Set in the Irish Sea halfway between England and Ireland, the Isle of Man is a rural gem with its own unique culture, history and heritage.
With over 18 national glens, a sprinkling of landscaped botanical gardens and a 160km-long coastal footpath that winds through lip-smacking scenery, the island has plenty to tempt nature lovers. Head down to the Sound and Calf of Man in the south to spot seals, dolphins and basking sharks. Discover the secluded charm of Glen Maye and Bradda Glen, or take a picnic to the TynwaldNational Park and Arboretum to see native trees taken from all of the 17 Manx parishes. The clear skies here are also perfect for stargazing. On clear nights, you can spot the Orion Nebula, the Milky Way and occasionally even the dancing lights of the Aurora.
A short break to the Isle of Man from Southampton Airport makes the perfect holiday for the whole family. This verdant little island has superb sandy beaches at Castletown, Port St Mary and Peel, not to mention a charming Victorian steam railway and a watersports centre at MooraghPark near Ramsey. CurraghsWildlifePark (Ballaugh) and the Mann Cat Sanctuary (Santon) are must-visits for animal lovers, while younger kids will love the soft play areas at Shorties Pirate Adventure (Alexandra Road, Castletown).
History and heritage
It may be small, but the Isle of Man packs plenty of cultural punch. The island is home to one of the best-preserved medieval fortresses in Europe, Castle Rushden (Castletown), as well as ancient VikingfortPeelCastle. Learn more about the Viking invasions at ManxMuseum (Douglas), or visit the House of Manannan (Mill Road, Peel) to see fascinating reconstructions of a Viking longhouse and longship. The Neolithic tombs at Meayll Hill and Cashtal Yn Ard are incredibly atmospheric – particularly if you’re brave enough to check them out after dark.