Isle of Man Road Trip

Ken & Carol had dreamt of visiting the Isle of Man for many years when they owned a caravan, but were always put off by the lack of caravan sites on the island and the thought of all those narrow roads…

Now we have an NV200 CamperCar, we feel able to explore anywhere you can go in a car, and having spent many nights wild camping, we finally felt confident enough to travel to the Isle of Man without booking any sites.

When the island opened up to visitors again in 2021 and having had our two Covid jabs each, we booked a ferry crossing from Liverpool and were excited to be on our way.

On arrival in Douglas, our first impression was of a pretty seaside town although the promenade was undergoing some major roadworks and improvements. 

We had drawn up a rough itinerary of places to visit and headed up the coast towards Laxey to start an anti clockwise tour of the island, not knowing how long it would take. The highlights here were the Great Laxey Wheel, the largest working waterwheel in the world (which we simply had to climb up) and the Snaefell Mountain Railway, which we decided to postpone until the weather improved.

Further up the coast we explored Ramsey, the second largest town on the island before heading to the northernmost tip at Point of Ayre. Here we were delighted by the view of the lighthouse and greeted by inquisitive grey seals who seemed to follow us along the beach.

Heading down the west coast there are several deserted beaches to be found in the Ayre National Nature Reserve but we felt it was a bit too cold for us to go swimming in the sea! We really felt like we had the place to ourselves, away from the crowds and it was great being able to cook in the van.

Time to head inland to Tynewald Hill at St John’s, the ancient meeting place of the Manx Parliament dating back at least 1,000 years! 

Back out on the west coast we made our way to Peel, the island’s main fishing port, where we enjoyed a tasty meal at Filby’s restaurant and watched the beautiful sunset over the castle from the comfort of our park up in Marine Parade.

The following day I explored Peel Castle which was originally built by the Vikings in the 11th century and took a strenuous walk up the hill to Corrin’s Tower, a folly built in 1806.

 

Our next stop down the west coast was Port Erin, another pretty seaside town where you can catch a steam train to Douglas. Being in such a small van we had no trouble parking right on the seafront. We decided we needed some exercise so took the Bradda Glen coastal path up to Milner Tower, a monument dedicated to William Milner in acknowledgement of his many charities to the poor of Port Erin and Manx fishermen. Later that evening, we relocated to a park up at the end of the harbour to cook our evening meal with a lovely view of the tower on the headland.

We were lucky to be visiting the Isle of Man in mid August when the Royal Manx Agricultural Show is held at Knockloe Farm. We enjoyed a lovely day there, sampling a wide selection of food and drink as well as watching animals being shown and competing for awards.

On the south coast of the island we explored Castletown, the old Manx capital until 1869. Castle Rushen, one of the best examples of medieval castles in Europe is thought to have been built here in the 10th century. 

There were so many rooms to explore in the castle and it was fascinating to learn how it had changed hands over the years between the Scots and the English. It became a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War under Countess Charlotte Stanley until she was forced to surrender to Parliamentarian forces led by Illiam Dhône in 1651. Illiam Dhône was later executed for his part in the uprising at Hango Hill where there is a plaque commemorating this.

Also in this area is St Michael’s Isle with its chapel ruins and 17th century Derby Fort, built during the English civil war to protect the then busy port of Derbyhaven.

After a peaceful night parked up near the fort we enjoyed a morning walk around the Langness Peninsula to see the lighthouse and Herring Tower built in 1823 as a navigational aid for sailors.

Off the south-westerly tip of the island lies the Calf of Man, separated by a narrow stretch of water called the Calf Sound. This is a great place to come to spot birds, including a breeding population of Manx shearwaters and we also saw a large colony of seals. After an afternoon snack here in the Sound Cafe, we ventured inland to find a park up and discovered Sulby Reservoir, the largest body of water on the Isle of Man. It is also a registered dark sky discovery site and there is even a laid back bench where you can relax and star gaze on a clear night.

We could not leave the island without a drive around the 38 mile TT course, stopping at The Bungalow on the mountain road section to pay our respects to Joey Dunlop who won the race 26 times and is commemorated by a statue here astride his Honda. 

 

The following morning was misty with fine rain but we decided to visit Cregneash Living Museum and had the place all to ourselves.

The knowledgeable guides explained what life was like in the village in the 19th century and it was interesting to see the cottages and all the artifacts depicting a typical Manx villager’s home.

On our way back to Douglas we stopped off at Rushen Abbey, founded in 1134 and later coming under Cistercian rule. The abbey ruins became a popular tourist attraction in the early 1900’s, famous for its strawberry tea dances.

We tried to pick a clear day for our electric tram ride up Snaefell Mountain, the highest peak on the Isle of Man. The beauty of travelling in a campervan is that you can pick your own itinerary and go at your own pace so you decide where to go and when to move on. Luck was on our side that day as our train climbed up to the summit from the station in Laxey and the views from the top of the mountain were amazing. It is said on a clear day you can see seven kingdoms from the top - the Isle of Man, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Heaven and Manannán (the sea).

Our last full day on the island started from one of our favourite park ups at Point of Ayre with a drive into Peel for their famous kipper baps for breakfast. We then headed to the Chasms, an impressive collection of fissures cut deep into the cliffs - definitely not for the faint-hearted! The sun was shining as we ended the day in bustling Port Erin and then found a park up above Meayll Stone Circle to enjoy our last sunset with spectacular views.

This is just a summary of the twenty nights we spent on the Isle of Man. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and would not hesitate to go back and explore more of the island one day.

See more of Ken & Carol’s adventures on their YouTube channel


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