In Port Erin I also found enterprising locals like Pippa Lovell, whose restaurant Versa is, she says, “a platform to prove a point” as much as a showcase of her creative cooking. She uses only Isle of Man ingredients – Port St Mary crab, local cheese, foraged mushrooms, invasive weeds, citrusy spruce – to conjure always-changing zero-waste menus with the smallest possible footprint. The results are delicious.
I met Ian Swindells, founder of Foraging Vintners, too. Having moved to the island 12 years ago, he fell in love with the place – “never having to lock your car means a lot”. He happened upon a 1950s homemade wine book and started experimenting in his shed. The results were “really dodgy… until we tried rhubarb”. Fast-forward a few years and he runs a smart harbourside bar and winery, perfectly placed for watching the sun set behind Bradda Head. And the wines – a rhubarb, an elderflower and an apple fizz – are genuinely really good. “We supplied the winners’ podium bottles for the TT this year,” Ian says, unable to withhold a grin. “I grew up watching the TT, wearing my Dad’s bike helmet. It was a real pinch-me moment.”
Ian feels Port Erin, once considered a backwater, is beginning to change. But then he feels positive about the island as a whole. “I don’t understand why it isn’t flooded [with visitors],” he says. “It has amazing potential.”
Getting there and around
Foot-passenger returns on the Liverpool-Douglas ferry start from £45pp; journey time 2hrs 45mins (08722 992992; steam-packet.com). The island is served by flights from many UK airports including Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester (airport.im).
Buses run year-round; heritage railways operate mid-March to late-October. Go Cards offer unlimited island-wide travel, valid for one to seven days; the five-day Go Explore Heritage card, which includes entrance to National Heritage sites, costs £67pp (01624 662525; iombusandrail.im).
Where to stay
Sarah Baxter was a guest of The Mannin (01624 602555; manninhotel.im), a traditional hotel in Douglas with B&B doubles from £105pn, and Riverside Cottage (01624 830200; islandescapes.im), a four-bed home in Glen Chass, near Port Erin; from £710/£1,093 for three nights/a week.
See visitisleofman.com for more information.