Travel: Family fun on the Isle of ManBy Phil Creighton
May 31, 2011
Features editor Phil Creighton took his family on a break to the Isle of Man.
It might be small, but there’s so much for everyone to enjoy... although toddlers might get distracted by a sandy beach
Looking for something to give your family holiday a boost? Try a Manicure.
The Isle of Man, that small isle between Northern Ireland and Scotland, has a perfect blend of sandy beaches, historic monuments and great attractions – as well as a host of public transport connections that range from horse-drawn to steam.
It’s this mixture of ancient, not-so ancient and modern that makes the place perfect for children of all ages. They’ll love the opportunity to build sandcastles and paddle in the sea at Peel, just as much as they’ll delight in climbing the 72ft water wheel in Laxey. And, with something for everyone, it’s a great place to take the family as we did just before Easter.
Staying in a farmhouse, we hired a car and explored as much of the island as we could, failing miserably to stick to our suggested itinerary as there’s just too much to do.
Take Peel Castle, for example, the first place we were meant to go to. The 14th Century building is situated near Peel harbour. Next to it is a very beautiful sandy beach and, once my toddler had clocked the sand, the sea and the bucket and spade shop, the only place we were going was the beach. She spent a glorious afternoon building sandcastles, jumping over waves and splashing about without a care in the world.
Afterwards, we made a brief walk round Peel’s town centre, its narrow streets and the warm weather made it feel like we were in Provence rather in the middle of the Irish sea.
Then there’s the heritage, including the aforementioned Great Laxey Wheel, an engineering miracle. Once it powered a mine, now you can climb all the way to the top and admire the amazing views – or feel your knees trembling for being so high up.
My toddler loved the challenge of climbing the narrow winding steps so we could reach the viewing platform. With vertigo, I was jealous of my wife who was safely on terra firma looking after our sleepy baby son.
After the high-rise wheel, we explored the mine. Hard hats on, we were walked into the tunnels and got a taste of the miners’ lives. There’s more heritage at a preserved family village at Cregneash – staff wear period costumes and you traditional music is performed live. It gives an eye-opening look at what life was like for Manx folk 100 years ago.
Being able to explore old crofters cottages and farmyards while talking to people who know the Isle inside out makes history come alive in a way that textbooks never can.
A helpful guide explained how harsh life would have been for the crofters. But this isn’t ancient history, it dates back some 70 years.
Just down the road is The Sound, sitting at the most south westerly point in the island, this is a cafe with a difference. While enjoying meals made from Manx ingredients, you can sit and admire the view; if you’re lucky, or you borrow the binoculars from the staff, seals can be spotted.
On a sunny day this is a very popular tourist attraction. Even though there was a strong gale blowing outside when we visited, it was still bustling – no wonder as the food was the best we experienced during our stay.
There’s more though to the Isle. Although it’s small, there is plenty to keep you occupied.
Next week: More attractions, the food and the accommodation.
Phil’s family flew to the Isle of Man with FlyBe. The airline flies from Gatwick with up to four flights a day. For details, log on to www.flybe.com or call 0871 700 2000.
They stayed at Ballacricket, a farmhouse bed and breakfast run by John and Helen Masson. Accommodation starts at £25 per person, per night. For details, call 01624 823696, email firstname.lastname@example.org
They were guests of the Isle of Man tourist board. For more details on the Isle and its attractions, log on to www.visitisleofman.com