With its fantastic scenery and coastline, the Isle of Man has always been a popular destination among those who love the great outdoors. But once you begin to explore this intriguing island, you will find there is so much more to discover than just the impressive landscapes.
The history of the Isle of Man goes back 10,000 years, and in this time it has come to be home to some remarkable feats of human architecture and engineering. From 12th century churches to historic estates and ancient castles, there really is something for everyone and it’s impossible to list it all in one place. So here are some of the island’s best landmark destinations, which can be enjoyed by the whole family and are great for days out.
The Great Laxey Wheel
Undoubtedly one of the most spectacular structures in the Isle of Man, the Great Laxey Wheel is a product of the Victorian engineer Robert Casement, who made the designs before its construction in 1854. Standing at over 72 feet tall, it is the largest working water wheel in the world and is a real sight to behold as it slowly revolves against the landscape behind. The wheel was built into the hillside above the village of Laxey, on the island’s eastern coast, with its initial function being to pump water away from the nearby mines.
Although you get the best photos by viewing the wheel from a distance, you can also climb the 100 or so steps to the top of the wheel, with spectacular views of the surrounding landscape awaiting you. This really gives you a great appreciation for its size and was one of the best parts of my visit here, though it is maybe not such a good idea if you’re scared of heights! Along with the wheel itself, you can also explore the surrounding valley and see some of the mine workings in the area, as well as take a trip on the Great Laxey Mines Railway. Admission to the wheel is £8, but kids go free.
There are several great reasons to visit the western coastal town of Peel, but the castle has to be up there among the best. Perched on St. Patrick’s Isle, Peel Castle is connected to the town via a causeway and is open to visitors during the summer months. It was built by the Vikings during the 11th century, under the rule of King Magnus Barefoot, and was initially a place of worship before evolving into the impressive fortification seen today.
Once inside the castle walls, you’ll find a number of buildings to explore, including the 13th century cathedral of St. German. You can also climb to the top of the Gatehouse Tower, where there are spectacular views back to Peel as well as the surrounding coastline. During my visit I was even lucky enough to spot a seal bobbing in the harbour, which was an added bonus.
What I didn’t see was the castle’s most famous resident – a ghostly black dog named Moddey Dhoo, who apparently stalks the castle and the rest of the Isle of Man. If you’re interested in history, Peel Castle is well worth a visit and is free with a Manx Heritage Pass.
Milntown House and Gardens
Just outside Ramsey, in the north-east of the island, lies the Milntown Estate. This is one of the oldest estates in the Isle of Man and its house and gardens make for a lovely visitor destination. The house itself dates from the early 16th century, but it has undergone major redesigns and refurbishments since then, now appearing as a very regal white building that is certainly unique.
It has functioned as a school and a hotel over the years, but was most recently the private residence of Lady Edwards and her son Sir Clive Edwards, before coming under the ownership of the Milntown Trust. The house is open for tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the summer season. This is a great way to see the house’s lavish interior and I found the tour to be both informative and entertaining, led by volunteers who really knew their stuff.
The house also has about 15 acres of grounds, complete with beautiful gardens and woodland. It’s ideal for a little wander when the weather is nice and there is even a nice cafe where you can get a bite to eat.
Learn more about the Isle of Man in the following article: Everything you need to know about the Isle of Man