Travelling by air to the Isle of Man is breathtaking.
Just an hour from London, on a clear day you can see the waves crashing over the rugged coastline, the green fields, tiny white buildings dotted around and the mountains in the centre of the island.
With a long and fascinating history and a stunning landscape there’s something here for everyone.
Despite its size – the Isle of Man is just 32 miles long and 14 miles wide at its widest point – it is packed full of things to do.
There are beautiful beaches to explore, mountains to climb, castles to visit and wildlife to spot as well as lots of lovely food to eat.
Here’s why you should make it your next UK family holiday.
Whether you prefer rocky coves or sandy beaches you’ll be spoilt for choice on the Isle of Man.
My kids had the best time clambering over rocks, skimming stones and exploring little caves.
Groudle Glen beach is perfect for little kids to explore and you can park just minutes away.
Port Erin and Laxey have beautiful sandy beaches.
The island has many visiting and migrant birds, and seals at the Sound in the south of the island. Dolphins, whales and basking sharks are also common.
For guaranteed wildlife The Curraghs Wildlife Park has meerkats, red pandas and penguins and a great adventure playground for the kids to let off steam.
There’s also a play barn for wet days, a covered picnic area and a cafe.
Step back in time with a trip on the steam railway that inspired Thomas the Tank Engine.
My toddler was fascinated by the steam billowing down the side of the train and kept us all entertained by shouting ‘choo choo’.
There were even kids dressed in 1940s clothes carrying gas masks on our train which just added to the general atmosphere.
Atmospheric Castle Rushen is one of the best preserved medieval castles I’ve been to (and as a history graduate I’ve been to a lot).
It’s worth going all the way to the top for the panoramic views.
There are several excellent museums on the island.
Driving along the coastal roads you can see far out to sea yet within minutes you can be crossing the island driving past steep mountains and deep valleys.
The views from the beaches are pretty special too.
And my city-dwelling kids were totally blown away by seeing the stars properly for the first time.
The mountain trail to the summit of Snaefell, the tallest mountain on the island, is one of the most famous walks on the island.
If you’re feeling lazy, or travelling with small kids, there’s a train from Laxey up to the top in the summer.
The Curraghs, near the wildlife park, is a unique area with swampy wetlands and a population of wild wallabies who escaped from the nearby wildlife park.
My children loved walking on the boardwalks and looking out for the wallabies (we saw two). Groudle Glen and Point of Ayre beach also have lovely walks.
What and where to eat
There are no shortage of lovely places to eat on the Isle of Man and the island is set to become a foodie destination in the not too distant future.
You’ll find breweries, dairies and bakeries galore and its seafood (try queenies) and beef are particularly good.
You can even get soft drinks sweetened by local honey from Roots Beverage Co.
The Italian restaurant not only uses local Manx pizza flour but has a waiter who turns crayons into lollipops.
Noa Bakehouse in Douglas makes sourdough bread using local flour and has a play area for kids so you can enjoy your coffee in peace.
However, to really get down with the locals I’ve been assured that chips, cheese and gravy is the favourite local dish.
Where to stay
We stayed at Groudle Glen Cottages, just north of Douglas.
The well-equipped self-catering cottages are perched on a hillside with breathtaking views.
Couples might like to stay at Close Taggart where you can really get away from it all.
Owners John and Shirley have a wealth of knowledge about wildlife and walks.
Douglas is the capital and largest town on the island.
There’s a large Tesco here or head to Strand Street if you need to pick up supplies, like waterproof coats or wellies. There’s a reason why the Isle of Man is so green after all…
The Isle of Man has its own bank and currency. While you can spend British pounds on the island you’ll need to change your Manx money back before you leave.
The island has a good bus service, including from the airport into Douglas, but to really explore the island you’ll need to hire a car.
You can buy a Go Explore card, which allows for unlimited travel on the island’s bus and train services. The five day Go Explore Heritage card also covers entry into the Manx National Heritage sites.
How to get to the Isle of Man
We flew from Gatwick to the Isle of Man. Flights start at £22.49 one way.
EasyJet fly from several other UK airports or you can travel there by ferry.
Top image credit: Mikael Buck/Visit Isle of Man.
Mandy Mazliah is a vegetarian mum of three whose kids don’t eat vegetables. Read about her efforts to get them to eat their five a day at www.sneakyveg.com.