From the Port of Cadiz to the old mining villages of the Colorado Rockies, discover every corner of the Isle of Man with local expert Nadia Alkahzrajie’s 24-hour guide.
0700-0900. Breakfast like a king at The Velvet Lobster (30/31a North Quay, 01624 622 518), a popular all-day venue in Douglas where punters jostle to get their hands on bespoke bacon and eggs and the signature Frenchie Royale, a breakfast sandwich of rustic proportions filled with cheese and sticky chutney. Housed in a rinky-dink Victorian building, The Velvet Lobster occupies a prime spot on Douglas’s little marina development where those in the know go to quaff good wine and covet the sleek yachts moored alongside barnacled old sea trawlers. Elegant, original and vaguely reminiscent of a French café, The Velvet Lobster is a lovely way to kick-off your day.
0900-1100. More cubic zirconia than rough diamond, Douglas, the island’s capital, is little more than the financial sector redevelopment that has literally flattened its charm, however a measure can still be found along the majestic sweep of the promenade with its wide ocean boulevards. Walk past what remains of the Grand Theatre, Aquarium and Hotel Complex, conceived by one delightfully named Thomas Lightfoot circa 1878, for a trip back in time. Designed by renowned architect Frank Matcham, The Gaiety Theatre and Opera House (Harris Promenade, 01624 600 555) offers a small but perfectly formed entertainments venue brimming with old-style glamour; the theatre is especially popular with the current crop of top British comedians – Russell Brand, Alan Carr, Kevin Bridges – who appreciate the intimate atmosphere and beautifully restored interior. Jump on a tram to save your feet; they run for two miles of the promenade and are pulled by the majestic shire horses that stand some 17 hands.
1100-1300. From Douglas, take the scenic coastal road to Peel, an old fishing port boasting bags of character, where the narrow winding streets and tiny fisherman’s cottages recall the charismatic ports of Cadiz in Spain and Honfleur in France. Authentic and a little rough around the edges, Peel is full of genuine corners of antiquity, while The House of Manannan recreates the island’s past through interactive installations. Peel’s Viking castle is less preserved than the fortress at Castletown but no less beautiful for its crumbling walls and stark windswept location; built in the red sandstone indigenous to the island, it becomes a luminous beacon on the headland as the sun moves into the high-arched windows of its ruined monastery. Follow the road to St Johns and the Tynwald Mills (01624 801 213) where you’ll find speciality shops in an attractive courtyard setting, including outlets for Barbour, Ted Baker, Radley and The North Face. Time permitting, carry on to Ramsey on the Snaefell Mountain road used for the annual TT motorcycle races where you can buy unusual gifts at Shakti Man (66 Parliament Street, 01624 815 060) and Sweet Ginger (68a Parliament Street, 01624 813 382).
1300-1500. Head back down the Sulby Valley that takes you through a heartland of waterfalls, glens and pine forest studded with picturesque tholtons (ruins). The scenery here is unchanged and epic, recalling the old mining villages of the Colorado Rockies where the banjo-playing townsfolk have upped and left in the night. The Tholton Bistro (Tholt-y-Will House, 01624 898 584) is a teeny one- man-show of a restaurant perched on the tip of a steep glen; your host Karl will cook local duck and lobster right under your nose before serving it at your table. The Tholton Bistro opens for lunch from 12pm from March to December, so if you’re visiting out of season I’d recommend the Swiss House Café Bar & Grill (01624 801 657), an exceptionally pretty venue in the nearby Glen Helen National Park.
1500-1700. Continue down Ballamodha to Port Erin. Straight out of an Enid Blyton novel, the town greets you with a 1950s seaside feel. Surrounded by a landscape of rolling hills dotted with hidden coves and long sandy beaches, you can easily imagine Byton’s wide-eyed quintet stumbling into a smuggler’s cave before tucking into a tooth-rotting knickerbocker glory. Milner’s Tower marks the headland like a stiff little finger, and if you’re feeling energetic you might like to climb the spiral staircase for the views. Below the tower, the cliffs descend in wedding-cake tiers, and you can saunter along the winding cliff paths where property prices for the Italianate villas reach jaw-dropping heights.
1700-1900. Reach the Sound café and visitor centre at sunset for fantastic views: ahead of you, a strait of water separates the island’s southernmost tip from the Calf of Man, a tiny island and nature reserve that’s home to much of the Manx seal population; day trips to the Calf leave from the inner harbour at Port St Mary and there’s also a hostel to temp the more intrepid traveller. As the sky ignites luminous hues of molten tangerine, the seals call to each other like wolves, and there’s no other place quite like this. On the way back to Douglas, call into the Albert Hotel’s pub in Port St Mary (Athol Street, 01624 832 118); this is a good old-fashioned pub known for its quality ales and foot-stomping folk sessions where musicians often sing in Manx Gaelic. Try one of the locally brewed ales such as Old Bushy Tail or Shuttleworth Snap.
1900-2100. Douglas offers the widest choice of restaurants and Tanroagan (9 Ridgeway Street, 01624 612 355) is one of the best; an intimate venue specialising in top-quality seafood, the restaurant is a favourite with celebrities filming on location and it’s equally popular with islanders all year round, making pre-booking a must. The food tends towards classic with a twist, such as smoked haddock brandade with deep-fried poached egg, crispy capers and beurre blanc or whole sea bass simply cooked with chilli, ginger and lime. For more turf than surf, 14 North on the quayside (01624 664 414) offers a stylish menu that changes daily to make the best of local produce; expect tasty dishes like pork belly with apple, celeriac and sausage crumble, butternut squash puree and basil jus.
After 2100. Newly opened this year, The Drawing Room (20 Duke Street, 01624 665 299) is a lofty space full of squashy leather sofas and original bits and pieces. Offering house cocktails and a good selection of speciality lagers, the venue hosts various gigs that are advertised on their Facebook page; DJs Gyp’n’Toots regularly mix-up a set of northern soul, funk and Motown disco, while The Play People, a professionally trained group of performance artists specialising in immersive theatre, fire shows and parkour, stage shows here and at other venues round the island. Late-night drinks can be had at Jar Bar (12 Loch Promenade, 01624 663 553), a basement lounge that feels a little like sitting in flower pod, and at the Palace Hotel Casino along Central Promenade (01624 662 662).
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Written by World Travel Guide.