Isle of Man
Think of the Isle of Man and you might think motorsport and financial institutions.
But take a trip here and there's a lot more to discover – an island of breathtakingly diverse natural beauty, where historic sights blend into the landscape and you can get a genuinely wild outdoor experience.
If your time on the island is limited then you don't have to travel far from Isle of Man Airport to see some of the most appealing parts of the island. Charming Castletown is right next-door to the runways; head here to visit Castle Rushen, an impressively preserved medieval fortress from about 1200 CE that dominates the centre of the pretty town. The limestone halls today host a museum about the history of the castle and the bishops and kings who lived here.
Nearby Rushen Abbey also provides a fascinating glimpse into the island's history. Follow the trails around the 12th-century monastery and explore the peaceful gardens that surround this historic site.
Complete your exploration of the area's history with a drive to scenic Cregneash. This picturesque collection of traditional thatched houses offers an insight into life as a farmer in bygone eras on the island. Enter the whitewashed stone cottages to learn about the history of the village and meet some of the Manx animals that still graze in the surrounding fields.
End your short trip to the Isle of Man with a meal in a local pub or restaurant. Make sure you have a pint of local beer and try Manx specialities such as queenies - fresh scallops arriving straight from the Irish Sea onto your dinner plate. The southern tip of the island, known as the Sound, is a particularly attractive place to eat, offering views of the landscape and the chance to spot the local population of grey and common seals.
Spend 48 hours on the Isle of Man and you can experience its many different facets, packing in scenic spots, popular museums and cultural attractions in a short space of time. The island may be small, but it's packed with things to fill an energetic weekend.
Start your exploration in Douglas, the financial and governmental centre of the island. Stop by the Manx Museum, which offers an informative look at the natural history of the region and features displays on the TT Races, its history as a holiday destination and a beautifully presented art gallery.
After this, go for a walk to appreciate the atmosphere of this seafront town. The long promenade is full of character, but head south of the ferry terminal for a real treat. After a long climb uphill, you can reach the paths that wind around Douglas Head. The rocky cliffs and snaking road provide some of the best views of Douglas and the surrounding area.
Stroll back down to ground level and enjoy a meal in the stylish North Quay area of the town, where you can pick up local beers and enjoy high-quality meals. End your day in the capital with a trip to the stunning Gaiety Theatre, which hosts a diverse programme throughout the year.
On day two, explore the sights on the west coast of the island. The old-fashioned town of Peel features the impressive 14th-century Peel Castle, a ruined landmark with stories in the walls and breath-taking views in every direction. Alternatively, visit the fascinating museum the House of Manannan for a wealth of insight into local history.
From Peel, head out along the coast to snap shots of some of the most beautiful corners of the island. Follow the trail through Glen Maye to walk beneath waterfalls and skim stones at a quiet beach. Wander down to the seafront at Niarbyl for a moment of peace in an atmospheric bay. End your weekend by finding a country pub for a hearty meal in an atmospheric, family-run venue.
The Isle of Man may be tiny, but it's chock-full of things to see and do. Take a week to explore the island and you still won't have discovered everything that it has to offer. You will, however, realise why the Manx national anthem refers to the island as the "gem of God's earth".
Day one Your plane will land in the south of the island, so start by exploring the walks and sights around here. If it's a warm day, relax on the waterfront in Port Erin, an atmospheric seafront town with an enclosed bay and sandy beach. From here you can easily reach dramatic spots such as the Sound, at the very southern tip of the island. A short drive on from here are the awe-inspiring cliffs and ravines known as the Chasms, geological wonders offering panoramic views of the coastline.
Day two Stay overnight in Port Erin and use the next day to take a boat trip out to the Calf of Man. This miniature uninhabited island is a nature reserve and bird sanctuary, making it a perfectly peaceful place to explore on foot. Bring your binoculars to look for rare breeds such as the Manx Shearwater.
Day three Drive along the dramatic west coast and stop for walks in two of the most beautiful spots on the island. Niarbyl is a beach so attractive, with historic cottages nestled into the windswept landscape, that it has been used as a film set. Less famous, but no less appealing, is Glen Maye, which offers a gentle walk past waterfalls down to a beach and a footpath back along the grassy coastline.
Day four Spend the night in Peel then take the next day exploring the town's attractions. Peel Castle and the House of Manannan are two of the more popular spots, but it's just as fun to pick up an ice cream and sit on the beach, or wander along the harbour wall to watch seals trying to steal fish from the lines. If you're feeling active, hike up Peel Hill to see several miles along the coastline.
Day five From Peel, head north to the town of Ramsey, where the landscape gets flatter but remains just as dramatic. Stop in quirky independent shops and pause for lunch facing the sea, before heading south along the coast to Laxey. Climb to the top of the Laxey Wheel, a huge Victorian waterwheel with an adjoining mine trail.
Days six and seven Take your pick of inland hikes, climbing up peaks such as Snaefell or North Barrule. From here, you can get a stunning, all-angles perspective of the island, with almost every corner of it in view. The walk might be windy, so warm up afterwards with a trip to Douglas, where you can end your trip in a bar or restaurant before taking in an evening's entertainment at one of the venues here.