Every year in late spring, nearly 50,000 bike enthusiasts descend on Isle of Man, drawn by the famous Tourist Trophy racing events. But if you want to enjoy untouched landscapes and undisturbed silence, avoid the island during the popular bike fest. Instead, opt for an Isle of Man vacation that offers you a chance to discover some of the least spoiled and quietest places in the world amidst its lush valleys and rolling hills.
1. Manx Electric Railway
|Old Laxey by: diamond geezer (CC)|
To see the British coastline in a comfortable and stress-free manner, include the Manx Electric Railway on your Isle of Man itinerary. This popular tramway line connects the island capital Douglas with Laxey in the east and Ramsey in the north, passing through areas of outstanding natural beauty. The longest narrow-gauge electric railway in Britain, this system uses original Victorian and Edwardian tram cars. The railway covers about 27 km (17 mi) and offers views of the picturesque Manx countryside stretching outward to the sea. Along the way you can take a break at more than 60 official stops, providing plenty of opportunities to hop off and explore some of the island’s glens and villages on your own.
2. Summerhill Glen
|Bay half way up Woodhall Lochby: Kirsty Smith (CC)|
Easily accessible from the center of Douglas, the verdant Summerhill Glen features a network of wide footpaths along bubbling streams and through verdant groves of native trees and shrubs. Developed in the 1930s as part of a “work for the workless” government program, the glen has long been a popular destination for school trips and motorcycle trial events. A growing number of foreign visitors add this natural area to their Isle of Man trip planners, drawn by the glen’s picturesque setting and tranquil atmosphere. Join local birdwatchers for a morning stroll, or stop by in the evening, when dramatic lighting effects illuminate the glen’s meandering footpaths.
3. Groudle Glen Railway
|Annie and train at Sea Lion Rocks, Groudle Glen Railway|
by: Rob Phillips (CC)
Operated by a small group of rail enthusiasts, the Groudle Glen Railway allows you to easily explore the island’s picture-perfect eastern coastline. Initially constructed to serve a local zoo complex, the railway stopped operating in the 1960s and remained largely forgotten for more than two decades. Restored in the 1980s, the line quickly gained enormous popularity for its route that traverses a small glen just north of Douglas. At the end of the line you can stop at a small visitor center and tea room, which offers light snacks and unbeatable views of the sea.
4. Road of the Gull
|Raad ny Foillan (Road of the Gull), Maughold|
by: Chris Gunns (CC)
If you’re looking for some outdoorsy things to do on Isle of Man, try exploring at least a small part of the rugged Road of the Gull. The coastal path circles the entire island, covering approximately 145 km (90 mi). Start your walk in lively Douglas and then wend your way through colorful fishing villages and secluded nature reserves on the island’s coastline. As you walk across the mixed terrain of high clifftops and sandy beaches, listen to the sounds of native birds soaring above the clear blue sea. To meet the locals and taste some island cuisine, detour to one of the village pubs located near the path.
5. Glen Maye National Glen
|Glen Maye by: James Stringer (CC)|
Situated near a small village on the island’s western coastline, the lush Glen Maye National Glen remains best known for its waterfall and sheltered woodland walk leading to a small beach. Increasingly popular with cyclists, hikers, and birdwatchers, this area still includes sections of an ancient forest that once covered the entire island. The glen supports a lush ecosystem of ashes, sycamores, and elms, as well as several plant species not found anywhere else on the island, including wood vetch and hairy brome. Bring binoculars if you wish to spot hawks and fulmars nesting in the cliffs at the bottom of the glen.
The Island of Unspoiled Nature
While many people come to Isle of Man for its motorcycle races, mass tourism and commercialism really have no place in this paradise of pristine natural areas. Skip the roar of the engines and opt to visit when you can get the most out of this lovely retreat.