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I am a fan of the IOM. I have a motor home. I belong to a motor home forum. I always push the IOM as an ideal destination. Here is my guide for a recent visitor (July 2008)
well you may miss the scooter festival and you definitely miss our national day 5th July, but held on 7th, due to the week end, but you hit race week for the Southern 100 motorbike races.
Arrival day I suggest you stay on the Marine Drive just south of Douglas (along South Quay and then up Douglas Head Road), and then make an early start. I suspect that a clockwise trip may be best.
Douglas has a Tesco and an M&S. There is a really good fish & chip shop, the Chart Room on North Quay at Quines Corner and a fresh fish restaurant in Victoria Street next to the library. here you will rub shoulders with the stars who are over for filming. we have an active film industry.
The beer is good, Okells local brew and Bushys a small independent. Bushys pub in Douglas is the Rovers Return and they do hearty grub.
There are good restaurants and cocktail bars in Douglas, you may bankrupt yourself at Ciappellis but according to A A Gill it is the best Italian outside London
In the morning double back into Douglas and go south via Old Castletown Road going to coast at Port Soderick and Port Grenaugh before going to Castletown, Georgian Square and C15 Castle, go to Derbyhaven, Fort Island and Langness. Light house there owned by Top Gear Clarkson who has fenced off an area and upset the locals, he says they look through his windows. Back to Castletown. If there is a race or practice you are stuck and cannot go further South. watch out for angry locals busy wire cutting and trespassing with dogs, angry Clarksons with guns and of course seals.
In Castletown there is a spot by the railway station with two pubs. The larger one does good lunches and the smaller one, The Sidings, latterly the Ducks Nest, after the architect Mr Duck, has a range of guest real ales
Once racing over follow road to Port Erin and Port st Mary, detour down to Pooylvaaish to see the quarry where the stone for steps for St Paul's London comes from, turn left through farmyard as you hit the sea. Return to main road by backtracking and at farm go straight ahead instead of right. Rejoin main Road at bottom Fishers Hill and travel along coast as far as you can go. This takes you to Port St Mary. From there return to the cross roads you came to from the coast road and turn left to Sound and Cregneash. Our lands End. brilliant views over to Kitterland, the calf and a racing tide, look out for sea birds and seals. MNH visitor centre and quite good café for lunch or Cregneash café. Cregneash is an open air museum of a crofting/fishing village, worth a walk around. At Cregneash turn left and go over the Howe to Port Erin. Road is steep, half way along is the Meayll Hill stone circle, a mini Stonehenge.
Port Erin, good for a sunset and trips on boat to Calf of Man, take picnic, nothing but birds when you get there, on route see seals, dolphins, harbour porpoise and basking shark.
I can think of nowhere to stay, wild or other wise, in the deep south however there will be a field at Castletown full of bikers in tents, just by the start line. The alternative is back to Douglas or on to Peel and a nice municipal site with hook up.
There are two or three inlets with roads immediately north of Port Erin then take the Sloc road to Round Table. Cronk ny Arrey Laa is on the left. Hill of the break of day. here the old timers kept watch for the glint of sum on the herring shoals and waved flags to direct the fleet.
There are side roads down to the Coast at Niarbyl where there is a pub and a MNH visitor centre and café and Glen Maye where there is a pub, the Waterfall. Watch out for the Dalby Spook, a talking mongoose.Then to Peel, round the harbour to the castle, good ice cream tea and crab baps at the breakwater kiosk. If you go into the castle watch out for the moddy dhoo, ghost of black dog. On Way back stop on the bridge at the top of the harbour, look upstream and on the right is a small factory where Peel 3 wheel cars with 50cc engines were made in the 1960's. Just landward is a kipper smoke house stop to buy the best kippers in the world or for hot kipper baps if you didn't eat at the harbour. Go inland to St Johns to see our thing, parliament hill dating back to 979 and where on 5th July our parliament still sits open air and the new laws are announced in Manx and English. Think about our place names. The language is Manx, closely related to Erse and Scots Gaelic but many are pure Norse. This shows the importance of our Viking ancestry. Snaefell, snow mountain Tynwald, parliament hill, Foxdale, fossdalr waterfall valley, Laxey, laksa, salmon river. The Isl of man was a Viking kingdom from about 900 to well into the early 13th Century, originally Mann and the Isles, ie the outer Hebrides.
From Peel North take the coast road, even if not staying go to the beach at Glen Wyllin camp site. The coast north is now sandy deserted and either crumbling sand cliffs or dunes. There is wild camping at Smeale and a semi organised site at Sulby Claddagh. The food and drink at Sulby Glen Hotel is very good. I'd camp at Smeale in preference to the Claddagh, suffers from boy racers a bit. Alternatively go to Point of Ayre our John O Groats. The sand has given way to shingle and a fast current. Plenty of places to stay.
From Point of Ayre you can see salt workings and gravel workings and a wild life reserve all next to our ex tip. The views are north to the Mull of Galloway. Coming up the west coast you may have seen the Mountains of Mourne between Niarbyl and Glen Maye and in particular Slieve Donard.
As you go south via Ramsey, you will see the Lakeland fells, even barrow and the nuclear plant. Ramsey has faded glory and a 1970's Mediterranean apartment block south promenade, desecration in the name of progress. On the Mooragh at the north end you can stay on the grassed area if you get a permit from the Town hall. There are always a few members of the IOM Motorcaravanning Club parked up.
South of Ramsey go via Maughold and go to the coast at Port Cornaa. Go visit Maughold church yard to inspect viking crosses. At Laxey drop down into the old village and harbour and be sure to go see Lady Isabella, she is the biggest water wheel in the world and you cannot miss her majestically turning.
From there its back to Douglas.
On the trip to the Calf there are three deserted light houses to look at, about a 3 hour walk from Harbour. In Peel the House of Mannanan telling of our Viking history and the seafaring nature of the Manx. At Laxey get a tram to the top of Snaefell, there used to be a café when you get there but take a flask and your own sarnies, please. From Douglas take a trip on the steam train and go to the Manx Museum. If there is a show on visit the Gaiety theatre, one of the best preserved Matcham C19 theatres in the British Isles. During the day they offer back stage trips.
Other places to go, things to see
St Peters Onchan where Captain Bligh got married
Maritime Museum Castletown
Grove Museum Ramsey c19 wealthy house well preserved with good tea rooms
Rosa's for lunch or high tea
If open in Douglas go round our parliament buildings. WE have a strange tricameral system where the lower house, the Keys and the upper House, the Council sit together as Tynwald Court.
If not then the old house of Keys is in Castletown and open daily
Of course make up your own itinerary, nowhere is far, you could go to Peel day one and base there returning every day. There is a lot more. On arrival, if not too late go to the Tourist Office in the sea terminal for maps and booklets
Hope I haven't spoilt it for you