On our first visit to the Isle of Man we tried out each of the island’s antiquated modes of transport and discovered some of its quirks. On our second we had chance to visit some of the island’s most beautiful coastal spots – Peel, The Sound and Niarbyl Bay – and to take two of my favourite discoveries from last time – queenies and the dark sky – to the next level.
The Sound is one of the first places we were told we must visit on the Isle of Man and, as we discovered, with good reason. It is the unusually named southern-most tip of the island, which points directly across to a small island called the Calf of Man.
Between them lies a jagged rocky islet and a tumultuous strait where two opposing currents meet, creating an unceasing frenzy of frothy waves. We were there at the same time as several kayakers who, rather recklessly you might think, were struggling to ride the unpredictable rapids from one side of the strait to the other. Joining the kayakers in the strait were a number of grey seals, who every now and then would raise their heads above the water’s rollicking surface. Using binoculars, we even managed to spot a baby seal lying on a far-away rock!
The coastline itself – a combination of steep grassy banks and crumbling rocky cliffs – is dramatically picturesque from every angle. I really enjoyed scrambling around the rough terrain with my camera. There’s also a highly rated café and visitor centre here, but it was closed when we visited.
The town of Peel is defined primarily by its ruined castle, which guards it from a promontory extending out into the sea. It’s possible to walk the circumference of the castle without paying admission to go inside, and the path around its edge offers panoramic sea views before curling into Peel’s picturesque harbour.
A few minute’s walk from the castle, Peel offers a perfect seaside promenade with delicious gooey ice cream from Davison’s (I highly recommend the honeycomb flavour) and fresh fish and chips from the Cod and Castle chippy.
But I’d advise skipping the typical option and instead going for a Manx speciality: chips covered in cheese and gravy, or a buttered roll filled with battered and deep-fried queen scallops, otherwise known as a queenie bap. I had battered queenies on our first trip to the Isle of Man as a starter in a restaurant, but it turns out that buying them from a chippy is a much better option – for a mere £4 I got a takeaway box filled with more queenies than I could count, and their fresh, delicate, buttery flavour was just incredible!
But to find the prettiest beach in Peel you need to leave the promenade and head toward the castle to find the small, sheltered cove of Fenella beach which sits just below the castle walls. We caught a gorgeous sunset from here.
Our friends had described Niarbyl Bay as a pebble beach, so I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful it was. The large rocks that make up the coastline have all been shaped and eroded in interesting, attractive ways and are fun to clamber over (being careful not to slip!). The rock’s striated surfaces host a bounty of different seaweeds and rock pools, something new catching your eye at every step. These rocks form the foreground to a beautiful sequence of cliffs in the distance.
On Niarbyl’s grassy shore sit a couple of small traditional cottages lifted straight from a fairy tale: all thick white walls, primary-coloured doors and mossy tiled roofs, finished off with smoking chimneys. Behind one cottage we found some steep hills covered in the longest, thickest, spongiest grass imaginable. Perfect for scrambling up and sitting atop to admire the view, and for sliding down afterwards!
As mentioned in my previous Isle of Man post, the island’s lack of light pollution makes for a very dark sky that’s great for looking at the stars. On a clear night our friends drove us up a wooded hill to appreciate the stars in all their glory.
We lay on the ground and stared up at a million stars, more of them appearing the longer we looked, and it was spectacular. With my camera’s limited abilities I attempted to take some of my first dark-sky photos – although it wasn’t possible to capture the stars as we saw them, I don’t think they turned out too badly!
All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, January 2017. All rights reserved.