Douglas (Manx: Doolish) is the capital city of the Isle of Man. It has the island's greatest concentration of visitor facilities along its promenade, so it's the main base for tourism. In 2021 Douglas had a population of 26,677.
In Gaelic dub glais means "dark stream", from peaty waters. The River Douglas is formed here by the confluence of the Dhoo and Glass streams, but those names may be a back-formation. In the Middle Ages it was a fishing hamlet, with only 13 households when first counted in 1511. In early modern times its harbour made it more important for herring fishing, for maritime defence, for trade with England, and above all for smuggling. The British were so irked by this that they took tighter control, with the Revestment Act of 1765 establishing the island's present status under the crown. Better shipping and more avenues for legitimate trade meant that Douglas outgrew Castletown, until in the 1860s the law courts, parliament and executive offices all moved here.
Douglas retained its medieval streets until then, authentically smelly and diseased, but a combination of Victorian civic reformist zeal and the prospect of tourism led to its re-building, with the great sweep of hotels, guest houses and other visitor amenities lining its two-mile promenade. It's the island's ferry port, with the airport 9 miles southwest, within a short drive of the rest of the island, and is the obvious base for a tourist stay on the Isle of Man.
In 2022 Douglas and seven other towns were accorded city status, marking the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth. The flummery formalities of this were not quite complete when the good queen died, so this is high on King Charles' to-do list.
Douglas is the hub for all the island's roads and transport. The principal bus routes are #1 and #2 from Port Erin, Port St Mary, Castletown and the airport, #3 from Ramsey and Laxey, and #4, #5 and #6 from Peel - see individual towns for details.
2 Lord Street Interchange a block inland from the Sea Terminal is the turnaround point for island buses, which make multiple stops through town. It's just a car park with no passenger facilities.
Douglas is easily walkable.
The horse-drawn tram, established in 1876, plods the length of Douglas promenade Apr-Oct, from Derby Castle to the north to the Sea Terminal and railway station south. However in 2023 because of road works along the promenade, it only plies the northern half, from Broadway to Derby Castle.
Several out-of-town bus routes make stops along the prom.
- 1 Tower of Refuge is the little offshore mock-castle near the ferry terminal. It was built in 1832 on the reef of St Mary's Island (or Conister Rock) after several shipwrecks, notably the mail ship St George. The idea was that survivors cast up on the reef could find shelter until the lifeboat could take them off - there was even a bell to call for assistance and a regularly-replenished loaf of bread to sustain them. The reef is only covered at the highest tides, and at the lowest springs you can wade out to it.
- 2 Jubilee clock near the Sea Terminal commemorates the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria's reign in 1887. This spot was the terminus of the Upper Douglas Cable Tramway, which from 1896 to 1929 hauled people up the stiff gradient to the western neighbourhoods. In the 1970s, the best remaining bits of Trams 72 and 73 were cobbled together as a frankentram 72 / 73 which occasionally has outings on the horse-drawn tramway, and normally lives in Jurby Transport Museum.
- 3 Tynwald, Prospect Hill, ☏ . Tour at M 14:00 and F 10:00. The Isle of Man reckons to have the oldest parliament in the world, harking back to 979 AD. That date was pretty-much invented by officialdom without any evidence, a salutary lesson in small-nation politics. What you see today looks like a snooty Victorian hotel, the Legislative Building occupied from 1874 when Tynwald moved from Castletown. As well as the 90 minute tour, you can attend sessions. Free.
- 4 St George's Church, 10 Hope St IM1 1LB. Work on this started in 1762 but was hobbled when a crackdown on smuggling reduced the fortunes of its benefactors, and an insolvent bishop mingled those funds with his own. It opened in 1781 and was extended in the 19th century to become the island's senior Anglican church. However the well-to-do had burial rights elsewhere, so its graveyard caters to the more raffish or transient.
- 5 Manx Museum, Kingswood Grove IM1 3LY, ☏ . Daily 09:30-16:30. Fascinating museum of the history and the natural history of the Isle of Man, plus the national art gallery. Displays include the Viking reign, Tynwald, Mann at War, the TT races, and island tourism. Free.
- 6 Castle Mona is a work in progress, or less kindly a bit of a mess. It was completed in 1804 as the Governor General's residence, a castellated square mansion. It became a swanky hotel in 1831, later adding a casino and entertainment complex. From the 1990s it was tatty and lowlife, closing in 2006. It's been acquired by Tevir, an IOM-based property company, who have stripped away some of the tacky modern additions but haven't announced their plans for it.
- 7 Camera Obscura on Douglas Head was built in the 1890s: it projects a panorama of its surroundings onto the walls of its darkened interior. It remains closed in 2023.
- The lighthouse just below the camera obscura was built by the Stevensons in 1857, and automated in 1986. There's no public access.
- 8 Groudle Glen Waterwheel is a twee dinky version of Laxey Wheel, part of a Victorian effort to prettify the glen into a tourist spot. The zoo has disappeared but the miniature railway still runs, see below.
- 9 Home of Rest for Old Horses, Richmond Hill IM4 1JH, ☏ . Apr-Sep: Tu-Su 10:00-16:00; Jan-Mar: Sa Su 10:00-15:00. Petting farm with horses retired from hauling the trams, and other beasts, all of which appreciate being suitably fed. Donation.
- Murray's Motorcycle Museum: see Castletown, it's on A5 just before Fairy Bridge.
- Cinema: Broadway Cinema is midway along the prom. Palace Cinema is north near the Best Western.
- Gaiety Theatre, Harris Promenade IM1 2HP (by war memorial), ☏ . Opened in 1900 and one of the few remaining theatres designed by Frank Matcham, it has a richly detailed interior. It fell derelict in the 1950s / 60s but was restored from 1976.
- Villa Marina is the entertainment complex hosting Gaiety Theatre and Broadway Cinema. It also has Dragon's Castle, a children's play area, and hosts tournaments such as darts.
- TT motorbike races: 1 Nobles Park has the grandstand, paddock and scoreboard. The next TT races are 1-8 June 2024, with practice and qualifying laps over the preceding week.
- Manx Grand Prix are more races, held 20-28 Aug 2023 then 18-26 Aug 2024.
- Groudle Glen Railway runs Apr-Oct plus "Santa specials". It's 2 ft / 610 mm gauge, built in 1896 to link to the long-gone zoo and pleasure park. It was scrapped in the 1960s but rebuilt from 1981.
- Golf: Douglas GC is on Pulrose Rd southwest edge of town. White tees 5922 yards, par 69, visitor round £13.
- King Edward Bay GC is on Groundle Rd northeast edge of town. White tees 5231 yards, par 67. visitor round £25.
- Mount Murray GC is at the Comis Hotel southwest along A5, see Sleep.
- Football: 2 The Bowl, capacity 3350, is multi-use but mostly for soccer. It's the home ground of FC Isle of Man (which plays in the northwest England amateur leagues) and half-a-dozen minor teams. The Isle of Man is regarded as a county within the English FA system and doesn't field a national team, except for occasional beer matches against the likes of Guernsey.
- Isle of Man Beer & Cider Festival is held in Villa Marina in early April.
- Manx Music Festival is locally known as "The Guild". It's held at Villa Marina, with the next on 22-29 April 2023.
- Full Moon Festival is a family-friendly music festival launched in 2023. It's on F 30 June - Su 2 July 2023.
- Southern Agricultural Show is in July, half a mile south of Fairy Bridge, see Castletown.
- Food and Drink Festival is in Villa Marina, with the next on 16-17 Sep 2023.
- Chess tournaments are held at Villa Marina, with the next FIDE event on 23 Oct - 6 Nov 2023.
- Tesco is on Lake Rd just south of Douglas Station, open M-Sa 08:00-23:00, Su 09:00-18:00.
- Farmers Market is held on Regent St, second Saturday of the month Apr-Nov, 10:00-16:00.
- Local specialties are Manx Kippers (herring fillets smoked over hot oak chips), Queenies (Manx Queen Scallops) and Loaghtan Lamb (from an unusual horned sheep). Manx Bonnag (or bannock) was traditionally a simple barley bread but is nowadays enriched with dried fruit.
- Capone's, 84 Strand Street IM1 2EP (by Ellan Vannin Hotel), ☏ . Daily 10:00-16:00. Retro-styled like a US diner, but it's trad British fare in a friendly atmosphere.
- Star Grill & Pizza, 6 Marina Rd IM1 2HE (by Sefton Hotel), ☏ . Su-Th 16:00-00:00, F Sa 16:00-02:00. Takeaway serving good quality pizza, kebabs, burgers and the like.
- Downtown Cafe, 40 Duke St IM1 2AX (corner with Victoria St), ☏ . Su-F 10:00-16:00, Sa 09:00-17:00. Cosy friendly place for breakfast and pancakes.
- Just Pizza & Pasta, Clinch’s Court, North Quay IM1 4LH (opposite 14 North), ☏ . Tu 17:00-22:00, W-Sa 12:00-14:30, 17:00-22:00, Su 12:00-21:00. Good pizza and calzone, and you can concoct your own. Filling portions.
- 1 Little Fish Cafe, 30 North Quay IM1 4LB, ☏ . Tu-Sa 12:00-14:00,17:00-21:00. Brilliant little seafood restaurant, excellent food in a friendly atmosphere.
- La Piazza Restaurant, Loch Promenade IM1 2BT (next to Sea Terminal), ☏ . W-F 12:00-14:00, 17:00-21:30, Tu, Sa 17:00-21:30. Great reviews for this traditional Italian restaurant.
- 2 Jak's Bar & Smokehouse, 43 Loch Promenade IM1 2LZ, ☏ . M-Th 11:00-01:00, F Sa 11:00-03:00, Su 12:00-01:00. Sports bar and restaurant with great service and food, filling portions.
- Barbary Coast Grill & Bar, North Quay (quay by bus interchange), ☏ . M-W 17:00-23:00, Th-Su 12:00-23:00. Consistently good grill by the marina. Beware their website has been colonised by a rival outfit.
- 3 Titan Broadway, 42 Broadway IM2 4EW, ☏ . Tu-Th 17:00-21:00, F Sa 17:00-22:00. Quality continental fare, mostly steak but has vegetarian options.
- 4 14 North Restaurant, 14 North Quay IM1 4LE, ☏ . W-Sa 12:00-14:30, 18:00-21:30. Excellent British and European cuisine.
- 5 Oscar's, 28 Victoria St IM1 2LE, ☏ . Th 12:00-23:00, F Sa 12:00-14:00. Restaurant and bar on two floors, quirky decor. Good vibe, drinks and food.
- The Rovers Return, 11 Church St IM1 2AG, ☏ . Su-Th 12:00-23:00, F Sa 12:00-00:00. Friendly straightforward pub, one of the oldest in Douglas. Lots of fire brigade memorabilia as it was the station's watering hole, and a back room is a shrine to Blackburn Rovers.
- Thirsty Pigeon, 38 Victoria St IM2 1LB, ☏ . M-Sa 12:00-00:00, Su 13:00-23:00. Welcoming trad place with food.
- Nag's Head is a trad place just east of Thirsty Pigeon.
- The British, North Quay IM1 4LB, ☏ . Su-Tu 12:00-22:00, W Th 12:00-23:00, F Sa 12:00-00:00. Cosy place for pub food near Sea Terminal.
- The Market on Chapel Row near The British is dog-free and food-free.
- Bar George is a wine bar at 1 Hill St, open M-Th 11:00-23:00, F Sa 11:00-01:30, Su 17:00-23:00.
- Brendan O'Donnell's, 16 Castle St IM1 2EU (next to Jak's Smokehouse), ☏ . Su-Th 12:00-23:00, F Sa 12:00-00:00. Authentic Irish pub.
- The Original Quids Inn has live music and dancing at 56 Loch Promenade. It's open M-Th 17:00-00:00, F Sa 17:00-01:00, Su 14:30-00:00.
- Breweries near town are Okells on Old Castletown Rd, Radical Brewing at Fairy Bridge, Bushy's on A5 near Comis Hotel, and Kaneen's on Peel Rd.
- Distillery: Seven Kingdom is at Banks Circus just south of Douglas Station. They make gin and vodka and offer tours.
- Booking ahead is always wise, and essential for the TT season.
- 1 Premier Inn, Market St IM1 2PA, ☏ . Budget chain hotel, service and cleanliness variable. B&B double £90.
- 2 Claremont Hotel, 18 Loch Promenade IM1 2LX, ☏ . Simple beachfront hotel near ferry terminal. B&B double £120.
- Ellan Vannin Hotel, 31 Loch Promenade IM1 2LY (just north of Claremont), ☏ . Clean welcoming place, some rooms are up long flights of stairs with no lifts. B&B double £90.
- 3 The Sefton, Harris Promenade IM1 2RW, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Some facilities tired but overall a clean and comfy hotel. B&B double £80.
- 4 Mannin Hotel, 8-16 Broadway IM2 4EL, ☏ . Slick modern hotel with 54 bedrooms, good scores all round. B&B double £130.
- 5 Empress Hotel, Central Promenade IM2 4RA, ☏ . Value-for-money central hotel, some street noise.
- 6 Welbeck Hotel, 13 Mona Drive IM2 4LF, ☏ . Decent budget hotel a block back from the prom. B&B double £75.
- 7 Best Western Palace Hotel & Casino, Central Promenade IM2 4NA, ☏ . A bit run down, but scores well for comfort, service and dining. B&B double £80.
- 8 Inglewood Guest House, 26 Palace Terrace, Queens Promenade IM2 4NF, ☏ , email@example.com. Friendly, spotless spacious guesthouse. B&B double £110.
- Edelweiss, 29 Palace Terrace, Queens Promenade IM2 4NF (behind Inglewood off Switzerland Road), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Friendly clean B&B in a quiet spot north end of the prom. B&B double £80.
- 9 Regency Hotel, Queens Promenade IM2 4NN, ☏ . Spacious modern rooms near the tram terminus. B&B double £120.
- 10 Isle of Man Camping, Blackberry Lane, ☏ . Large site on the hill north of town. £14 ppn.
- Pop-up campsites appear for the TT races.
- 11 Comis Hotel & Golf Resort, Mount Murray Back Rd IM4 2HT (off A5), ☏ . Upscale modern spa and golf resort hotel, mostly glowing reviews. B&B £160.
The Isle of Man is a very safe place but petty crime does occur. Tourists should exercise standard precautions.
Douglas and its approach roads have 4G from Sure and Manx. As of April 2023, 5G has not rolled out on the Isle of Man.
- All of the Isle of Man is within a short drive from Douglas.
- Castletown the former capital has a castle and the earlier Parliament building.
- Port St Mary and Port Erin are seaside resorts to the southwest.
- Peel on the west coast has a castle, cathedral and museums.
- Laxey has a photogenic waterwheel and is the start of the railway up Snaefell.
- Ramsey on the northeast coast is a fishing port.
|Routes through Douglas|
|Peel ← St John's ←||W E||→ merges with and|
|Ramsey ← Laxey ←||N S||→ merges with and|
|merges with and ←||N S||→ Castletown → Port St Mary|