven lenses like the one found on Douglas Head. Built in 1892 for the flourishing Manx tourist industry, the camera’s complex series of mirrors and lenses appealed to the voyeuristic Victorian tourists, giving them a 360-degree panoramic view of Douglas via moving pictures. These are still operational today and when the flag is flying the Camera Obscura is open. More on the Camera Obscura.
Location: Douglas Head in Douglas off Fort Anne Road. See it on Google Maps.
7. Lost village of West Baldwin
When the West Baldwin reservoir was originally designed, there was the small matter of a village on the suggested site. Once the dam was built and the water filled up, the village was lost forever within the depths. However, when the water level drops, chimney-pots, rooftops, and a bridge can sometimes be seen peeking above the water level as a reminder of the lost village of West Baldwin. More on the construction of the reservoir.
Note: The “Village” of West Baldwin was actually a cluster of three farms rather than a larger community.
Location: West Baldwin (Injebreck) Reservoir. See it on Google Maps
8. Manx Giant (Arthur Caley)
Arthur Caley was certainly a giant of a man, born in 1824, standing tall at 7 foot 11 inches tall and weighing 28 stone. The Island still houses a few legacies of his time here including peculiarly high doorways at the Sulby Glen hotel to accommodate his large frame; there is also a newspaper cutting about the great man framed on the wall. In Regaby is Rose Cottage, at first glance just a normal cottage but on the gatepost is a large green hand – the tips of the fingers representing his height – truly astonishing.
Apparently Mr. Caley worked here in the garden for some time. The partnering hand can be found in the Murrays Motorcycle Museum. His boots are still stored in the basement of the Manx Museum along with a second set of his casted hands and a true-to-life sized photo reproduction of him.
As much mystery surrounds his passing as surrounded his life – initially thought to have passed away in Paris in 1852, he in fact continued performing in New York under a different name until 1889. Was the Paris death just an elaborate insurance scam….maybe his secrets were as big as the man himself? More on Arthur Caley.
Locations: Arthur Caley exhibit at the Manx Museum in Douglas. On this Google Map, see the doorways inside the Sulby Glen Hotel & Pub which went through to the cottage he used to live in. Then travel to Regaby to see the cast of his hand on the gate to Rose Cottage. Please remember that this is a private residence. See it on Google Maps
9. Corrin’s Folly
This tower sitting atop Peel hill was built in 1806 for Thomas Corrin. Just next to the tower are the graves of Mr Corrin’s wife and children, laid to rest in this, his favourite place. The tower itself is 4 stories high with much of the inside being taken up with a central pillar. Memorial tablets and inscriptions can be seen throughout the tower featuring memories of departed members of the Corrin family. Although the outside of the tower is accessible, the inside can only be accessed with the permission of the Manx Heritage Trust. More on Corrin’s Tower.
Location: Corrin’s Folly is in Peel. See it on Google Maps
10. Well and Monastery at Maughold Church
The graveyard at Maughold church makes for a fascinating afternoon’s exploration owing to its many unique graves – the Prussian sailor tragedy, Hall Caine memorial, and the many Viking and Celtic crosses that still stand there. However, on walking around the churchyard, one cannot fail to notice the foundations of a series of buildings with a substantial well also seen.
The churchyard was in fact the site of an old monastery in around the 7th Century and these foundations are of Keeills related to this. Stand at the side of these keeills and one cannot doubt why this site was used as the main location for the early Christian church on the Isle of Man. The views are nothing short of Godly.
Location: Maughold Church Yard in Maughold. See it on Google Maps
11. Silverdale Victorian water powered carousel
What could be more magical than hopping onto a traditional water powered carousel from the Victorian era? This is one of the treats that awaits you at the beautiful Silverdale Glen. With a crank handle you can affect the flow of water through the wheel to create the power to turn the carousel. Be careful as you hop on and off as it can speed up suddenly and topple you over! There are various horses/boats, etc. to ride on, why not try them all? More on the Silverdale Carousel.
Location: Silverdale Glen. See it on Google Maps
12. Slave Grave
This grave can be found at the back of Old Braddan church yard and could be easily missed. Yet closer examination reveals the interesting story associated with the grave of Samuel Ally, a former slave who was brought back from the West Indies by Colonel Mark Wilks, one time owner of Kirby Mansion. Ironically Samuel was freed, yet dies shortly after aged just 18 years. The inscription reads:
“SAMUEL ALLY An African and native of St Helena. Died the 28th of May 1822 aged 18 years. Born a slave and exposed in early life to the corrupt influences of that unhappy state, he became a model of TRUTH and PROBITY for the more fortunate of any country or condition. This stone is erected by a grateful Master to the memory of a faithful servant who repaid the boon of Liberty with unbounded attachment.”
13. Sleeping Giant
When you head down to Port Erin no-one can deny the magnificent views that await. If you head down towards the lifeboat station and the old Marine Biological Centre there is also a view that many don’t notice. This is supposed to be the sleeping place of a Manx giant seemingly half submerged in water. In his eye socket is an old mine rising up from sea level, with a nose and a frown also seen. Let your imagination run wild…
Location: Port Erin. See it on Google Maps
Heading along the A23 Mount Rule Road from Strang to Peel you will pass a property on your right hand side that you would not normally notice. Closer inspection reveals a curious anomaly on the metal gates that is sure to make you chuckle. Both gates depict cart horses and the horses are both ‘well-hung’. A little joke from the owner, or the gatemaker? Either way it always makes me smile when I pass.
Location: See above for description. See location on Google Maps
15. Whipping Stone at St Peters
Many children who grew up in Onchan were told stories of the ‘whipping post’ at St Peter’s church and feared that if they misbehaved they may find out its true use. The reality is it was likely the burial site of an old chieftain with this stone being used as a marker. More on this.
Location: Large stone marker built into the wall surrounding St Peters Church in Onchan. It’s clearly visible and accessible from the pavement that runs alongside it. See location on Google Maps
Isle of Man artist Alice Quayle created this illustrated map showing where each of the locations is on the island. Alice offers prints of this design as well as others (including my favourite, Norse names on the Isle of Man) through her Facebook page. You can also find her on Linked In.