Visiting the Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is situated in the Irish Sea between northern England and Ireland. It has its own government (Tynwald) and is classed as a Crown dependency, so technically it is not a part of the UK. Until the 13th century the island was actually owned by Norway, before being ceded to Scotland and then sold to Britain in 1765. So the Isle of Man has had a remarkably dynamic and colourful history and this is reflected in the many attractions, both cultural and natural, that visitors can enjoy here.
The famous TT Race on the Isle of Man was for many years the motoring world’s number one race, the most prestigious of its kind. It winds around the notorious Snaefell Mountain Course and was the scene of no fewer than 237 deaths between 1907 and 2009. The Isle of Man TT Race has been held here since 1911, and there is also another famous event, the Manx Grand Prix Race, held here since 1923. The TT is the oldest racing circuit in the world that is still in regular use, and it uses public roads by an act of the Tynwald, or Parliament of the Isle of Man. During the 2009 Senior TT Race John McGuinness set the record of completing the course in just over 17 minutes at 131mph. The race begins each year on the Saturday before the first Sunday in June, when the TT Superbike and Sidecar Race begin.
- Date: End of May – Beginning of June
- Ticket prices: Between £5 and £30 for grandstand seats
- Website: iomtt.com
The Manx Museum in the capital of Douglas chronicles over 10,000 years of history on the Isle of Man. This has often been turbulent but remains exciting through the use of innovative interactive displays in the museum’s exhibits. The museum also marks the start of the Story of Mann heritage trail around the island. Items on display include finds from the Viking age, and there’s a full history of the TT race complete with many items of memorabilia. The museum also houses the National Art Gallery, which displays the work of both local and more famous artists such as John Miller Nicholson, William Hoggatt and Archibald Knox. A tea room and gift shop provide refreshment and the grounds of the museum are the perfect spot for an afternoon stroll in pleasant surroundings before heading back to your hotel or guesthouse in Douglas.
- Opening times: Monday to Saturday between 10am and 5pm
- Admission: Free
- Website: iomguide.com/manxmuseum.php
Isle of Man Steam Railway
This famous attraction is a 3ft gauge railway which runs from Douglas to Port Erin, a 15 mile trip through some fabulous scenery that is hugely popular with kids and adults alike. It’s the only remaining line in a once-extensive Victorian network, but it is still the longest stretch of narrow-gauge railway to have survived in the UK. With its rolling stock dating back to the 1870s, a day out on this line is like stepping back in time. It’s the perfect way to leisurely explore the many attractive villages and towns in the southern part, and the Railway Museum at Port Erin has a big collection of rolling stock and old locomotives to explore.
- Opening times: Every weekend and most weekdays throughout the year. Check their timetable online for more info.
- Website: iomsrsa.com
The Isle of Man has a comprehensive range of places to stay, from camping and caravan sites to family-run guesthouses and large hotels. All the providers of accommodation on the island have to be registered with the Department of Tourism, so there’s no danger of falling prey to cowboy operators. Farmhouses, inns and bed-and-breakfasts are popular with visitors looking to combine flexibility with affordability, and booking in advance is advised during the high season in the summer months. Check out official tourism website at gov.im/tourism.