If you’re looking for a convenient weekend getaway, then look no further than the Isle of Man.
The self-governing British Crown dependency is literally a one-hour 15-minute flight from London Gatwick and it only measures 32 miles long, so you can explore much of its stunning landscape in a few days.
If you’re worried about the weather, the place looks even more dramatic with a spot of wind and rain and there are dozens of cosy places to perch. Come the summer, you’ll definitely want to take a dip in the Irish Sea’s glistening blue waters! And of course, there’s the famed TT motorbike race in late May which attracts thousands of spectators from far and wide. Here’s our run down of what to see and do with a few days spare in the Isle of Man…
Return flights from London Gatwick to the Isle of Man start from £47 with easyJet. British Airways also flies direct.
FOR CAR HIRE:
Book car hire through ASP and the company provide a free chauffeured pick up from the airport to its depot. The staff are friendly and they have a good range of vehicles to suit all needs.
We checked into the Hotel Halvard midweek and took a room on the third floor. The room, decked out with a wooden floor and plush rugs, was surprisingly large, with a big double bed and lounge area, complete with a hot drink station and flat screen TV.
The bathroom was equally as spacious and it also had a snazzy light control panel which meant you could make the space look like something better fitted to a nightclub. The rest of the Hotel Halvard seemed to carry and Art Deco inspired theme, with everything from the lettering to colour scheme harking back to this era. The staff were exceedingly friendly and always willing to help with everything from wake-up calls to map directions.
Other perks included free Netflix access in your room – something which I rarely see at hotels and the generous breakfast buffet. Each morning there was a well-presented array of dishes with the components of a full English, fruits and pastries on offer. I also developed an addiction to the deliciously rich hot chocolate.
Other people we spoke to on the island also applauded the Hotel Halvard and its recent renovations. Be sure to get up in time to see the sun rise if you’re in the sea front rooms. We were blown away by the dreamy morning skies!
WHERE TO EXPLORE: There are 18 national glens scattered across the Isle of Man to explore. We ventured to Glen Maye, Bradda Glen and Dhoon Glen during our stay. It proved to tricky to find the trailhead for the latter one but we got there on the end!
This led us along a fairly boggy track through a woodland with herds of sheep singing from the bordering fields. As we ventured out of the tree-laden area we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the rugged coastline, with a stoney beach rolling below.
We didn’t have time to complete the entire trek but it proved to be a wonderful morning adventure. There were also waterfalls and ruins of an old mill which kept us occupied.
Glen Maye was much easier to find with a car park right next to the trail head. A concrete pathway led us along a river with waterfalls gushing as we went.
We eventually made it to the sea and spent a while joyfully hopping across the giant rocks littering the beach. We made our way back to the car on a different path, which took us up a grassy hillside with stunning views of the countryside around.
To watch the sunset, I’d recommend hiking around Bradda Glen and up to Milner’s Tower, where there’s a spectacular lookout towards Port Erin Bay and the Calf of Man.
If your legs aren’t feeling up to it, take a winding drive down to the Sound, where the Calf of Man is clearly visible. The small island, which covers 600 acres, is home to around 33 species of seabird. There is also a modern cafe here with hot drinks, cakes and homemade meals to warm you up in breezier weather.
Those looking for Instagram-worthy viewpoints should also venture to Peel Hill. Here you are rewarded with breathtaking panoramas of the town, the 11th century castle remains, and hundreds of seabirds swooping over the sea.
WHERE TO EAT: In the mood for a little fine dining, we popped into the recently-opened Ocean restaurant in Douglas. My friend from the Isle of Man told me that 14 North is another popular restaurant for fine dining but there were more spots popping up, with Ocean being one of them.
This quaint quay-side spot blends contemporary and rustic interiors in a pleasing way, with rough stone walls and a funky blue light washing over the place. We settled into a corner booth where we tucked into a delicious spread of food including some Mexican inspired wraps, juicy scallops and a meaty cut of seabass.
My friend told us to try queenies, a small scallop-like delicacy local to the Isle of Man, but we were informed by a waitress they were out of season. To wash everything down, there were cocktails available and a pleasing wine list.
For a lovely afternoon tea, pop to Harbour Lights in Peel. This place has a cosy atmosphere and there’s a selection of mouth watering cakes on show. We plumped for a fluffy scone with cream and strawberry jam, accompanied by a pot of tea and a bottomless mug of filter coffee.
If you’re looking for a different kind of dining experience, check out what’s happening at Foraging Vintners in Port Erin. After driving over to the spot, we met with the venue’s co-founder, Mary Beth. The bubbly drinks-enthusiast founded the place with her partner after moving over from the U.S., and she explained that wanted to create a community space around their unique sparkling wine products, which use ingredients such as rhubarb and elderflower instead of grapes.
Foraging Vintners boasts a unbeatable location, with the building located just a stone’s throw from the water. Inside the former blacksmith’s workshop is a beautifully dinky bar and there’s a distillery area which also doubles up an entertainment space.
The night we visited, we tucked into a meze of olives and cheeses before we got stuck into a dessert and drink pairing.
From quaffable homemade elderflower wine to a syrupy Spanish sherry, the drinks were matched perfectly with the sweet treats set out before us.
Along with attending events and drinking at the bar, you can also pop into Foraging Vintners to purchase bottles of wine to take out.
In the summer, the outdoor terrace is said to be a top spot to soak up the sun and picture-perfect coastal scenery.
DON’T leave the Isle of Man without trying Fynoderee gin.
We went to met the husband and wife founders at their distillery and their dedication to creating a top tipple is very inspiring. Everything from the labelling to the flavour has been meticulously thought through. There are four flavours reflective of the ingredients available for each season.
The Summer edition was my favourite, with notes of strawberry and citrus shining through. This gin is widely available across the island in bars and stores and it’s also stocked at the airport.
For more information about the Isle of Man, visit www.visitisleofman.com