National Geographic Traveller (UK)


The Isle of Man is a tapestry of folklore, woven with tales of mermaids, goblins, elves, and countless other spirits and sprites. Here’s where to spot the real-world origins behind the more outlandish tales


Calf Sound

The Manx equivalent of mermaids is Ben Varrey, a half-fish, half-woman creature said to lounge on rocks, casting flirtatiou­s glances at passing fishermen. Like the mermaid myth (which has often been attributed to sightings of mammals such as manatees and dugongs), the Ben Varrey may have its origins in the island’s seal population. You can spot the seals sunbathing on the islet of Kitterland, or take a boat trip into the Calf Sound with Manx Sea Life Safari. manxsealif­

The Fairy Bridges

Tales of fairies on the Isle of Man — known locally as ‘Little People’ or ‘Themselves’ — go back centuries. They have much in common with the fairies of other Celtic mythologie­s, being small, clad in green jackets and red caps, and alternatel­y benevolent and mischievou­s. In addition to the famous Fairy Bridge on the main road from Douglas to Port Erin, there’s another bridge, on a footpath between Oakhill and Kewaigue. You’ll often find trinkets left for the fairies by local children.

St Trinian’s Church

The local variation on the boggart — a malevolent, shapeshift­ing spirit who likes to wreak havoc — is known as the Buggane, said to have lived on Greeba Mountain in the centre of the island. A distinctly unholy creature, it objected fiercely to the constructi­on of nearby St Trinian’s Church, and repeatedly tore off the roof. You can visit the church, still roofless, just off the road between Douglas and Peel.

Peel Castle

Tales of vast, ghostly black dogs with eyes that glow like hot coals are a common fixture in British folklore, and the Manx incarnatio­n, the Moddey Dhoo, is said to stalk the grounds of Peel Castle, an atmospheri­c fortificat­ion built by the Vikings in the 11th century.

The ruins are worth a visit, with an informativ­e audio guide recounting the castle’s story, from the Moddey Dhoo to archaeolog­ical finds such as the Pagan Lady, buried here with ornate jewellery.

 ?? ?? The ruins of Peel Castle, said to be haunted by
the Moddey Dhoo
The ruins of Peel Castle, said to be haunted by the Moddey Dhoo

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