A budget adventure trip to the island where the beaches are sandy and the buses talk to fairies.

Deciding that time spent running, reading and travelling is never time wasted, I booked the cheapest flight out of Bristol for a weekend microadventure, planning on doing as much of all three as possible. I set myself a tight budget, £200 all in, and started scouring the net.

Dreams of conquering the rocky headlands of Madeira and scoffing pastéis de natas were dashed as the flights exceeded my modest allowance. I very nearly ended up booking a Ryanair flight to Knock, Ireland (thank god for Google Images) but I then settled for a nearby island that I know little about - the Isle of Man - and I felt excited about it.  

My theory was that if I could do this trip for £200, then I could justify doing things like this (even) more frequently. I live on Exmoor, one mile from the nearest bus stop, 25 from the nearest (non-steam driven) train and 50 miles from the airport, so it’s not just a small matter of hopping on a plane. I planned to drive the 25 miles to Taunton, ditch my car somewhere free to park and get the Megabus to Bristol Airport.

So I left Friday lunchtime on my little jaunt and (a car, bus, plane, bus, walk, bus, walk later) arrived in lovely Peel at my Airbnb - a cabin/shed in the grounds of a manor house. My hire bike for the weekend had been kindly dropped off for me by the local bike shop, Simpson’s.

On Saturday morning I was up at the crack of dawn to cycle in the rain to Douglas to be the parkrun tourist geek that I am. I can confirm that the Douglas parkrun lot are a very friendly bunch. There’s not much point in doing a load of exercise unless you’re going to eat everything in sight and the NOA Bakehouse did not disappoint. Do not miss this place if you find yourself on the Isle of Man.

In the afternoon I cycled back to Peel via the Glen Maye waterfall, and then the old Peel Kipper Factory where I had tea and a long chat with the owner who told me all about its history, how you smoke kippers, and then sold me some delicious fresh crab for my tea.

The sun came out for Sunday and I really got to see how stunning the island and its coastline are. I elongated a triangular walk/running route that I had found down a disused railway line that ran next to my Airbnb off Ballagyr Lane, into St John’s and then returning along the Heritage Trail which comes out back next to the Kipper Factory in Peel. I then headed north up the coast path and found a small deserted beach where I ate my lunch, had a paddle, and felt overwhelmingly lucky to be alive. In the evening I topped off a truly perfect day by watching the sunset over Peel Castle, sinking a couple of pints of Guinness at The Marine Hotel, and then devouring a much better than expected takeaway pizza from Pizza Romana (with the best toppings you can have - pineapple, jalapeño, ham and mushroom, obviously).

Things that I wanted to do on the Isle of Man but I didn’t quite make this time…

  • The Sound

  • The Sloc

  • Steam railway

  • Snaefell

Did I stick to my £200 budget?

No, but nearly!

Flights = £53.40
Three nights in the Airbnb “shepherd’s hut” = £83.15
Megabus = £1.30 (£9.00 bought with Tesco Clubcard points)
Two days bike hire = £32.15
Buses = £12.40
Total £182.40 leaving £17.60 for food and drink. I spent about £30 in Coop on supplies when I arrived and then went further over budget with my final night celebrations with Guinness and pizza which were, of course, totally worth it.

Travel GuideSophie Cross