Castle of Refuge in Douglas Bay, Isle of Man

Photo via Neil Howard on Flickr,

When it comes to travelling around Europe we all know the “big names” to visit. From the likes of France and Italy to Finland and the UK, there are plenty of top travel destinations across the continent, but what if you were to look beyond the beaten track?

Dotted around the coastlines of Europe are some intriguing islands that not only offer a glimpse into some unique landscapes, but a plethora of sights, scenery and events to enjoy. While we could literally throw a dart at a map and choose somewhere like Tresco (Isles of Scilly), Porquerolles (France) or Sark (Channel Islands), this time we’ve decided to take a virtual trip to the Isle of Man.

Located in the Irish Sea between mainland Great Britain and Ireland, the Isle of Man might be home to just under 85,000 people and span 221 square miles, but it has a wealth of hidden treasures and only a very short flight away – making it an ideal weekend destination out of the ordinary. We think the Isle of Man is the epitome of the phrase “All good things come in small packages”, which is why we’ve picked out some of its top attractions.


It’s TT-Time


Tourist Trophy

Photo via Jason on Flickr,

If there’s one reason above all else to visit the Isle of Man it’s the annual TT (Tourist Trophy). First run in 1907, the two-week event in late spring sees the best motorbike riders excite millions of fans on one of the riskiest courses in the world. In fact, in addition to the thousands who line the Snaefell Mountain Course, the event attracts both TV and online viewers. According to the official stats from ITV, viewing figures in 2013 hit six million and the reason they all tuned in? The element of risk.

Because the circuit takes place on real roads there’s none of the usual safety provisions you’d get at a track like Silverstone. According to TT veteran Conor Cummins, the thrill of the race is what keeps him riding. Likening his experience to the game of poker where calculating a myriad of variables is necessary, Cummins said that it’s the fine line between success and failure that intrigues people.

“It’s like playing poker, you choose to either play this hand or not. Obviously there’s still an element of risk but you’ve made the decision,” Cummins explained to editor Dave Woods. Watching riders race through the streets at 130mph+, calculating small variables to avoid a fatal crash is something that excites Cummins and, by all accounts, audiences. So, if you’re looking for a high-octane reason to visit the Isle of Man then head there between May and June to catch the riskiest motorbike race in the world.


Stop! Shark!



Photo via Amy on Flickr,

Australia, with one of the “bluest oceans in the world”, might be the place to see the majestic yet terrifying great white shark, but if you want to see a shark of a different kind then the Isle of Man is the place to go. The second largest fish in the world behind the whale shark, the basking shark is native to the shores of the island between May and August every year.

According to the Shark Trust, the sun causes a process known as “upwelling” which increases the amount of phytoplankton and, as a result, basking sharks in the area. “This in turn feeds a huge increase in zooplankton, the tiny animals which prey on phytoplankton – and the preferred prey of basking sharks,” reads the Shark Trust’s official website. With food in abundance, the 26-foot-long basking sharks come close to the shoreline around the Isle of Man to create a spectacular sight that any traveler will appreciate. In fact, the combination of sunshine, calm seas and one of the largest marine creatures in the world makes for the perfect day out.

For the best view of the basking sharks, a trip to Port Erin or Niarbyl should be on your itinerary. In fact, even if you don’t get to see the incredible creatures on your trip, the sea is literally teaming with life during the summer months. From seals and gulls to the puffin, there’s plenty to see out of the sea around the Isle of Man.


A Taste of Manx


Isle of Man Scallops

Photo via Marine Stewardship Council on Flickr,

When you’re done taking in the smell of motor oil and the scenic beauty of the Isle of Man, it’s time to eat. In the same way that countries such as France have a smorgasbord of delights, as we discovered in our Culinary Tour of Paris, the Isle of Man is home to plenty of local delicacies. Topping the bill of fare is the famous Manx Kippers.

Since the island is surrounded by water (surprise, surprise), fish is always on the menu and the finest treats, according to the Quirky Traveller, can be found at the Peel Kipper House. Situated on the west coast of the island, the eatery takes locally caught herring, fillets them and smokes them in traditional smoke houses to create a rich, omega-3-rich dish.

The combination of sun, sea and smoky aromas is enough to satisfy the palate of any foodie and as one visitor has noted on Trip Advisor, the kippers are “real” and “smoked over oak chippings”. While some will have a natural aversion to kippers because of some of the relatively poor imitations you’ll find in supermarkets, these fishy treats really are on a different level and shouldn’t be tainted by any prior experiences.

Just as snails are a delicacy in France and the pasta is premium in Italy, kippers are king on the Isle of Man. So, if you want a real taste of the Isle of Man, then Peel Kipper House is a must.


The Perfect Island Getaway

As you can see, the Isle of Man is big in culture, entertainment and cuisine despite being a small dot on the map. While it’s certainly easy to overlook this diminutive island sandwiched between Great Britain and Ireland, we think we’ve given you some good reasons to consider it the next time you’re planning a trip to Europe.

Of course, if you’re in the area then saving some time in the UK and Ireland to see landmarks like London’s Big Ben or a beer vacation to Glasgow are a must, but if you’re looking for a less than ordinary island getaway option then the Isle of Man is a fantastic option.