The Isle of Man certainly does not lack in natural wonders. The tiny island right in the middle of the British Isles contains 18 National Glens as well as various nature preserves and scenic spots. All are open throughout the year and, thanks to a remarkable public transport network and even better road network, easy to access. Some even have their own dedicated railways or train stations.

    There are some really unique natural wonders in the Isle of Man, too, including a surprising number of native species that you won’t find elsewhere. Look out for the tailless Manx cats and the 4-horned Loaghtan sheep, especially. Bizarrely, there’s even a population of wild wallabies – the descendants of a  pair of Australian marsupials that escaped from a zoo in the ‘60s.

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    Glen Mooar

    Home of Spooyt Vane

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    The Glen Mooar Valley is located just south of Kirk Michael, towards the western coast of the Isle of Man. It’s a very beautiful little woodland – long, narrow and lush. As you follow the gently babbling stream that runs through it, you’ll be surrounded on all signs by ferns, moss and tall, old trees creating a leafy ceiling above you. At the centre of the glen are the ancient ruins of a chapel from sometime between the 8th and 10th century.

    The major highlight of Glen Mooar is the waterfall at the head of the stream – Spooyt Vane. Its name appropriately means ‘White Spout’ in Manx Gaelic. It’s technically outside of the glen’s border’s, but the landowner kindly allows visitors to see the 2-level falls. And lots of them do – it’s one of the most popular natural wonders on the Isle of Man.

    Location: A4, Kirk Michael, Isle of Man

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    2

    Glen Maye

    There’s no excuse not to visit

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    Glen Maye is undoubtedly the most convenient of the Isle of Man’s many glens, being right by the village that shares its name, about 3 miles south of Peel. You can also get to it by walking along the Raad ny Foillan coastal footpath. Coincidentally, it's also among the most beautiful.

    The star attraction of the 11.5-acre fern-filled woodland is its waterfall and the bridge above it. The Waterfall Hotel – a noteworthy pub – is right by the entrance to the glen and not far from the falls. At the head of the glen is the wheel case of the Mona Erin water wheel that used to provide power for the nearby lead mines.

    Location: Shore Rd, Glenmaye, Isle of Man

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    3

    Glen Helen

    A National Glen on a main road

    Glen Helen is a long wooded valley following the Rhenass River near St John’s. It used to be named after the river, but the 67-acre glen also contains the confluences of the Lambfell stream, Blaber River and the River Neb, and includes part of Lambfell Mountain’s southern slopes.

    As with many of the best glens in the Isle of Man, the waterfalls are the highlights, and there are 2 in Glen Helen. The best and most dramatic is the Rhenass Waterfall. They are surrounded by an impressive array of sequoia, spruce, fir, oak, sycamore, beech and Thuja trees. There are plenty of paths and footbridges around the glen, making it an easy one to explore.

    Location: A3, St John’s, Isle of Man

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    photo by Tony Hisgett (CC BY 2.0) modified

    4

    Dhoon Glen

    Discover one of the tallest waterfalls on the island

    Dhoon Glen is one of the larger of the Isle of Man’s many national glens, and one of the most popular for its amazing beauty. Its waterfalls are especially splendid. About halfway down the glen, you’ll find Inneen Vooar – ‘Big Girl’ in Manx Gaelic – which is one of the tallest falls on the Isle of Man, dropping over 130 ft in 2 stages.

    Dhoon Glen is one of the tougher glens to explore as some of the paths can be quite rugged and involves steep climbs. Be particularly careful on the wet paving, which can be slippery. However, if you want some of the best photos of natural beauty possible on the island, these are the challenges you’ll have to face.

    Location: A2, Dhoon, Isle of Man

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    5

    Ballaglass Glen

    Meet the Wizard of Mann

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    Ballaglass Glen is found just to the north of Laxey and has a distinct air of whimsey to it, making it popular with children. This is partly created by the wooden sculpture depicting a wise old man, who is known as the Wizard of Mann, as well as the miniature fairy house. You can get to the glen on the Manx Electric Railway, making it both convenient and fun to reach.

    Photographers and artists particularly like the old mine buildings south of the Cornaa River, which are surrounded by old larch, pine, willow, birch and ash trees. You can still see the wheel casing for the water wheel that used to drain the mine site.

    Location: Dhoon Quarry Rd, Cornaa, Isle of Man

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    6

    Groudle Glen

    Explore a Victorian-era theme park

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    Groudle Glen is easily one of the most charming glens on the Isle of Man and, being just to the north of Douglas, is easy to get to. In fact, the glen is the first stop on the Manx Electric Railway after leaving the Derby Castle terminus, and the station connects with the Groudle Glen Railway. This is a miniature railway running for ¾ of a mile during the high season and is a fun way to enjoy the scenery.

    The highlight of the glen is Little Isabella which, like the railway, is a miniature version of one of the Isle of Man’s famous attractions – in this case, the Laxey Wheel. The little red water wheel was actually created as a tourist attraction when the glen was a kind of Victorian-era theme park. Don’t forget to check out Groudle Beach, too.

    Location: King Edward Rd, Douglas, Isle of Man

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    7

    Tholt-y-Will Glen

    A hub of natural attractions

    Tholt-y-Will Glen is nestled between Snaefell and Sulby Reservoir as is the only one of the Manx National Glens found in the mountainous centre of the island. This offshoot of Sulby Glen is a particularly steep-sided valley following the winding route of a mountain stream. At the lower entrance, you’ll find a picnic area and a craft centre that’s open in the high season.

    Tholt-y-Will Glen is surrounded by other beautiful natural sights, including the aforementioned mountain and reservoir. There’s also the Tholt-y-Will Plantation, which covers over 250 acres of hillside with trees – mostly mixed conifers. Being a plantation rather than a forest, the trees are in very regular rows, so it’s not as natural as the glen.

    Location: A14, Sulby, Isle of Man

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    8

    The Chasms

    Striking scenery of the Isle of Man’s rugged southern shores

    The Chasms are a striking series of rock formations along the southeast coast of the Isle of Man. The name comes from the most iconic feature – the huge crevices carved into the sandstone shoreline by millennia of erosion. Don’t forget to check out Cronk Karran – a Neolithic stone circle nearby.

    You can either reach The Chasms by taking a hike along the Raad ny Foillan coastal path south from Port St Mary or drive to the tiny car park. Even that requires about a ¼-of-a-mile walk to get to rocky shoreline itself. While it’s worth the effort, it’s often very windy on this part of the island, so dress accordingly. Also note that being a tall cliff and prone to erosion, you need to be careful where you tread.

    Location: Cregneash, Isle of Man

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    9

    The Ayres National Nature Reserve

    Discover the Isle of Man’s hauntingly beautiful side

    The Ayres National Nature Reserve is a vast expanse of raised beach and sand dunes on the northwest coast of the Isle of Man. It forms a habitat for dune slacks, maritime heath and lichen heath on land, while seals and porpoises are often seen just off the shoreline.

    There’s a small visitor centre with a car park in the middle of The Ayres National Nature Reserve. Other than that, the area is almost completely flat and deserted as far as the Point of Ayre Lighthouse at the northernmost point of the Isle of Man or the beginning of Smeale Beach further to the west. It’s a desolate, windswept place yet hauntingly beautiful.

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    10

    Niarbyl

    Stand with feet on 2 different tectonic plates

    Niarbyl is a secluded little beauty spot consisting of a hidden bay, thatched cottages, rolling hills and dramatic coastal paths. Located on the west coast of the Isle of Man, you can see across to the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland on a clear day. Even if they’re out of sight, the views along the Manx coastline all the way down to the Calf of Man are spectacular.

    One of the most unique sights in this area is the Niarbyl Fault – effectively a seam in the Earth’s crust where 2 tectonic plates collided. The rocks around here are just as interesting to anglers as they are to geologists, as it's a great spot for fishing.

    Location: Niarbyl Rd, Dalby, Isle of Man

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    11

    Calf of Man

    A wildlife haven off the south coast

    The Calf of Man is a small island off the southern tip of the Isle of man. With only a couple of lighthouses and a farm, the 618-acre island has a population of just 2, and even they don’t live here full time. However, other residents include large colonies of seals and Manx shearwaters.

    The rugged and windswept rock is ringed by a very beautiful shoreline, which is where you’ll find the animal populations. To visit them, you can either take a boat cruise from Port Erin or Port St Mary or book a space in the tiny bird observatory via Manx National Heritage.

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    Port Soderick Glen

    See the Northern Lights from the beach (if you're lucky)

    Port Soderick Glen is about 4 miles south of Douglas and leads down to an isolated little pebble beach. It’s very easy to get to, having its own station on the Isle of Man Steam Railway and an access road that runs right through it.

    As glens go, it’s actually not that remarkable, with only some interesting Manx wildflowers among its attractions. However, come nightfall, you’ll see why it deserves a place on our list of the best natural wonders in the Isle of Man. It’s one of the island’s best dark sky spots, with extremely little light pollution. This means that, on a clear night and at the right time of year, you can see beautiful starscapes from the beach, with the Milky Way stretching across the sky. Under the right conditions, you can even see the Northern Lights.

    Location: Port Soderick Glen Rd, Port Soderick, Isle of Man

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    13

    Snaefell

    See the 7 Kingdoms of Man

    Snaefell is the highest mountain on the Isle of Man, at 2,037 ft above sea level. It’s tall enough that, on a clear day, you can see the so-called “7 Kingdoms of Man” – England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Heaven, and the Kingdom of Manannán (also known as the sea). Some versions of the popular saying omit the last one, making it only 6 kingdoms.

    Getting to the summit is a lot easier than you might think. There’s a clear footpath from the A18 Snaefell Mountain Road that takes about 45 minutes to cover. However, it’s much easier, quicker and quite fun to take the Snaefell Mountain Railway – a Victorian-era electric train that departs from Laxey and reaches the summit in about 30 minutes. After the easy ride, you can enjoy a coffee with a stunning view at the Snaefell Summit Restaurant.

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    photo by Luke McKernan (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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