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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Sophie McLaughlin

Isle of Man is a gem for a weekend away with a flight quicker than a drive from Belfast to Ballymena

I’d be lying if I said to you that a trip to the Isle of Man had ever been on my radar.

Apart from knowing that the TT takes place there, I couldn’t have told you anything about it nor did I have any intention of checking it out.

When I was kindly invited for a flying visit to see what the island had to offer, I had no idea what to expect or whether it would be for me but less than 24 hours on the Isle of Man has me converted.

Read more: Review: There is more to Boyne Valley than the battle

Emerald Airlines, Aer Lingus regional operators, recently launched their flights to IOM from Belfast City Airport, making it more accessible from Belfast than ever.

I couldn't believe that we were up in the air and landed quicker than it would take me to drive to my family home in Ballymena from Belfast.

We got absolutely cracking weather for our short stint on the island and flying into the airport and seeing the coast from above almost felt like we were landing in Spain - the palm trees at the airport really added to this holiday atmosphere!

I don’t know why I expected the Isle of Man to be like a slightly bigger Rathlin Island, completely rural with a few local pubs and villages jotted around but that was very much not the case.

Despite being in the British Isles, the Isle of Man very much feels like its own separate entity and while parts of it reminded me of home, I felt a lot further away from the UK than I actually was.

When we arrived, we were taken to the historic Castletown which used to be the island’s capital - it was a beautiful little harbour town with an incredible Medieval castle overlooking a Georgian square right in the centre.

I love learning about new places and Castletown was the perfect first stop to visit when you land. The Old Grammar School, the oldest surviving roofed structure on the island, was a step back in history that has been perfectly persevered.

We were taken Old House of Keys which was formerly the home of the Manx Parliament and the centre of 19th Century political life on the island.

Unfortunately, the exhibition wasn’t running on our visit but you are able to take part in a live simulation of the debating chamber which I thought would be so interesting if you had a big group to all take part.

I was then taken by Gary from Soul Adventures Isle of Man for a flying tour of the island where we covered almost all corners of the island, stopping at some seriously beautiful spots along the way.

Our adventure began at the Sound which is the most southern tip of the island - there Gary took me on a walk around the coast for some seal spotting and we got to do a short distance of the Raad ny Foillan, a coastal path that goes around the whole island.

It was probably one of the most scenic parts of the whole journey and stopping to refuel with a slice of homemade cake and coffee at the cafe was hard to beat.

Soul Adventures host a number of experiences like walking groups, hiking challenges, and well-being retreats and if I head back, I’d love to have done some kayaking or paddleboard as the sights of the coast were so gorgeous.

On our drive of the island, we were able to cover almost the whole area which I thought was amazing and allowed me to get to know a whole lot more about the history and landscapes of the IOM than I thought I would in just one day - towns and villages like Peel and Port Erin seemed like fantastic little spots to explore (with Gary pointing out some great looking pubs too) and I already have them on my list for when I come back.

Life on the Isle of Man feels like it’s going at a leisurely pace, with pleasant people, pretty scenes and some of the greenest landscapes you’ll ever see.

It felt very reminiscent of my trips to the Antrim coast growing up which is my favourite part of NI and the whole island felt like this which I thought was pretty magical.

After a fantastic tour, I was dropped off at my hotel in the capital city Douglas. Imagine Portrush and that’s Douglas so calling it a city feels pretty funny.

We stayed in the Claremont Hotel and had an incredible dinner at their restaurant Coast. In the heart of Douglas, right on the waterfront, it was not hard to feel more than content spending a Monday night here and had I more time in the area, I think the island's capital has more secrets for me to discover.

Before we returned home to normality the next day, we were treated to probably the most famous landmark on the IOM, the Laxey Wheel - the largest surviving original working waterwheel in the world.

Having never seen anything like it before, it is definitely a top-pick activity if you are coming over and although the steps to the top may leave those who fear heights a bit uneasy, the view was definitely one to see and worth the 90-something steps to reach it.

Sitting with a hot chocolate from The Shed as the sun beat down on us at Laxey Beach, I already had my friend group clearing their schedules so they could join me here next time.

Short, sweet and scenic - thank you for clearing my head with your fresh sea air Isle of Man.

Aer Lingus Regional operates flights between Belfast City and Isle of Man, operating 4 times per week, and increasing to 6-weekly for the peak Summer season.

The airline also operates a double daily service between Dublin and the Isle of Man. Fares start from £39.99/€39.99. To book visit


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