On our second day in the Isle of Man we woke to blue skies and sunshine, although it was bitterly cold when the wind blew! We had planned to spend the entire day in Peel, one of my favourite places on the island, and home to my memories of sand castles and ice creams on blistering hot summer days over thirty years ago. I had wondered if it would look different to how I remembered it and yet the moment we parked up I was able to recognise the spot on the beach we had claimed for the summer, and memories of jumping off the jetty into the ice cold water came rushing back.
As a family we love to visit castles and we were really excited to visit Peel Castle. Set on St Patrick’s Isle and overlooking Peel Marina, the castle is huge and was a real vision amongst a back drop of blue skies.
There is something so special about castles, I know I loved them from being a little girl, and I love how inquisitive the children are about history and imagining what had happened inside the castle walls hundreds and hundreds of years ago. As far as I’m concerned, visiting castles is more educational than any classroom and the children are like sponges, just soaking in all of the information and amazing me with their understanding of it.
Peel Castle was originally built in 1392 and is believed to be the first place Christianity was brought to the Island by St Patrick around 1226. The islet site is covered in ruins starting from around 1000 AD which is pretty mind blowing really!
Originally used as a place of worship before becoming the fort of Magnus Barefoot, 11th century Viking King of Mann, you can wander around St Patrick’s Church and the Round Tower, doing back to the 10th and 11th centuries, and step underground into the crypt of the 13th century Cathedral of St German. Despite the castle being in ruins, it is breathtakingly beautiful to look at.
As the first visitors of the day it felt as though we had the whole castle to ourselves and the children were so excited to be able to explore, run wild, and create imaginative tales of Rapunzel and slaying dragons!
The whole of the site is covered in a thick blanket of grass which is almost spongy to the touch, perfect for the children! Of course, if there’s a hill to roll down my kids will always find it and they must have spent a good hour rolling down the hill and running back up again. The sound of their laughter carried on the wind is one memory I’ll never forget, that right there is everything I want from my children’s childhoods.
For those who want it, all visitors are given a handheld audio phone to act as their guide around the castle with all buildings and ruins marked with numbers which you can key into the audio to hear more about each area. For the children, they must preferred to come up with their own ideas about the castle and were very excited to discover what they determined had been a prison!
Obviously things may be very different in the Summer but I loved that, during our visit, nowhere was over crowded, there were no queues for tourist attractions, and everywhere we went just felt far less stressful as a result. Back home, visiting a castle, there are swarms of people around and I find it really hard keeping an eye on three children who just want to run wild and enjoy themselves without the restraints of me gripping their hand for fear of losing them.
At the top of the castle mount the panoramic views out to sea and over to Peel beach are just beautiful and standing there, feeling waves of nostalgia, it was so lovely for me to have all of my memories come flooding back, some I had long forgotten.
During one of our holidays in the Isle of Man I had thrown a message in a bottle into the sea from Peel beach and months later been amazed when a lady walking her dog had found the bottle washed up back at home. Her name was Maggie Crossen and she had wrote to tell me she had found my letter and I swear that letter was my most prize possession for years afterwards. I had forgotten all about it until I returned to Peel and yet as I stood in that spot, staring out at the sea, it felt like no time at all since I had launched the bottle into the sea and crossed my fingers I would be lucky enough for someone to find it,
We absolutely loved our morning at Peel Castle and would recommend anyone visiting the Isle of Man to head over and see it for yourselves. Peel is such a beautiful place to visit and you can make a real day of it, which is exactly what we did.
From Peel Castle we walked the short distance back towards the marina to The House of Manannan, a museum guiding you though the Islands rich Celtic, Viking and maritime past, led by the legendary sea god Manannan.
The House of Manannan
The Isle of Man has an extensive history of Vikings, once the centre of a powerful sea kingdom, and yet knowing very little about this we were all really excited to learn! Obviously the children were instantly drawn to the Viking helmets and swords!
Although classed as a museum, The House of Manannan is so much more than a regular museum and is really geared up towards educating children in a really relatable and exciting way. With the use of huge, life like displays and big screens with Manannan talking us through the story, it feels far more interactive.
Manannan appears in Scottish, Irish, and Manx mythology, and during the Bronze Age he was believe to be the first ruler of the Isle of Man. The Celtic people believed that Manannán was connected through mists with the other worlds, where the souls journeyed in the after-life. I love how mythology and folk lore is such a huge part of the Isle of Man, I think that’s why the Island has such a magical feeling which is infectious to those who visit.
The children loved that further into the museum there is a hands on area for children to play and dress up, including an outdoor area with building blocks, a wig wam, and space to act out all of the mythical tales we had experienced so far.
When it comes to museums this is exactly what children want to see, not just ancient relics hidden behind glass which can’t be touched, and I love that about The House of Manannan. They would happily have stayed there all afternoon in their costumes and crowns but after thirty minutes of imaginative play it was time to see the rest of the museum.
Unlike the story of Manannan, the history of Vikings is far more than just mythology, and was very much a reality for the Isle of Man 1000 years ago. The children loved looking at the map and especially discovering the isle of Lewis!
The most impressive part of the museum, as far as we were concerned, was the most amazing replica Viking ship Odin’s Raven that was sailed from Norway in 1979. It is huge and displayed in such a life like way with the models and so much attention to detail. The children were fascinated with it and couldn’t believe that a boat so big had got inside a museum, “How did it fit through the door?!”.
Upstairs you can explore 19th Century Peel with a walk around the sailmakers loft, chandlers shop, quayside, complete with sights and smells from the Manx kipper yard, and uncover the importance of the sea to the lives of the people on the Isle of Man.
We have never visited a museum such as this before and I loved that from four through to fourteen there was something for each of them to enjoy. Many of the displays were interactive, with video recordings triggering as we walked into the room and if you touched different items it would tell you about each one. I thought it was really clever how it was done and it made learning so much more fun!
As well as the displays there are lots of replica boats to look at and more information about the Island and its history. It is hands down one of the best museums we have been to with the children and I was so impressed the entire way round with just how much thought has been put into creating something so detailed and enjoyable.
The children’s favourite part was the replica ship control which they played with for at least half an hour. With the ships steering wheel and a whole panel of buttons and dials, they were lost in a world of imagination and it was so funny for Gaz, Lewis and I to sit and listen to them. “Full speed ahead!!”.
We loved our visit to House of Manannan and it goes without saying we can’t recommend it enough. I think it’s such a wonderful way to learn about the Island and all of the mythology and history, and being so close to the castle it makes for a great day out to do both together.
Peel beach is quite simply, stunning. Set in the most gorgeous location, with Peel castle to the left and sandstone cliffs to the right, it’s no wonder that it’s a popular tourist spot on the Island.
Peel beach will always be one of my favourite memories of childhood, taking me back to a time when the sunshine felt hotter, the Summers seemed longer, and when I had wished those nights spent skimming stones or flying our kite would last forever. Returning there was pretty special, and even more so with my little doves in tow.
Our favourite thing about visiting the beach is that it doesn’t matter what the weather is like, whether it’s a summers day or being blasted with hail, as long as you’re dressed appropriately there is fun to be had and my children are living proof of that. With the girls collecting shells, Harry stomping dinosaur footprints, and Gaz, Lewis and I simply enjoying the view, it was just what we needed to blow away the cobwebs and enjoy some family time together.
Known as the “Sunset City”, Peel boasts stunning sunsets over the Mountains of Mourne in the distance, something I really wanted to see during out stay. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the sunset but I’m hoping should we return in the Summer we will be lucky enough to witness one, if not more. But still, when you’re sitting there with the sun on your face, watching the children have the time of your life, this are no better views than this!
After a long day in Peel we just had time to have a walk by the marina before getting back in the car, driving back to our holiday home, and crashing out for the night. We had such a gorgeous day in Peel and it will always remain one of my absolute favourite places, I will be back soon I’m certain of it.
** We were invited to the Isle of Man and given complimentary accommodation and entrance to all attractions. All words and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated **