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Isle of Man UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: unmissable experiences

The Isle of Man was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2016 in recognition of its special environment, culture, heritage, economy and its people’s desire to cherish and nurture them. Discover five amazing experiences not to be missed on your trip to the Island this year.

Two walkers standing on top of Snaefell in the Isle of Man
Published: July 28th, 2022 at 6:00 am

There are many reasons why the Isle of Man is a very special place; its location in the middle of the Irish Sea; the culture and its amazing official dark sky sites. But without doubt, the island’s wildlife, landscape and environments are what sets it apart.

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This was recognised in 2016, when the whole island was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – and to date, the Isle of Man is the only entire-nation Biosphere Reserve in the world.

Green headland near Peel on the Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is the only entire-nation Biosphere Reserve in the world/Credit: Getty

What is a Biosphere Reserve?

Well, a Biosphere Reserve is a designated area with an ecosystem of plants and animals of unusual scientific and natural interest, which are maintained and developed with a view to conservation, learning and sustainable development.

When designated, Biosphere Reserves have core areas, care areas and sustainable development areas. These help Biospheres balance the needs of conservation, the needs of people and the needs of the economy. In the Isle of Man these include its varied coastline, a sea bed which has a rich biodiversity, hills which hold important peat reserves, its impressive heritage areas, nature reserves and wetlands including the Ballaugh Curragh Ramsar site.

For visitors to the island, this means miles of stunning countryside, coastline and habitats to explore, all managed in a way that safeguards the flora and fauna. Discover some of the very best things to see and do with out top five unmissable experiences.

Unmissable Isle of Man experiences

Stay on the Calf of Man

A small island to the south of the Isle of Man, the Calf of Man is home for many species of birds and other wildlife. You can visit for a day through a boat trip but the real magic is to stay overnight in the Bird Observatory, a traditional 1870's style farmhouse.

The self-catering hostel can sleep up to eight visitors and is part of a working bird observatory so the accommodation is quite basic. This unique experience will have you learning all about the range of wildlife that calls the small island its home. Throughout the summer a team of Manx Wildlife Trust wardens and volunteers stay on the Calf to record and help the native wildlife, including 33 species of breeding seabirds and hundreds of grey seals. The Calf of Man is also adjacent to a designated Dark Sky Discovery Site (The Sound).

Overnight stays must be booked through Island Escapes:. islandescapes.im/property/563693

Walk on the Calf of Man
Visit the Calf of Man, home to 33 species of breeding birds/Credit: Visit Isle of Man

Ayres National Nature Reserve and Nature Discovery Centre

Situated towards the north-western tip of the Isle of Man, Ayres is a national nature reserve set in an important stretch of low-lying sand dune coastline. Over 780 species have been recorded on the reserve, including plants, fungi, birds, moths, ants and spiders.

The Manx Wildlife Trust’s Nature Discovery Centre has a mass of information about the area’s birds, habitats and rare plant communities. Be sure to keep your eyes out for seals from the wooden platform, and take a walk along the signed Nature Trail, which weaves its way through the marram dunes and into the expanse of heath further inland.

Ayres Nature Discovery Centre and Nature Trail viewing platform
Gaze across Ayres National Nature Reserve from the viewing platform/Credit: Visit Isle of Man

Take a boat trip

The opportunity to take in the island’s aquatic life from a boat shouldn’t be missed, and there are several companies who run organised trips. Manx Sea Life Safari operates out of Peel harbour, and their excursion takes in the craggy coastline around Peel Castlenand out to the beautiful Niarbyl Bay – all with guided commentary.

Boat trip around the Isle of Man
Take a boat trip around the Isle of Man's extensive coastline/Credit: Visit Isle of Man

Niarbyl Bay

After you’ve seen it from the sea, take a trip to visit Niarbyl Bay and you’ll be mesmerised by the rolling hills, the dramatic coastline and the views which seem to go on forever. This secluded beauty spot, which can be accessed from the iconic 100-mile coastal path (the Raad ny Foillan), is of great geological interest, you can stand at Niarbyl Beach and have each foot on different rocks derived from two separate continents; England and Africa. The perfect spot to watch an extraordinary sunset, Niarbyl is also one of the island’s registered dark sky discovery sites so be sure to look up to the heavens and be prepared for a dazzling display of stars above you.

visitisleofman.com/experience/niarbyl-bay-p1292051

Man standing on the beach at Niarbyl Bay, Isle of Man
Niarbyl Bay is a superb place to go stargazing/Credit: Visit Isle of Man

Snaefell

You can’t visit the island without a trip to the Isle of Man’s only mountain – Snaefell – standing some 2,034 feet above sea level. It is famously said that on a clear day, you can see seven kingdoms from the summit: Isle of Man, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Heaven, and the sea.

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Walking to the summit isn’t too much of a challenge, but there’s always the option of taking the Snaefell Mountain Railway to the top from Laxey, and then enjoying some refreshments in the Summit Cafe.

Two walkers standing on top of Snaefell in the Isle of Man
Climb to the summit of stunning Snaefell, the Isle of Man's highest point/Credit: Visit Isle of Man
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