One of our mates randomly suggested we should join him and his fiancé on a quick weekend trip to the Isle of Man in February. Since his ancestors were from here, he had made a number of trips before and had the weekend sorted for us before we even finished saying yes to the invite.
We caught a leisurely 11am flight out of London and landed less than an hour later on the island. Being mid-winter we basically scurried as fast as we could out of the airport and into the shelter of the rental car. It was freezing!
If I was to sum up the short weekend away in two words, it would be scenery and eating, both of which were fantastic on the Isle of Man.
First stop of the trip was to the southern end of the island to see the Calf of Man (the little island off the mainland). The Calf is actually home to two people year-round who are employed to stay on the island as caretakers and animal population monitors (see BBC article on the job here). Apparently, these people could be cut off from the mainland for up to a month in bad weather – I could totally understand that from the day we visited, the sea was ferocious.
We then continued on our circumnavigation of the island with our ‘local’ tour guide taking care of the itinerary. We stopped at a cute little seaside hut, a village of ancestral significance, then made our way over to Douglas, where we were staying, for dinner.
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the most northerly tip of the island – the Point of Ayre. It was a particularly stormy and dramatic day when we went which made it all the more impressive. The power of the sea hitting the island was immense and the wind relentless. It would have been a tough place to exist back in the day.
It was even sketchy driving down the coast to get there. Those waves were crashing over the sea wall the whole time, sometimes reaching across the road and splashing the houses. The boys got out to take photos of the waves and almost got taken out, see below:
Laxey Wheel was another stop we made on our trip around the island. This wheel is the largest working waterwheel in the world (although on the day we were there, it was not going). It was constructed over 150 years ago and was used to move water around the mine site when it was still operational. It was quite an impressive bit of engineering of which the Manx are very proud – it adorns the back of their £20 notes.
This was my favourite part of the Isle of Man. The food scene here is out of this world. For such a tiny island, the amount of excellent places to eat was disproportionate (in a good way for us). The Manx seem very proud of the produce of the Island, and use their cafes and restaurants as a way to really highlight this – something we were happy to indulge in. All of the places we ate had seasonal, local produce. It was incredible. A few of the places we visited while on the Island were:
This restaurant showcased local Manx produce with a regularly changing menu. Everything was relatively simple, but extremely well thought out, fresh and delicious.
This is a local brewery with a pub right downtown. We decided to watch one of the afternoon 6 Nations rugby games here while the boys sampled some of the local brews. It was England v Wales – it was interesting to see the split of support in the bar from the locals as there were some very passionate England supporters (probably bankers from London over in the tax haven for work) and very passionate anti-England supporters.
This bakery is another establishment on the Island which puts supporting local suppliers to the forefront – I noticed bags of Manx flour while we were there (who knew they could grow this on such a windswept little island. The food was fantastic – seemed to be a common theme.
Bath and Bottle
After dinner, we headed out for a cocktail at the Bath and Bottle. Their menu boasted an amazing array of very creative drinks. This place was pumping! It seemed like every single young person in Douglas was crammed in here for their Saturday night out.
Queenies in Peel
The Isle of Man is famed for its seafood, and one of the favourite local treats is miniature scallops called queenies. Our mate had scouted the island a few times before and took us to his favourite fish and chips shop in Peel called Quayside Fish and Chips to sample the local delicacy. The queenies are simply prepared in regular chip shop batter. They are about the size of a large raspberry, very sweet and tender.
The Isle of Man was a very chilled place to go for a weekend getaway. Everything was easy about the place, the flight was short, food was great, and people were lovely. I would recommend checking it out if you have a free weekend and live in London.
Until next time,