MANIsland ISLE OF
Most people know two things about the Isle of Man. The first is that it is home to a species of tailless cat, the result of a genetic mutation. The second is that in May and June the Tourist Trophy motorbike race draws 50,000 petrolheads to its emerald shores.
It’s ironic that the Isle of Man has a reputation for speed because for 50 weeks a year, it’s a slow-moving place. Halfway between England and Ireland, it is home to the world’s oldest continuous parliament, the Tynwald, established by the Vikings in 979AD. Until the 20th century, Manx Gaelic was the chief language, with the last native speaker only passing in 1974.
Last year, Unesco declared the island a Biosphere Reserve (one of six in the UK), marking it out as one of the most beautiful spots in Britain to immerse yourself in nature. Of its 572sq km, 40 per cent is uninhabited. Expect deserted glens, rugged coastlines pounded by the Irish Sea and misty valleys.
This epic landscape lends itself to adventure. Paddle around the oddly shaped Sugarloaf Rock on a sea kayak with Adventurous Experiences, take to the lonely moors for a lesson with Manx Paragliding or follow a disused railway deep into Glenn Mooar.
For all that it is a pastoral idyll, the Isle of Man is also a tax haven, and its wealth is evident in the amount of artisan foods available. Moore’s smokehouse cures creamy textured kippers, a flurry of microbreweries have opened in recent years, while farmers’ markets such as Castletown and Ramsey overflow with organic produce. 14North on Douglas’s harbour treats local ingredients with the respect they deserve. Its menu regularly features crayfish, queenie scallops and native Loaghtan mutton. This meat is highly prized on the island but it’s also difficult to track down as Harrods does its best to snaffle the lot.
Acacia Boutique enjoys a prime location on Douglas’s Queens Promenade. Its 12 bedrooms are spacious, while the Acacia Suite boasts a roof terrace that’s idea for soaking up the view. Doubles from £95. acaciaboutique.co.uk
easyJet has flights from various London airports to Isle of Man Airport from £48 return. easyjet.com
From top: Maughold Head; Douglas; cured kippers; crawfish; Douglas Head
Opposite page, from top: Point Lynas Lighthouse; the surf’s up at Rhosneigr; Llanddwyn Island Lighthouse and cobalt blue waters; Beaumaris Castle