The Isle of Man: Visiting from Liverpool – travel guide
As the world famous Isle of Man TT gets underway in May, YM Liverpool explains why there’s plenty more reasons throughout the year to visit this captivating little island than superbikes.
Words by Lawrence Saunders | Images courtesy of Visit Isle of Man
Whether it’s by air or sea, covering the relatively short distance from Liverpool to the Isle of Man is a straightforward affair.
The world’s oldest continuously operating passenger shipping company runs regular services to the island, with foot passenger tickets starting at £39 return.
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s wave-piercing high-speed catamaran will have you disembarking in Douglas, the capital, in around two hours and 45 minutes.
Fancy a fast flight over a fast ferry? easyJet operates a daily route from Liverpool John Lennon Airport to the only airport, Ronaldsway, with prices from £23.16 (one way).
Useful travel info
- Flight time from Liverpool: 40 minutes.
- UK residents don’t need a passport to travel to the island, however many airlines will want to see some photo ID before boarding.
- Sterling is accepted but the Isle of Man’s Manx pound is not legal tender back home.
Spend Boxing Day in St John’s
Nine miles north of Castletown lies St John’s, where every Boxing Day locals come together to partake in some of the island’s older traditions.
Festivities begin with Hunt the Wren, which dates back to pre-Christian times. As the name suggests the practice is centred on the hunting of a wren – ‘the King of All Birds’ – which, once caught, is paraded around atop a festooned pole. Thankfully today the bird isn’t real.
At approximately two o’clock, after a trip to the pub for a drink and some folk music, it’s time for a full-blooded game of cammag on the green next to Tynwald Hill (pictured).
Likened to Scotland’s shinty and Ireland’s hurling, it was originally the island’s national sport and involves two large teams armed with bent sticks whacking a circular or egg-shaped ball frantically around a field.
The activity is certainly not one for the fainthearted, so feel free to take part or simply observe from the safety of the sidelines.
Go on a wallaby watch
Yes, you did read that right. There are wallabies roaming free on the Isle of Man – more than 100 by the latest estimates.
The story goes that at some point during the 1960s or 70s, a couple of mischievous marsupials hightailed it from the island’s Curraghs Wildlife Park and made off into the surrounding wetlands.
A ramble through the Ballaugh Curragh at dawn or dusk is your best chance to spot one of these Kangaroo-like creatures hopping about the brush.
See some strange sport
With a reputation for the odd quirky tradition, it may come as no surprise that the World Tin Bath Championships takes place on the Isle of Man every summer.
More than 100 hardy souls will venture into the chilly waters of Castletown Harbour in their decorated bathtubs on 6 July, with whoever crosses the finish line first, or failing that covers the greatest percentage of the 400m course before sinking, named the winner.
Strict rules state that each vessel must be wholly of metal construction and pyrotechnics must not be used, which is probably for the best really.
First held in 1971, the event is organised by the Castletown Real Ale Drinkers Society, with all money raised going to local charities.
More than 100 hardy souls will venture into the chilly waters of Castletown Harbour in their decorated bathtubs.
Where to stay
Husband and wife team Fiona and John Anderson have lovingly transformed Knockaloe Beg Farm – two miles from the west coast seaside town of Peel – to offer a range of accommodation options.
Most interesting are the two charming wooden cabins (pictured) situated in the orchard behind the farmhouse, which can comfortably sleep up to four people and include en suite facilities and their own kitchen areas.
Outside, both wigwams possess wood-fuelled, eco-friendly hot tubs where guests can enjoy a soak whilst gazing up at the Isle of Man’s famously starry night sky.
Robin’s Nest and The Dovecote can be hired individually or as a pair, and prices start from £65 per night.
On the opposite side of the island, perched on the hillside overlooking the picturesque Laxey Bay, Seascape is a five-star boutique retreat offering more conventional luxury lodgings.
Arranged over three floors, this contemporary-styled bed and breakfast’s three deluxe suites (starting at £175 per night) all boast private balconies with stunning sea views.
The rate also includes use of an outdoor hot tub, glass-fronted sauna and ‘relaxation room’.
Take the long road and walk it
The Raad ny Foillan – or ‘The Way of the Gull’ in Manx Gaelic – is a mammoth coastal footpath which gives tourists the unique opportunity to walk around an entire island nation.
From sandy beaches and wooded glens to ancient castles and fascinating wildlife, the near 100-mile trail will treat you to some of the best sights the island has to offer.
Not restricted to only the most experienced ramblers, the Raad ny Foillan can be split into as many stages as walkers like, from a gruelling four-day hike down to a gentler 12-day saunter.
Try some Manx munch
It may sound like a meal which would be best enjoyed whilst propped up against a takeaway window late on a Saturday night, but on the Isle of Man it’s actually something of a national dish.
We’re, of course, talking about the humble combination of chips, cheese and gravy, which is so popular on the island that in January it celebrated its second annual national day.
The event culminated in the crowning of Peel Fisheries as a ‘CCG Grand Champion’ after eateries and chip shops battled it out to create the most imaginative interpretation of the salty stodge.
The humble combination of chips, cheese and gravy is so popular on the island that in January it celebrated its second national day.
A local angle
“Our beloved and majestic isle is an oddity of a place,” says Stuart Steen McFaull from online Manx magazine ‘Gef The Mongoose’.
“The stunning landscapes and lush greenery provide a natural beauty to rival anywhere on earth.
“For those who haven’t been, the island can seem like a strange journey back in time.
“It’s a vision plucked straight from your grandad’s memories – a snapshot of yesteryear.”
Despite its horse drawn tramways and high streets “yet to be flooded with chain replicas”, Stuart says the island is modernising in its own way with “a wealth of new bars, eateries and nightclubs” emerging.
With this in mind, he gives us the skinny on some not-to-be-missed activities.
Explore the great outdoors
“Adrenaline-junkies or the more mellow-minded are catered for on the island,” says Stuart.
“There’s sea kayaking, coasteering and gorge scrambling at Adventurous Experiences in Ballabrooie, as well as paddleboarding in Port Erin for full appreciation of sunsets, bay views and sea breezes.
“If a more tranquil experience is your bag, then picturesque views on coastal walks are ‘melt-your-retinas-off’ levels of gorgeousness.”
Grab some great grub
“1886 in Douglas is the island’s latest bar, offering four floors of class, great food and something for everyone,” adds Stuart.
“Noa Bakehouse (pictured), also in Douglas, bakes the world’s finest sourdough loaves and offers up a veritable selection of top class pastries and coffee.
“Meanwhile, The Secret Pizza Co. in Castletown is the purveyor of artisan street pizza with a dash of flamboyance.”