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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > United Kingdom > Isle of Man

Things to see and do in Isle of Man

Tourist offices

Isle of Man Visitor Information Centre

Address: Sea Terminal, Douglas, Isle of Man,
Telephone: 01624 686 766.
Website: http://www.visitisleofman.com

Attractions in Isle of Man

Castle Rushen

In the centre of the Island's former capital Castletown, find this wonderfully preserved 13th century castle. Clamber up the spiral staircase, browse ancient tapestries, and explore all that lies within these ancient limestone walls. From the flag tower you can get especially good views of the coast and town below.

Climb Snaefell

Reaching 621m (2,036 ft) at its peak, Snaefell is an attractive proposition for walkers. There's a simple 1.5hr walk to the top or some trickier routes across more rugged and boggier ground. Alternatively you can cheat and catch the electric tram from Laxey. From the summit you can see all of the island and the bodies of water surrounding it; the local claim is that you can see seven surrounding kingdoms: Mann, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Neptune and Heaven although the last two are more debatable, even if you get clear weather.

Discover Manx stone crosses

All across the island you'll discover fascinating sixth century crosses that represent grave markers and memorial stones; there are more than 200 to see. The earliest examples show Celtic styles using complicated interlacing and inscriptions whilst later, Norse sculptors used pagan images and mythology to decorate their stones.

Discover the Manx Glens

There are 17 glens all over the island, each with a distinct character. Many lead to the sea or to secret beaches. Explore them on foot to get a feel for some of the Isle of Man's hidden corners. Ballaglass is carpeted in bluebells during the spring; Groudle has a small railway running through it; Glen Maye is full of verdant vegetation and has a magnificent waterfall although Dhoon Glen, one of the steepest, hides the island's highest waterfall.

Douglas

Home to around a third of the island's population, Douglas is the capital of the Isle of Man and the centre of commerce. In its heyday during the mid-19th century the town was a favourite with Victorian visitors. Less popular and less pretty now, it still has a faded air of elegance, especially along the promenade. It's also home to many of the island's best hotels and restaurants.

Go mountain biking

With its varied terrain, quiet country lanes and challenging off-road, the Isle of Man is one of the best places in Britain for mountain biking. There are six designated off-road trails around the island, each of varying difficulty.

Lady Isabella Laxey Wheel

Built in 1854 to pump water from a mine, this giant wheel measures 22m (72.1ft) across and draws up to 1140L of water per minute from 550m (1,804ft) below the surface. Well-maintained and visually impressive, this is the largest wheel in the world of its kind. It is named after the wife of the then lieutenant-governor.

Music festivals

The Manx National Festival, Yn Chruinnaght (www.ynchruinnaght.com) is a celebration of Manx culture and its relationship with what it calls the other 'five Celtic countries', namely Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany (!), usually held in the middle of July. Expect crafts, dance and music. Also check out Shennaghys Jiu (www.shennaghys.org) in April for ceilidhs and concerts.

Peel Castle

This Viking relic stands proudly atop St Patrick's Isle and is connected to Peel by a causeway. It is open to visitors in the summer months. The ruins of the castle are surrounded by emerald grounds, and look out towards the water; stroll here at dusk for particularly spectacular sunsets. Keep a look out for basking sharks and seals along the breakwaters as well.

Ride the rails

The Isle of Man is known for its narrow-gauge railways, but even those not sporting an anorak and carrying a notebook will enjoy a scenic ride on the variety of railways that trundle around the island. Snaefell Mountain Railway climbs to the summit of Man's highest peak.

Sample some seafood

There's plenty of fishing off the coast of the Isle of Man and you can enjoy great fresh seafood straight off the boats, often cooked over a hot grill or served simply. Chomp on one of Man's famous kippers (smoked herring), to which Moore's Traditional Museum in Peel is dedicated. So they must be good.

See a Manx ghost

Mythology is an important part of Manx culture and ghosts, of course, form a major part of this. Across the main settlements of Ramsey, Douglas, Peel and Castletown, local guides will take you on a chilling journey around the island's most haunted spots to hear about the White Lady of Castle Rushen and the Black Dog of Peel Castle.

The House of Manannan

Based in the City of Peel, the House of Manannan examines the seafaring heritage of Celtic, Viking and modern day islanders. Using multimedia displays, the guide for the tour is Manannan, the island's mythological sea god shape-shifter.

The Manx Museum

Variously a Norse stronghold, Scottish outpost and English protectorate, the history of long and complex, but the Manx Museum in Douglas, where interactive displays explain the Isle of Man's background background and take visitors up to the present, detailing even the latest TT winners.

The Sound and the Calf of Man

A small islet off Creyneash, in the southwest of the island, the Calf of Man is a rugged, picturesque spot. It is a bird sanctuary and home to a variety of seabird colonies. Seals, dolphins and basking sharks can often be seen in the Sound too. You can cruise around the Calf from Port Erin with Calf Island Cruises and can also stay on the island in the warden's farmhouse with prior permission during summer. Drop into the Sound Visitor Centre in Port St Mary to learn about the ships that sank in the area and the subsequent wrecks that divers now explore.

Walking

The whole island has tracks allowing you to explore on foot and the Isle of Man is often described as having some of the best walking in Britain. The Millennium Way runs the length of the country amidst spectacular scenery and the Road of the Gull (Raad ny Foillan) is a 153km (95 mile) circuit of the island; fairly tough, it meanders all around the coast, over cliffs, through glens and down steep gorges; it typically takes five days to complete. The best sections include Bradda Head, where a stone tower has panoramic views over Port Erin, and Maughold Head, which is home to puffins. Tynwald National Park and Arboretum offers a more relaxed walk.

Watch the races

The most famous event on the Isle of Man are the TT Races (www.iomtt.com). The series of motorbike races, is one of the most important meetings in the world. The riders hurl along the closed roads at cheek-wobbling speeds, and has its fair share of spills, especially on 'Mad Sunday' when anyone can ride the mountain section.

Whale watching

Basking sharks and dolphins love the waters around the Isle of Man and can frequently be seen, often within one kilometre of the coast. The best time to see them is from mid-May to mid-August. Find out how many have been seen at www.manxbaskingsharkwatch.com.