Ferry services at today’s capital Douglas are just a 25 minute drive away and Castletown has its own station stop along the scenic steam railway which connects it both to Port Erin to the West and capital Douglas to the north east. Heritage landmarks in Castletown are numerous and include the Old Grammer School, formerly a chapel dating from around 1190 to 1230AD. Don’t miss a tour of The Nautical Museum in Castletown with main attraction the 18th Century armed yacht Peggy.
This ancient Capital of Mann is a heritage gem with a host of beautifully preserved historic buildings dotted around its narrow streets including The Old House of Keys – the onetime home of politics on the island and a building with marks the transition from self-elected Isle of Man members to a democratically elected parliament on the island from 1866. Enjoy excellent guided walking tours around the town run by Castletown Heritage, a superb introduction before exploring each individual historic attraction in more depth.
Famed as one of Europe’s best preserved medieval castles, Castle Rushen sits right in the centre of Castletown and was once the mighty seat of the Lords and Kings of Mann. Parts of the structure date back to the reign of Magnus, the last Norse King of Mann. Overlooking the harbour, Castle Rushen later served as a key administrative centre, home to the island’s mint and law courts for around a century right up to the end of the 19th century.
Located on an area fortified in the Norse period, Castle Rushen developed between the 13th and 16th centuries. The oldest part of the castle is the central stone courtyard and Keep dating from around 1265 and the time of Magnus who actually died at Castle Rushen.
Take a walk across the ancient drawbridge and look through the murder holes in the Inner Gatehouse, see spectacular views of Castletown and the harbour from the castle ramparts and view beautiful medieval wall tapestries. Why not combine your visit with a trip to nearby Rushen Abbey in the Ballasalla area.
The Nautical Museum
The Nautical Museum down on Castletown Harbour is a delightful small maritime museum with highlight attraction, the 18th Century armed yacht Peggy housed in her own boathouse constructed in 1789 by the yacht’s owner, Captain George Quayle. Learn just why Peggy remained undiscovered for around 100 years after her owner died!
Located adjacent to Bridge House – the former home of the Quayle family, The Nautical Museum digs deep into the history of George Quayle and his role as banker, politician, soldier and some say smuggler!
Old Grammar School
The free entry Old Grammar School in Castletown was formerly a chapel and one of the first buildings constructed around Castle Rushen. Standing as the oldest roofed building on the island, the Old Grammar School features a Victorian classroom offering an interactive Victorian school experience with reading lessons on the blackboard and examples of work undertaken by Victorian school children.
Within easy reach of Castletown, the beautiful Rushen Abbey remains within their pretty Abbey Gardens sits in the nearby Ballasalla area and features an on-site visitor centre exploring the history of this striking Manx medieval building. Hop aboard the steam railway from Castletown to reach the abbey which is clearly signposted from Ballasalla Station. An exceptional restaurant, cafe and picnic areas are all on-site.
The Old House of Keys
The former home of the Isle of Man’s parliament, The Old House of Keys, is open to the public and offers a fascinating insight into 19th century political life on the island and the early workings of democracy on Manx. A costumed secretary welcomes you into the house and live debate with the Speaker of the House in residence also features.
The Old House of Keys has been beautifully restored to how it would have been in 1866 – a crucial turning point in the history of Manx politics. This was the year when the self-elected House of Keys passed the ‘House of Keys Election Bill’ opening the way for a democratic system and a popular elected body. View portraits of early elected members in the museum. The Old House of Keys is clearly signposted from the steam railway station in Castletown.
Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.