From tip to tail, discover every corner of the Isle of Man with Nadia Alkahzrajie’s 24-hour guide.
Tee off with a round of golf at Castletown Golf Links (Fort Island Road, Derbyhaven, 01624 822 211); situated just a few minutes from Ronaldsway Airport on Langness Peninsula, this world-class course boasts sparkling sea views and heather-fringed fairways. Equipment is available for hire and booking is advisable. For a sumptuous brunch, head to Little Fish Café (31 North Quay, 01624 622 518), on Douglas’s marina development, where those in the know go to quaff good wine and covet the sleek yachts moored alongside barnacled old sea trawlers. The Little Fish specialises in fresh local fare prepared with modern simplicity; try a pair of Manx kippers with herb butter or the Queenie Po’Boy on sourdough brioche.
Board the steam train at Douglas station for a Merchant Ivory experience. This original Victorian locomotive runs the narrow gauge railway between Douglas in the east and Port St Mary in the south. Perhaps not the smoothest of rides, the charm of this old boneshaker makes up for the occasional judder as it puffs through golden wheat fields and sunlit meadows studded with long-horned Laughton sheep. A one-day Island Explorer ticket entitles you to unlimited travel on trains, buses and trams.
Despite the sedate pace of life, the island’s raw-edged beauty invites a spirit of adventure. The Raad ny Foillan (‘Way of the Gull’) footpath winds its way around much of the island’s dramatic coastline; between Port St Mary and the Sound Café (Sound Road, 01624 838 123), the route takes in Sugarloaf Rock, a craggy totem pole covered with swooping seabirds, and the pretty thatched village of Cregneash. Charter boats such as Gemini (Bob Taylor, 01624 832 761) are available for fishing and wildlife trips, including visits to the Calf, a tiny heather-covered island and nature reserve. Those feeling especially intrepid might consider exploring the honeycomb network of hidden coves and marine caves, many of them used by 17th-century smugglers. Diving groups are organised by Discover Diving (Marina House, Bay View Road, 01624 833 008), while kayaking expeditions can be booked through Adventurous Experiences (Patrick Road, 01624 843 034).
The laid-back village of Port St Mary makes few concessions to tourism, but take a peek under the sleepy facade and you’ll find a village with real character and a community feel. Folk music sessions are often held at The Albert Hotel’s pub (Athol Street, 01624 832 118), a cosy bar known for its fine malt whisky selection and locally brewed ales such as Old Bushy Tail. Patchwork Café (Bay View Road, 01624 836 418) is a popular meeting place for afternoon tea and delectable homemade cakes.
A handsome 16th-century estate set in 6 hectares of gardens and woodland, Milntown House (Lezayre, 01624 812 321) was once the home of the illustrious Christian family, of which Fletcher Christian gained notoriety as the head mutineer on HMS Bounty. Remodelled during the early 1800s, the Gothic mansion house makes interesting viewing, or wander round the ancient mill and duck pond in the restful grounds. A private trust now manages the estate, which also includes a superb collection of vintage motorcars and motorcycles that belonged to Sir Clive Edwards, a former resident. With its long history, Milntown is also said to be one of the most haunted locations on the island. Isle of Man Ghost Tours (15 Ash Close, 076 2441 6824) offer private bookings and ghost walks around Milntown and other atmospheric locations.
Taking inspiration from its naturally harmonious location in the lush Andreas countryside, Brightlife (Andreas Road, 01624 880 318) is a luxurious wellness centre and spa offering a holistic range of therapies for mind, body and spirit. Pampering treatments range from hot stone massages, manicures and aromatic facials, to rebalancing and healing sessions, with lunch included in a bespoke relaxation day package.
Explore Peel, a colourful old fishing port with narrow winding streets, tiny fisherman’s cottages and interesting shops for browsing. Known locally as ‘Aladdin’s Cave’, The Old Bonded Warehouse (29 Castle Street, 01624 844 565) houses an impressive collection of curiosities and the friendly owner isn’t adverse to a spot of haggling should something catch your eye. Famed for its high-quality seafood, Peel has a number of good places to eat. Filbey’s (Peel Harbour, 01624 844 144) and The Boatyard (Mariners Warf, East Quay, 01624 845 470) offer locally sourced food with harbourside views, while The Royal India (6 Athol Place, 01624 845 678) serves delicious dishes in unpretentious settings; try the spiced fried fish wrapped in banana leaf or the searingly hot lamb chukka. Alternatively ‘go local’ with fish and chips from Peel Fisheries (6 Christian Street, 01624 842 408); take your supper down to the harbour for the sunset where Peel’s beautiful Viking castle makes a dramatic spectacle on the headland as the sun moves into the arched windows of its ruined monastery.
A number of drinking venues in Douglas, the island’s capital, offer late nibbles with live music and film screenings, while some host pop-up art galleries. At the Bath and Bottle cocktail bar (6 Victoria Street, 01624 845 400), you can enjoy a Fig and Pear Smash with a tasty sharing plate, or take your Bakewell Tart-ini down to the basement for the secret cinema screenings. The Railway Inn (Banks Circus, 01624 670 773) is a stylish whisky bar with a southern flavour where you can listen to live blues and rockabilly music over a gourmet burger, while The Courthouse (Athol Street, 01624 672 555) serves delicious tapas in the upstairs bar with regular DJs in the nightclub below. Another good place for food and occasional evening events is Noa Bakehouse (Fort Street, 01624 618 063), a licensed sourdough bakery housed in a converted carpet warehouse opposite the bus station.