Thursday, 22 August 2013


When we visited the Isle Of Man for the first time earlier this year, we decided that Peel was our favourite place on the island for its lovely setting and fascinating history.  Situated on the west coast, and therefore famous for its sunsets, the town consists of the main commercial and shopping centre, which is in the uphill part, and down below an attractive harbour area, a sandy beach and promenade, and St Patrick's Isle housing the impressive castle ruins and the former cathedral, now replaced by a newer one up in town.  The presence of the cathedral in the town, the only one on the Isle Of Man, means that Peel is strictly speaking a city.  Overlooking the town is Corrin's Tower, a folly built in 1806.

For people who like historic buildings and museums, there is plenty to do in Peel, with most attractions around the harbour area.  The House of Mannanan is built on the site of the former Peel railway station.  It is a modern museum with multimedia effects and interactive exhibits.  The biggest draw is the replica Norse long ship which was sailed from Norway to the Isle Of Man in 1979.  The museum features the Chronicles of Man Exhibition, the History of Fishing and other maritime themes.  Further along the harbourside is the much smaller, but equally fascinating Leece Museum, housed in the former Courthouse building, which still retains the Black Hole where prisoners used to be held.  Entry is free, with donations welcome, and the museum has displays of documents, objects and photographs relating to Peel.  Peel is still an important fishing port, and herrings are cured to make the famous Manx kippers.  The Kipper Factory is open to visitors, offering free tours of the factory. The Manx Transport Heritage Museum has displays on different kinds of land and sea transport, as well as a model railway exhibit.

Of all Peel's attractions, the most evocative is the ruined castle, sited on St Patrick's Isle, which is reached via a causeway.  The island is so named because the site is believed to be where St Patrick first brought Christianity to the Isle of Man around 1226.  The island once housed Celtic monastic buildings, but then along came the Vikings and it was the Viking chieftain known as Magnus Barefoot who built the first known, wooden fortifications.  Further sandstone walls and towers were later added, as well as the cathedral of St German, the forerunner to the present-day cathedral in the town.  Visitors to the site can borrow audio guides in different languages and wander around at will, following the numbered reference points.  The walkway along the outer wall offers magnificent views of Peel and out to sea.  On a clear day it is possible to see the mountains of Ireland, the south west Scotland coast and North Wales.  Like all good castles, Peel Castle has its resident ghost, in the form of a huge black dog known as Moddey Dhoo, reputedly the size of a calf, with huge eyes.  Sightings of the dog have been also been reported in other parts of the island. 

For a list of events in Peel, see here.

Map of the area.

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