Isle of Man Walks : Port Erin and the Milner’s Tower

Take the local bus and explore the Isle of Man by foot.

Europe, Outdoors, Sustainable / Eco

Mark Bibby Jackson takes the bus and goes on one of the many excellent Isle of Man walks from Port Erin to Milner’s Tower.

There is something invigorating about taking local transport on my travels. A taxi might be more comfortable – though not always – but it is only when you travel by bus or by train that you can chat with the locals, find insight and discover the sense of community in your destination.

So, with a day to spare before the start of the British Guild of Travel Writers’ AGM in Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man, I decide to hop on the bus and go roving.

Isle of Man Bus Trip

The great news is that the Isle of Man bus service is excellent. I could have taken a bus direct from outside my hotel the excellent Claremont on the front, but instead walked to the Douglas central bus station, which is close to the Isle of Man ferry terminal.

Isle of Man bus stop in Castletown
Isle of Man bus stop in Castletown

In truth, the bus station is little more than four shelters next to the road, but the routes are well signposted and both locals and drivers are happy to ensure you get on the correct bus.

I took the #1 bus to Port Erin via Castletown, the former capital of the Isle of Man. Within minutes I am passing through the rolling hills of the Isle of Man countryside. Gorse is very much in vogue.

Soon, I am informed that we are passing the Fairy Bridge, and I have to say hello to the fairies, part of Isle of Man folklore. Then we pass Ronaldsway Airport, where the bus stops.

I start eavesdropping to the conversation that forms organically around me. To my untrained ear everyone seems Scouse, but there is a long tradition between Liverpool and the Isle of Man. Recently, Douglas became a city sharing its bishop with Liverpool. I get a real sense of community here, just like in its twin city across the waters.

Port Erin, Isle of Man

An hour or so later I arrive at Port Erin. The town like neighbouring Port St Mary used to be an internment camp for women from 1940-5. Now, it is a pleasant seaside resort and terminus for the Isle of Man Steam Railway. I am to ride on the steam train later in my trip, but for now I take advantage of the facilities at the beautiful railway station, while having coffee and cake at the Whistlestop Coffee Shop.

Port Erin is a delightful little town with one of the best beaches in the Isle of Man (see main image), as well as reputedly the best fish and chip shop – the Port Erin Chippy – on the island.

I walk down towards the beach and then head up the coastal path to follow the footpath to Bradda Head and the Milner’s Tower.

Beautiful Gorse on my Isle of Man walk
Beautiful Gorse on my Isle of Man walk

Isle of Man Walks : Port Erin to Milner’s Tower

The path is easy to follow even without a map. You can see the Milner’s Tower on the headland from the beach. Follow the road out of Port Erin and you will pass through a gate announcing Bradda Glen.

There are numerous paths leading to Milner’s Tower, with various degrees of difficulty depending upon how much traipsing up and down you wish to do.

Bradda Glen has a history of mining from 1,200 years BC. Commercial mining was introduced in the early 18th century, finishing at the end of the last one. There are plenty of disused shafts, so take care.

At the end of the headland is Milner’s Tower named after William Milner, who was a Liverpool safe maker. He moved to Port Erin and became a great benefactor to the fishermen in the village. Built in 1871, shortly before his death, the tower is supposed to be in the shape of a keyhole. You can climb the 40 steps to the top of the tower to enjoy the views, but on my visit the Isle of Man weather was against me, and I decided to stay on terra firma. It certainly was blustery.

Milner's Tower Isle of Man Walks
Milner’s Tower

This is wild heath. Stunning scenery and bracing weather, exactly what you might expect on a coastal Isle of Man walk. There are lots of benches should you wish to break up your journey and enjoy the spectacular views across the Irish Sea.

You can continue your walk along the coast, but I head back to Port Erin, as I want to stop off at Castletown on my way back to Douglas.

Castletown, Isle of Man

After a brief consultation with the locals, I decide to take a different bus back. Whereas the #1 cuts a swathe through the Isle of Man countryside, the #11A hugs the coast passing through Port St Mary, and next to some amazing looking beaches.

Both buses pass through Castletown, which was the former capital before Douglas. Now, it is nothing much more than a fishing village, albeit a very picturesque one. It also has the House of Keys, which was the home to the Manx Parliament between 1821 and 1874, as well as Castle Rushen, a very well preserved medieval castle.

The great advantage of my one-day bus pass is that I am able to jump off the bus in the town square, wander around a bit and then take the next bus twenty minutes or so later back to Douglas.

Castletown Isle on Man
Castletown Isle on Man

It really is simplicity itself, and a great way to explore the island cheaply – the day ticket costs £8. All the drivers are extremely helpful even waiting until all the passengers have sat down before setting off – there are no wannabe Isle of Man TT bus drivers here. It really is a most impressive service.

I return to Douglas with plenty of time before dinner to have a pint with a travel writing colleague in one of the many pubs near the waterfront in Douglas. The perfect way to commence my week in the Isle of Man.

Other Isle of Man Walks : Port Douglas

Isle of Man walks
Beautiful flora while walking on the Isle of Man

There are numerous walks you can make around the island, including the Isle of Man Parish Walk which is held in May each year. Or you can walk to the Calf of Man, where there is a small puffin population, and is accessible by bus from Port Erin.

On my final day, I choose to walk around Douglas harbour and up the hill to the lighthouse and Douglas Head. A simple walk – keep the sea on your left – this is a good walk if you are pushed for time and just wish to get some fresh air before your return trip to the UK or Ireland, or perhaps have overindulged upon the many pleasures of the Isle of Man.

Things to Do on the Isle of Man

Apart from walking in the Isle of Man, there is a plethora of things to do on the island, including discovering its train rides and the Laxey Wheel. To find out what else there is to do on your Isle of Man holidays, read our 13 things to do on the Isle of Man, or go to the Visit Isle of Man website.

Isle of Man Buses

The ride from Douglas to Port Erin takes around one hour. The buses are frequent, approximately every 20 minutes. A one-day Isle of Man bus pass costs £8. The Isle of Man bus timetable can be found here.

Isle of Man in a Nutshell

If you are planning your Isle of Man walking holidays, a good place to start is with our Planning an Isle of Man Holiday: The Basics.

All images: Mark Bibby Jackson.

Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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