Sketchbook Tours of the Isle of Man

Take a journey through historic landscapes of the Isle of Man. From the mid-eighteenth century, growing numbers of tourists traversed the Irish Sea to visit the Isle of Man, a relatively unmapped and lesser known part of the British Isles. Let's join them.

By Manx National Heritage

1777 edition of Isle of Man map publication 1695Manx National Heritage

The Isle of Man

The Isle of Man’s castles, hills and coastline, language and unique myths made it an ideal place to sketch and write about. During the Romantic era (1800-1890) lots of illustrated travel journals were published, inspiring people to seek out scenic landscapes and foreign cultures.

Isle of Man (19th century) by S.D. SwarbreckManx National Heritage

(2) Tour through the Isle of Man
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Douglas

In July 1815 Captain William Latham made a tour of the Isle of Man with Mr William Gerard Walmesley Esq of Liverpool, Mr James Leigh of Liverpool and Mr Ralph Greenough of Wigan. Latham made many sketches of the Island during his visit. These sketches, along with a written account of the visit, were copied and re-published by artist Samuel Dukinfield Swarbreck.
 
Douglas, by Samuel Dukinfield Swarbreck from an original drawing by Captain William Latham, 1815 
(MNH MS 00296/5)

'A Trip Round the Island, August the 3rd, 1825' (19th century)Manx National Heritage

(3) A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Isle of Man
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'A Trip Round the Island'

Early tourists moved slowly. Some travelled by carriage or horseback; many tourists explored on foot. Contemporary diaries and travel journals provide mixed accounts of the condition of the roads on the Isle of Man, but most visitors appreciated the absence of tolls. In the nineteenth century, the quality of the Island’s roads was continuing to improve.

'A Trip Round the Island, August the 3rd, 1825', Buck Keown
(MNH 1987-0266)

The Nunnery (19th century) by unknown artistManx National Heritage

(4) Journal of a Tour in the Isle of Man
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The Nunnery

Who lives in a house like this? Scenic landscapes and ancient monuments weren’t the only attractions for visitors to the Isle of Man. Early tourists liked to visit grand homes and country estates to find out more about the occupants. Eighteenth and nineteenth century travel journals often name-drop and provide a ‘who’s who’ for curious readers. Visitors might record their opinions on the architecture, furnishings, and even the character of the landowner.

The Nunnery, a mounted lithographic view from the sketchbook of Sarah Jametta Crigan, 1825 
(MNH 1959-0334/1)

Kirk Braddan (19th century) by George William CarringtonManx National Heritage

(5) Tour through the Isle of Man
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Kirk Braddan

Old Kirk Braddan Church, located just outside of Douglas, was a popular stop for visitors beginning a tour of the Isle of Man. The churchyard has plenty of interesting gravestones and enough ancient monuments to satisfy the antiquarian traveller.
 
Kirk Braddan, 1820, George William Carrington 
(MNH 2009-0008a)

Rushen Abbey (19th century) by unknown artistManx National Heritage

(6) A Tour Through The Isle of Man
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Rushen Abbey

Most nineteenth century tourists had one thing in mind: to hunt down the Picturesque. They wanted wild and irregular scenery, crumbling Gothic ruins and ivy clad walls. Rushen Abbey was a popular and much recorded destination, with everything the Romantic tourist desired.

Rushen Abbey, 19th century, unknown artist 
(MNH 1976-1932/28)

St Michael's Church (19th century) by Henry DrydenManx National Heritage

(7) A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Isle of Man
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St Michael’s Church (Fort Island)

Sir Henry Dryden, known as ‘the Antiquary,’ was an archaeologist who travelled throughout Britain and Europe in the nineteenth century. During his travels Dryden recorded buildings, historic sites and monuments, producing thousands of architectural and archaeological drawings. He visited the Isle of Man in 1853 and sketched several landmarks.

St Michael’s Church (Fort Island), 1853, Henry Dryden 
(MNH 1954-2806/1)

The Prospective of Castle Rushen (17th century) by Daniel KingManx National Heritage

(8) The History and Description of the Isle of Man
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Castle Rushen

The oldest known pictures of the Isle of Man are a series of wash drawings in the British Museum. The drawings were executed by Daniel King of Chester - probably between 1643 and 1648 - during his visit to the Island with James 7th Earl of Derby. Watercolour copies of the drawings were produced at the end of the nineteenth century and facsimiles are held in the Manx National Heritage collections.

The Prospective of Castle Rushen, 1643-51, Daniel King
(MNH 1957-0091)

Castle Rushen

Castletown (Balley Cashtal), is the ancient capital of the Isle of Man and home to Castle Rushen. One of the best preserved medieval castles in the world.
 

Visit Castle Rushen
Manx National Heritage

Isle of Man (19th century) by Emma CramManx National Heritage

(9) Illustrated account of Mrs Emma Cram's 1842 visit to the Isle of Man
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Port Erin Bay

The ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe was mainly undertaken by young upper-class men, but domestic travel was undertaken by men and women alike. Some of the most informative travel journals that have survived from the nineteenth century were written by women. Mrs Emma Cram visited the Isle of Man in 1842 with her husband; Emma’s hand-written travel journal includes watercolour and pen illustrations.

Port Erin Bay, 1842, Mrs Emma Cram
(MNH MS 13029/6)

Danish Monuments, Isle of Man (19th century) by Will LathamManx National Heritage

(10) Antiquities of England and Wales
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'Danish Monuments'

The carved Manx stone crosses were star attractions for those touring the Isle of Man in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The crosses date from the late fifth to the mid-eleventh century; over 200 of these monuments can be found across the Manx landscape. Their intricate carvings depict Christian and Scandinavian themes and provide a rich source of inspiration for artists and antiquarians alike.

Danish Monuments, Isle of Man, 1822, Captain William Latham
(MNH 1954-7408)

Tynwald Hill (19th century) by George William CarringtonManx National Heritage

(11) A Tour Through The Isle of Man
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Tynwald Hill

The distinct landmark of Tynwald Hill was not to be missed by tourists making the journey through the Isle of Man’s central valley. This four-tiered hill is the ancient meeting place of Parliament on the Isle of Man.

Tynwald Hill, 1820, George William Carrington
(MNH 2009-0009a)

Tynwald Hill

Peel Castle (19th century) by Emily M. FaneManx National Heritage

(12) Manx Antiquities
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Peel Castle

A must-see destination for early visitors to the Isle of Man. Sir Walter Scott’s 1823 novel Peveril on the Peak was set around Peel Castle, stirring the curiosity of Romantic-era writers, poets, antiquarians and artists. Sir Walter Scott never actually visited the Isle of Man, but he took his inspiration from George Waldron’s Description of the Isle of Man (1726).

Peel Castle, August 1843, Emily M. Fane
(MNH 1980-0001/5)

Peel Castle

Set on St Patrick’s Isle and overlooking Peel Marina is the Island’s majestic fortress, Peel Castle (Cashtal Phurt Ny h-inshey). Within its magnificent walls you will find layer on layer of Manx history.


Visit Peel Castle
Manx National Heritage
 

Bishopscourt (19th century) by Georgina Gore CurrieManx National Heritage

(13) A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Isle of Man
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Bishopscourt

Women of the aristocracy and gentry were amongst the earliest domestic tourists. Miss Georgina Gore Currie had family connections to the Isle of Man. Georgina was the niece of Horatio Powys, Bishop of Sodor and Man from 1854 to 1877. Georgina stayed with the Bishop’s family at their residence, Bishopscourt, north of Kirk Michael. During her time on the Isle of Man, Georgina sketched and painted many Manx scenes including Bishopscourt and its gardens.

Bishopscourt, c.1866, Georgina Gore Currie
(MNH 1954-3601/21)

Ramsey Harbour (19th century) by Lucy Emma LynamManx National Heritage

(14) A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Isle of Man
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Ramsey Harbour

The Liverpool steamers used Ramsey harbour as a port of call for passengers on the way to and from Glasgow. Ramsey and Douglas were the principle harbours in the nineteenth century. The two towns were well connected via a public carriage service, described by Sir George Head in his Home Tour of 1837 as: “a sort of nondescript vehicle or caravan, somewhat like a baker’s cart in form, with a door behind and the name ‘The Earl Grey’ painted conspicuously in large red letters on a yellow body. It works regularly between Ramsey and Douglas, and up one day, down the next, performs the journey throughout the whole year.”

Ramsey Harbour, 1899, Lucy Emma Lynam
(MNH 1954-3834/34)

Maughold by Lucy Emma LynamManx National Heritage

(15) Manx Antiquities
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Maughold village

For Romantic-era tourists, the rural charm of the Isle of Man was a counterpoint to the Industrial Revolution. The island was regarded as unspoilt and wild; its natural beauty offering fuel for the imagination and a place to escape for the poet, writer or artist. In the eyes of the urban and worldly traveller, local manners and customs were a fascinating glimpse into an earlier age of simplicity.

Maughold village, 1884, Lucy Emma Lynam
(MNH 1954-3834/11)

From Douglas Head (19th century) by Lucy Emma LynamManx National Heritage

(16) Journal of a Governess
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From Douglas Head

Sketchbooks and journals provide an all-important record of how the Isle of Man was experienced from a visitor’s point of view. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the popularity of the travel journal soared, as did topographical art and literature. Most tourists kept a record of their travels and would return home with armchair stories to regale friends and family.

From Douglas Head, July 1851, Lucy Emma Lynam
(MNH 1954-3834/41)

'A Trip Round the Island, August the 3rd, 1825' (19th century)Manx National Heritage

Historic landscapes of the Isle of Man

Continue your sketchbook tour of the Isle of Man by visiting Manx National Heritage's collections website imuseum.im

Manx National Heritage
Visit Isle of Man

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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