Top adventures in The Calf of Man

The Isle of Man for a short break or long weekend is the perfect destination for a holiday close to home. If you take a trip across the water by ferry or plane, you have the feeling of going overseas, but in as little as 20 minutes!  Perfect for a UK staycation, its a small Island, just 13 miles wide and 33 miles long, which means it is easy to see the whole Island in one trip.

However, there is an Island even smaller, and only half a mile away from the South side of the Isle of Man, The Calf of Man. Calf derives from norse “small island lying near a larger one”. It is separated from the Isle of Man by a narrow stretch of water called the Calf Sound, with other nearby tiny islands Chicken Rock and Kitterland. It’s a 600 acre Island full of peace, tranquillity and wildlife. It is the ultimate escape for a day.


Donated by a private owner in 1940s to the National Trust for use as a bird sanctuary , Manx National Heritage rented it until 1986 before becoming the owners.

The Calf of Man has been a bird sanctuary since 1959 giving volunteers and ornithologists the wonderful opportunity to study birdlife. With 33 species of birds, it is located on a major migration route.  Hen Harrier, Chough, Raven, Peregrine, Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, and Razorbill are breeding on The Calf.

The Isle of Man actually is one of 20 locations around the British Isles where movement of migratory birds is monitored.

Its is looked after by it’s two inhabitants, the wardens, who live there from Spring to Autumn, undertaking ornithological and estate work on behalf of the Manx Wildlife Trust.

Life as a warden is basic. Limited to one shower per week, there is no central heating, but two wood burning stoves and a weekly delivery of food when weather allows. The first warden Einer Brun travelled to the Island over 60 years ago with his wife Dido and there have since been 25 ornithological wardens living there.


It was once a thriving community, with two lighthouses built in 1818 to warn mariners of the hazards of the nearby Chicken Rock. In 1875 a lighthouse was built on chicken rock itself, but when its light was destroyed by fire, a replacement was built in 1968 on the Calf. There was also evidence of a smithy and a mill on the Calf.

Grey seals on The Calf of ManA large colony of seals also live on the Calf, living and breeding.  Inquisitive and playful, they can be easily seen from The Sound bobbing in the water, and the best haul out location being Kitterland , the tiny Island between the mainland and the Calf of Man.

Wonderful family day out 

It’s a fascinating Island, and a wonderful family day out. Small boat operators run return trips from Port Erin and Port St Mary, with journeys being booked in advance with the boatmen. Four boats regularly sail to the Calf: Scraayl, Vagabond, Shona, and the Kirree Varrey .

As a family of 8 with young children, we enjoyed a trip around The Calf on a still day with blue skies from Port Erin breakwater, a 5 minute walk from Palm Villa. As we sailed to the Island, our boatman enthusiastically described the history and the wildlife, and ensured that he took us to best photography spots, answering all of our questions with patience. This is a family-friendly trip to take every year, and makes a staycation truly special.     


To book, call the following: 

Mike Keggan - Vessel Kirree Varrey Tel 07624 493824/ 209807

Chris Burton - Shona Boat Trips Tel 07624 322765/ 480682

Juan Clague - Scraayl Tel 01624 834307

For any further information about a trip to The Calf of Man, or assistance with booking, please contact us here.  Have a wonderful trip!


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