Originally home for monks of the Savignac order, Rushen Abbey soon came under Cistercian control and remained so until its dissolution. The abbey is located two miles from Castle Rushen, the politically most important site on the island in medieval times.

The abbey was founded in 1134, under Óláfr Guðrøðarson's control. He granted the land to Savignac monks from Furness Abbey. In 1147 the abbey came under Cistercian rule following the merging of the Savignac and Cistercian orders. The abbey church dedicated to St Mary was completed in 1257. The abbey was dissolved in the 16th century.

In 1853 the Isle of Man Government bought Rushen Abbey with the intention of turning it into a lunatic asylum, but it was never used for such a purpose, and in 1864 an Act was passed revoking the sale.

In the early 1900s, the abbey ruins became a popular tourist destination, famous for the strawberries and cream served in its gardens. After falling into disrepair after World War II, the abbey was acquired by Manx National Heritage in May 1998, and restorations have now been made. Soon afterwards, excavations began, and archaeologists discovered more about the monks' way of life and practices.

The abbey is now a heritage centre with a building containing artefacts and telling the history of Rushen Abbey and the surrounding area. The remains of the original abbey have been restored and walkways constructed to allow visitors to get a close look. Between April and October the abbey is open to the public and an admission fee is payable. Before accessing the abbey gardens, visitors must walk through a museum that explains the role of the abbey. There is interactive, audio and video material available. At the end of the exhibition, there is an area designed for children, allowing them to build an arch and discover the monastery's history in a way that is more appealing to them.

The Chronicle of Mann was compiled at Rushen Abbey, as were many other important documents relating to the island. The abbey is significant in this respect, as it would have been the centre of knowledge and literacy on the island.

Monks from Rushen Abbey would sometimes have farms in the north of the island. A packhorse bridge was built in around 1350 to allow the monks to cross the nearby Silverburn River. Known today as The Monks' Bridge (or The Crossag), it is one of few surviving packhorse bridges in the British Isles.

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Castle Rushen

Castle Rushen is located in the Isle of Man"s historic capital, Castletown. The castle is amongst the best examples of medieval castles in the British Isles, and is still in use as a court house, museum and educational centre.

The exact date of castle is unknown, although construction is thought to have taken place during the reigns of the late 12th century and early 13th century rulers of the Isle of Man – the Kings of Mann and the Isles. The original Castle Rushen consisted of a central square stone tower, or keep. The site was also fortified to guard the entrance to the Silver Burn. From its early beginnings, the castle was continually developed by successive rulers of Mann between the 13th and 16th century. The limestone walls dominated much of the surrounding landscape, serving as a point of dominance for the various rulers of the Isle of Man. By 1313, the original keep had been reinforced with towers to the west and south. In the 14th century, an east tower, gatehouses, and curtain wall were added.

After several more changes of hands the English and their supporters eventually prevailed. The English king Edward I Longshanks claimed that the island had belonged to the Kings of England for generations and he was merely reasserting their rightful claim to the Isle of Man.

The 18th century saw the castle in steady decay. By the end of the century it was converted into a prison. Even though the castle was in continuous use as a prison, the decline continued until the turn of the 20th century, when it was restored under the oversight of the Lieutenant Governor, George Somerset, 3rd Baron Raglan. Following the restoration work, and the completion of the purpose-built Victoria Road Prison in 1891, the castle was transferred from the British Crown to the Isle of Man Government in 1929.

Today it is run as a museum by Manx National Heritage, depicting the history of the Kings and Lords of Mann. Most rooms are open to the public during the opening season (March to October), and all open rooms have signs telling their stories. The exhibitions include a working medieval kitchen where authentic period food is prepared on special occasions and re-enactments of various aspects of medieval life are held on a regular basis, with particular emphasis on educating the local children about their history. Archaeological finds made during excavations in the 1980s are displayed and used as learning tools for visitors.