Between Northern Ireland and England lies the beautiful island known as the Isle of Man. The area has a rich Viking and Celtic history, and the island’s name derives from the Celtic sea god Manannán. The island is most well known for the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle race, which is one of the most dangerous in the world and takes place every year in May/June. The island has plenty of other things to offer tourists as well. With its rugged coastline and beautiful natural landscapes, there are plenty of outdoor activities, along with museums and castles. If you are planning a trip to this rocky coastal paradise, then continue scrolling to find the best things to do on the Isle of Man!
Attend the Isle of Man TT Race
As previously stated, the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle race is one of the most dangerous and exciting in the world, so why not see what all the fuss is about?
The race and qualifying races take place every year in May and into June, and they draw hundreds of enthusiasts. Many of the top drivers of the world find the Mountain Course on the Isle of Man the most difficult as it runs along winding, hilly public roads. The course is so dangerous that it lost its world championship status so that racers wouldn’t have to risk their title (and their lives) racing on this tricky course. In fact, at the 2022 TT race, five riders died, including a father and son team. Needless to say, this race is not for the faint of heart, and watching it adds another level of intensity for fans.
Attending the race is relatively free. The only time you need to purchase a ticket is if you want to sit in the grandstands or if you wish to purchase a VIP package.
Hike the Way of the Gull
If you’re wondering what to do on the Isle of Man that is unique, then consider hiking some or all of the island!
The Raad ny Foillan (Way of the Gull) hiking trail is approximately 95 miles long and runs around the entire island, offering a variety of terrains, from rocky coastal paths to leisurely country lanes. The trail takes hikers through some of the most amazing landscapes and past some of the top attractions on the island. There are 12 different stages to the trail, the longest being around 15 miles long. Many experienced hikers complete two stages a day, but if you’re looking to take in the sights and walk at a leisurely pace, then one stage a day should suit you well. The fastest the route can be walked in is four days, but for those looking for a slower walk, it can take up to 12 days, so make sure to plan your accommodation according to your physical limits.
If you would like to enjoy a day hike instead of hiking the entire trail, there are many paths to choose from. If you’re looking for a leisurely beachside walk, consider walking the Jurby to the Point of Ayre stage. For a more challenging hike, check out the Port Erin to Niarbyl stage. To learn more about each stage and plan your trip, click here.
Ride the Isle of Man Steam Railway
The Isle of Man Steam Railway is an absolute must-see on the Isle of Man for both tourists and train enthusiasts alike.
The railway is home to Britain’s longest narrow gauge steam line and still uses the original locomotives and carriages. The train runs from Douglas to Port Erin, stopping at attractions and small towns along the way. In the peak summer months, there are seven return trains through the countryside every day. This is a great way for tourists to explore the island and get to different attractions without having to rent a car.
Now, if you want a completely unique experience, then we recommend booking a seat in the plush dining cart to experience Pullman-style fine dining. The carriage was originally built in 1905 and was restored in 2013, and it offers tourists a chance to enjoy a meal in one of the world’s only fine-dining narrow gauge dining cars. To view fares and routes, visit the Isle of Man Transport website.
Recommendation: If you are planning on spending a few days discovering the island’s top attractions, then consider purchasing the 5-Day Go Heritage ticket. This ticket will give you unlimited transportation on all the island’s buses and trains, along with unlimited access to any of the Manx National Heritage attractions.
Learn About the Island’s Culture and History at the Leece Museum
This Isle of Man’s attraction is perfect for anyone wishing to discover their genealogy or learn more about small-town life on the island.
The Leece Museum is located in the small fishing village of Peel on the west side of the island. It houses many photographs, objects, and documents specific to the Peel area. An exhibit on the TT and MGP–winning racing bikes was also recently added. This is a great museum to spend an hour or two wandering through.
Visit Castle Rushen
Castle Rushen is one of the best tourist attractions on the Isle of Man, and for good reason. This 12th-century castle is in immaculate shape and looks over Castletown’s Market Square and the sea.
The castle was originally built for a Norse king but has had many purposes over the years, including a prison, a mint, and a royal residence. The castle was also famously besieged by Robert the Bruce. Today, tourists can roam the ramparts and enjoy picturesque views, learn about the history of the castle, and even wander through the beautiful castle gardens. Entry for children is free, and the castle is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. from April to October. Castle Rushen is also one of the Manx National Heritage attractions, meaning it is free for those who have purchased a Go Heritage pass.
Book an Adventure with Adventurous Experiences
If you are looking for thrilling activities on the Isle of Man, then check out Adventurous Experiences, your one-stop shop for all things adventure!
This sports center offers incredible outdoor experiences for people of all ages and physical abilities. One of the more popular tours offered by the company is its sea kayaking trip. This trip takes tourists on a three-hour journey along the coast to hidden spots only accessible by kayak. Visitors get a chance to see seals and other marine life like basking sharks, all the while paddling the Irish Sea. Another unique tour that the company offers is a Gorge Scrambling tour, which takes visitors into fresh water gorges where they get to slide down naturally formed waterslides, climb, and swim.
All tours with Adventurous Experiences offer discounts for groups of four or more, so make sure to book all together instead of separately.
Try the Isle of Man’s National Dish
One of the best ways to experience other people’s culture while abroad is by sampling local delicacies, and in this case, that means Manx Queenies!
Manx queenies are the island’s national dish of fresh queen scallops caught off the coast, and they tend to have a soft sweetness to them. There are many places to try this mouthwatering dish, and they are served in different ways. Sometimes they are added to a salad. Other times, they are battered and served with chips. You can find this dish served all over the island.
Tour Okell’s Brewery in Douglas
There is no better way to cool off on a hot summer day than with a fresh pint of beer from Okell’s Brewery.
Okell’s has been brewing refreshing craft beers in the town of Douglas since 1850 and has become a local favorite. Tourists can visit the brewery’s bar and enjoy some tasty samples or opt to go on a tour of the brewery. Tours are offered every Wednesday evening from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. If Wednesdays don’t work for you, then you can call in advance and book a brewery tour with groups of six or more on a day of your choice.
Ride the Snaefell Mountain Railway to Snaefell’s Summit
This one-of-a-kind attraction is one of the best ways to go sightseeing on the Isle of Man.
The Snaefell Mountain Railway is home to the British Isles’ only electric mountain railway. The train has been in service since 1895 and runs from the village of Laxey on the east side of the island. From here, tourists can relax and enjoy the views as the train climbs up 2,036 feet above sea level up the only mountain on the Isle of Man, the Snaefell summit. Once at the top, tourists can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the country, and on a clear day, it is possible to see Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland.
Visit the Manx Museum
The Manx Museum is one of the most popular museums on the island. It is located in Douglas and offers tourists an extensive collection of treasures unique to the island.
Tourists can easily spend an hour or two roaming through the museum while learning about the island’s Celtic and Viking past through film, interactive exhibits, and galleries. Afterwards, visitors can head to the gift shop to browse for souvenirs or make their way to the on-site café for an afternoon tea and a snack.
Hang Out With Retired Horses
Are you looking for fantastic free things to do on the Isle of Man? Well, just outside the town of Douglas, there is a fantastic petting zoo set on 92 acres of lush countryside land.
The Home of Rest for Old Horses is a great family-friendly attraction, where visitors get to visit with over 60 donkeys and horses who aren’t shy about saying hello. The animals also love being fed apples and carrots, which can be purchased from the gift shop. There is also an on-site café and a museum on the history of the home. Entry to the petting zoo is free, but donations are greatly appreciated. Visitors can also opt to adopt a donkey or horse for £10 and receive updates on them throughout the year.
See Animals at the Curraghs Wildlife Park
Another fun thing to do on the Isle of Man for families is visiting the zoo, also known as the Curraghs Wildlife Park.
The Curraghs Wildlife Park is home to an array of animals from around the world, like lemurs, spider monkeys, lynx, and much more. The zoo also has plenty of activities for the little ones, such as riding the miniature train, playing on the jungle gym in the Play Barn, or jumping their hearts out on the giant Jumping Pillow. There are also plenty of boardwalks and walking trails. The Curraghs Wildlife Park is located on the north side of the island near Ballaugh.
Learn About Victorian Life at the Grove Museum
Another great place to visit on the Isle of Man is the Grove Museum, located just outside of Ramsey.
This beautiful home was once the summer retreat of a wealthy merchant family from Liverpool, but then it became the home of the Gibb Sisters. Today, it is an immaculate museum depicting the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Visitors can explore the house and the grounds, including the gardens, which have been beautifully maintained and feature beehives. Tourists can also enjoy a game of croquet near the conservatory on the lawn or visit the Loaghtan sheep and ducks. Don’t forget to hit the Grove Museum Shop on the way out to pick up a souvenir.
Explore the Ruins of Peel Castle
Another can’t-miss attraction on the Isle of Man is Peel Castle. Although the castle is not as intact as Castle Rushen, it’s still a very impressive site.
The castle was once the home of the Viking King of Mann in the 11th century before becoming the fort of Magnus Barelegs. Today, tourists can explore the magnificent ruins and keep an eye out for the infamous Moddey Dhoo – the ghost of a black dog said to haunt the grounds. Other areas to explore include the Chapel of St. Patrick and the Round Tower, which date back to the 10th and 11th centuries, along with the Great Garrison Hall, which dates back to the 16th century. Audio guides are also available.
Watch the Laxey Wheel
The Great Laxey Wheel and Mine Trail is one of the island’s top attractions for tourists. This Victorian-era waterwheel is the largest surviving waterwheel of its kind in the world. The wheel is attached to a tower that visitors can climb to enjoy panoramic views of Glen Mooar Valley. Also known as the Lady Isabella, the waterwheel is still functioning today, just as it did for the nearby mines for 70 years.
After a visit to Lady Isabella, visitors can follow the hiking trail to the old Laxey mines and explore the mine ruins.
Go for a Hike in Glen Helen National Forest
Glen Helen is a beautiful wooded area on the Isle of Man known for its historic bridges, waterfalls, and gardens. It is also home to the wicked left-turn bend used in the Isle of Man TT Race.
Visitors can enjoy leisurely walks throughout the area. The most popular walking route takes you to Rhenass Fall, an incredible waterfall that cascades between two rugged hills. Rhenass Fall is just under a four-mile walk from the main area. At Glen Helen’s main area, there is a large car park, a children’s playground, and a restaurant. The lower walking trail here is accessible for those with strollers as well. Glen Helen is located in the central part of the island, about a 10-minute drive from Peel.
Take a Boat Tour to Calf of Man
Just off the coast of the Isle of Man sits the small, rugged island of Calf of Man. If you’re truly looking to get out into nature and away from people, this is the place to do it; the total population of this island is a whopping two people!
The only way to get to the 600-acre island is by private boat from Port Erin or Port St. Mary. We recommend booking a boat tour. This way you have a guided experience and do not have to worry about the safety and remoteness of the island. Shone Boat Tours out of Port Erin offers pickup and drop-off both with or without a boat tour of the island. Visitors need to book their tickets there and back in advance and be aware that launches are dependent on weather. Once you get to the island, you will be hard-pressed to find any other people roaming about. Visitors can enjoy spectacular bird watching as the entire island is a bird sanctuary. Because of this status, no dogs are permitted on the island. There are also plenty of trails to discover. Essentially, you have the island to yourself!
Spend a Day at Cregneash Village
If you are looking for a place to take the family, then consider spending a day at Cregneash Village.
This is a beautiful community and living museum on the island, and it is great fun to visit for those of all ages. Cregneash was one of the last areas on the island to hold onto the Manx language and culture, which were important to farming in the area. Here, you will get to see the farming and crofting life (that of small-scale farmers) from the 19th and 20th centuries through craft demonstrations and stories. You will also see tons of adorable animals like Loaghtan sheep, shorthorn cows, and horses. One of the most interesting animals seen roaming around here is Manx cats; these furry little creatures have no tails!
There are picnic tables and a café to grab a bite to eat during your stay, and the area is also one of the best on the island for stargazing. It is one of 26 registered Dark Sky Discovery Sites, so if you feel like staying up late, then hang around in the village until nightfall.
Take a Trike Motorcycle Tour
Explore the island on motorcycles and follow the exact track of the TT Race. IOM Trike Tours Limited, based out of Douglas, offers unique tours for racing and motorcycle fans alike.
The interesting thing about these tours is you don’t have to drive at all, as all the drivers are tour guides. The trike bikes used are similar in style to a rickshaw bike, so there is a couch-like back area where visitors can relax and take in the views without having to focus on the road. This is also great for those with disabilities, and the company is familiar with making the necessary safety adjustments for visitors with specific needs. The minimum age to ride is eight years old. Multiple routes are offered, so visitors can pick the route they would like to see most, like the East Coast Tour or Head-to-Head tour. Custom tours can also be arranged.
Listen to Live Music
Immerse yourself in Gaelic and Isle of Man culture by stopping in at one of the island’s historic pubs to listen to some live music.
Weekly music sessions occur all over the island and are a great way to unwind after a day of adventuring. Listen to the stories passed down through generations through songs, and tap along to the catchy tunes of the island. On Tuesdays, you can find live music at the Manor in Douglas, and on Wednesdays, you can hit up the live trad session at O’Donnell’s in Douglas. On Fridays, there are live trad music sessions at the Mitre in Ramsey and at Colby Glen. To find other monthly and weekly performances on the island, click here.
There you have them, the top things to do on the Isle of Man. This stunning island offers so much to see and do that we hope you enjoy everything it has to offer!