Isle of Man Attractions
The Isle of Man, some 227sq.miles/588sq.km in area, is situated in the Irish Sea 31 miles/50km from England, about the same distance from Northern Ireland and 16 miles/26km from Scotland.
It is a very popular holiday island, with a coastline of more than 100 miles/161km made up partly of sandy bathing beaches and partly of steep cliffs. Most of the island, which is some 33 miles/53km long and 12 miles/19km wide, is undulating and hilly, with a varied scenic pattern of moorland and heath, the dark green of juniper and reedbeds, brown Loghtan sheep grazing on gentle uplands, narrow glens with waterfalls, and areas of woodland. The climate is mild, with the temperature in winter rarely falling below 5+C/41+F.Crown DependencyThe Isle of Man does not belong to the United Kingdom, but is a crown dependency. The island is autonomous and has its own parliament, the Court of Tynwald, which lays claim to being the oldest in the world. In addition it has a range of privileges which have been handed down: its own special system of land tenure, its own constitution (since 1866), as well as the right to levy its own taxes and customs duties under the direct protection of the English crown. The Queen is Sovereign and Lord Proprietor of Man and is represented by a Lieutenant Governor.The island's very lenient taxation system, with its low charges and high interest rates, has in the last few years caused large numbers of banks, foreign exchange dealers and investors to settle here. This "wind of change" through the expanding financial sector is most noticeable in the wave of new building which has taken place in the island's capital, Douglas. About a third of the population now lives here. The island has a total population of about 73,000, although in the summer, when the famous TT (Tourist Trophy) motor-race takes place and the colorful assembly of the island's government is held on the Tynwald at St John, the population is swollen by almost half a million holidaymakers.AccessThere are regular ferry connections from Douglas to Liverpool and Heysham. The island has its own airline, Manx Air, and provides flight connections from Ronaldsway Airport in the south-east of the island with most of the larger English, Scottish and Irish airports.HistoryThe Isle of Man has a very interesting past. The oldest inhabitants were a hunting and fishing people of the Mesolithic period, ca. 2000 B.C. Long before the Romans came to Britain the island was occupied by Celts, to whom the Iron Age forts and the large circular timber-framed huts found here are attributed. The Isle of Man was neveroccupied by the Romans. St Patrick (d. 463) is believed to have converted the people to Christianity long before St Augustine was sent to Canterbury. Celtic Christianity flourished until the arrival of the Vikings, whose raids began at the end of the 8th C. All these various periods have left their traces on the island, which has much of interest to offer the archaeologically inclined visitor. The island's parliament, the Tynwald, is thought to have its origins in the law-making assemblies established in 979 by the Vikings, who occupied the Kingdom of Man from the 9th to the middle of the 13th C., when its was transferred to Scottish ownership. In 1765 it was acquired by the English crown.ManxThe islanders' fierce sense of independence can be seen in the fact that they think of themselves as Manx, rather than English. The old Manx tongue, a member of the Celtic family of languages, has for all practical purposes died out, being preserved only in family and place names. The tailless Manx cat, on the other hand, continues to flourish; originally the result of a mutation, it is now bred to preserve the species.
Tynwald Day Ceremony, St John's, England
Visitors who are on the island on July 5th should not miss the Tynwald Day ceremony on the Tynwald Hill at St John's, 8 miles/14km east of Peel. The event was first recorded in St John's back in 1417. On this ancient artificial mound, perhaps a Bronze Age burial mound, all the laws passed during the previous year are proclaimed in Manx and English, with traditional ceremonial.Thousands of spectators travel to St John's to watch the ceremony and participate in the Tynwald Fair.
Yet another legal peculiarity of the island, that of the maximum speed allowed on its public roads, something which has long been restricted in England, has led to the Isle of Man becoming a competition ground for the sport of motorcycle racing. The Tourist Trophy, which the Marquis de Mouzilly St Mars presented over 80 years ago as the prize for a touring motorcycle race, has made the island well-known all over the world. The circuit used by the race, which is run every year at the end of May and beginning of June, is in the north of the island and begins and ends at Douglas, the capital, taking in on the way Crosby, St John's, Kirk Michael, Ramsey and the highest point on the island, Snaefell (2036ft/621m) -- a total distance of almost 37 miles/60km. At the almost incredible average speed of 115 mph/185km/h the heavy machines thunder along narrow country lanes, steep downward plunges and sharp curves, the surfaces having treacherous and, as the last few years have repeatedly shown, literally murderous bumps. In spite of the fact that every year the race takes its toll of human lives, and even stars like "Mike the Bike", the popular English racing cyclist Mike Hailwood, have warned publicly about the dangers of the route, the trophy does not seem to have lost any of its fascination for the fans of motorcycle racing. One of the famous Manx riders of recent years is PhilHogg, who at the end of the 1980s completed the circuit in the fastest time yet achieved of just under 18 minutes.
Almost all of the places of any size are on the coast. Douglas (pop. 20,000) lies on a beautiful bay into which flow the little rivers Dhoo and Glass. The Promenade, 2 miles/3km long, is crowded with visitors in summer. The town offers every variety of accommodation, from luxury hotels to the most modest guest-houses, and a great range of tourist attractions -- large dance-halls, horse-drawn trams, an indoor swimming-pool and a golf-course. There are a number of handsome buildings, including the Legislative Building, home of the Manx parliament.The Gaiety Theatre in Douglas offers a variety of entertainment from rock bands to comedy to drama and ballet. The Jubilee Clock was completed in 1887 at the foot of Victoria Street and Loch Promenade, also the site of the Sunken Garden.Douglas is scheduled to host the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games.
Of particular interest is the Manx Museum in Finch Road, which illustrates the history of the island from the earliest times, with reproductions of rooms and domestic equipment of the past and works by Manx artists. There is an important collection of material of the Celtic and Viking periods, particularly notable for the Manx crosses.
Port Erin, England
The picturesque resort of Port Erin (pop. 1,800) lies at the head of a deep bay, sheltered by Bradda Head (400ft/122m). It is the terminal point of a small old-time steam railway from Douglas. The Marine Biological Station has an interesting aquarium in Port Erin. There is a commemorative plaque to a famous Manxman who came from Port Erin: Fletcher Christian, who instigated the famous mutiny on the Bounty; his adversary, Captain Bligh, is said to have been married on the island.For wild beautiful scenery, a walk along the cliffs to Fleshwick Bay is recommended, continuing to the Niarbyl and Dalby (0.6 mile/1km inland). In places the cliffs fall sheer down to the sea.Tourists travel to Port Erin today for the sandy beach in the enclosed harbor, lovely gardens, cafes and the memorable sunsets over Port Erin Bay.
The next place is Castletown (1 miles/2km), once capital of the island. Castle Rushen, on the site of an earlier Viking stronghold, destroyed in 1313, has played a great part in Manx history. The Castle, once a royal residence, is very well preserved and still stands at prominent at the center of the town. The clock in the south tower was presented by Elizabeth I in 1597, andthere is also an interesting sundial with 13 dials. Within the walls of the castle, Derby House was built by the 7th Earl of Derby in 1644. From the tower there are far-ranging views. Here too is one of the island's greatest treasures, a Celtic crucifix brought from the little offshore islet, the Calf of Man.
Casteltown - Old Grammar School
Ramsey (pop. 4,600), in a wide sandy bay, is the second largest place on the island. It is the traditional rival of Douglas, and the inhabitants were delighted when Queen Victoria landed here in 1847, heavy seas having made it impossible to enter Douglas harbor. The pier is now called the Queen's Pier. Ramsey offers a variety of pleasant walks -- for example to Kirk Maughold, with a 13th C. church.Ramsey is the site of Isle of Man TT and Manx Grand Prix motorcycle races each year. Many of the race enthusiasts gather at "Ramsey Hairpin", a popular vantage point for the race.
Langness Peninsula, Derbyhaven, England
From Ballasalla, which lies inland, the road leads towards the coast, passing Ronaldsway Airport on the left, and comes to the Langness peninsula, which has very beautiful sandy beaches. The little resort of Derbyhaven is noted for an excellent golf-course and for King William's College, founded in 1668, the island's principal school. The little chapel is worth seeing.Derbyhaven has a sheltered shallow water bay that is ideal for leisure craft and windsurfing.
Between Ramsey and Douglas is the little resort of Laxey (pop. 1,340), linked to both towns by electric tram -- a route of great scenic attraction. From here there is an electric mountain railway up Snaefell, the island's highest point (2036ft/621m), from which the four countries of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales can be seen on a clear day.The Laxey Mines and salmon fishing were once the main focuses for residents. Today the mines provide a glimpse into the past!
Port St Mary, England
The road continues round Poolvash Bay and comes to Port St Mary (pop. 1,400), a quiet little port and seaside resort with a small harbor. Beyond it extends a very beautiful peninsula, off which, beyond the Calf Sound, lies the Calf of Man. The wild beauty of the scenery can best be enjoyed by walking to Calf Sound (2 miles/4km) along the cliffs, past Spanish Head.)Visitors to Port St Mary will enjoy fishing excursions and diving, to name a few popular activities.
Peel (pop. 3,100), halfway up the west coast of the island at the mouth of the little river Neb, is a picturesque fishing port which claims to produce the best kippers in England.The red sandstone buildings, memorable sunsets over the Irish Sea, narrow streets, fisherman cottages, sandy beach, and promenade have made Peel a popular seaside destination during the summer months.
Outside the harbor, and linked by acauseway, lies the rocky isle of St Patrick, on which are Peel Castle, a red sandstone structure surrounded by a wall, and the Cathedral, the smallest of all the Anglican ones, dedicated to St Germanus, a disciple of St Patrick. The choir was built in 1226--47, while St Patrick's Chapel probably dates from the 9th C.
Odin's Raven in the boathouse at Peel is the replica of a Viking ship found at Oslo in Norway. The ship was brought over to Man in 1979.
Isle of Man Coast
From Kirk Michael it is possible to continue along the coast, perhaps with a detour to Point of Ayre, but the scenery along this stretch is less attractive, although there are some sand and shingle beaches. It is more interesting to take the inland road, over the wide Ayre plain with its low hills. The road runs past the Curragh, an area of heathand bog, some of which has been brought into cultivation
Port Soderick, England
South of Douglas a beautiful panoramic road runs round Douglas Head to Port Soderick, a popular seaside resort, passing the churches of Braddan (1 miles/2km) and Onchan (2 miles/3km), which have old crosses.The scenic bay, secluded glen, pebbled beach and caves will make for a lovely day trip in Port Soderick.
Calf of Man
The Calf of Man is a bird reserve with a large population of rare seabirds (over 130 different types), seals and the four-horned Loghtan sheep, so typical of the island. It can be visited outside the nesting season (boat from Port Erin). There are fine views from the highest point (360ft/110m).
Curragh Wild Life Park
The road runs past the Curragh, an area of heath and bog, some of which has been brought into cultivation. A mile (1km) beyond Ballaugh Wild Life Park Bridge is the Curragh Wild Life Park. The road then continues via Sulby, a pretty little place in the valley of the river of the same name (with waterfall), to Ramsey.
From Peel a beautiful panoramic road runs high above the coast to Kirk Michael (6 miles/10km), passing White Strand, a fine bathing beach. Kirk Michael, the largest place in the north-west of the island, is beautifully situated between the coast and hills rising to 1,600ft/488m.
The road from Port Erin to Peel (14 miles/22km) runs via Colby, with a picturesque gorge, Ballabeg, with the Round Table (1,000ft/306m) and the higher South Barrule, Dalby and Glen Maye, with a beautiful waterfall.
The road then continues to Ballasalla (8 miles/13km), with the ruins of a Cistercian house, Rushen Abbey, founded in 1134. This was the last monastery in the British Isles to be dissolved (1540). The old Monks' Bridge is very picturesque.
The road from Port St Mary continues to Cregneish (1 miles/2km), the most southerly town on the island. On Mull Hill (430ft/131m) there is a group of six chamber tombs known as the Mull Circle or Meayll Circle.
Cregneish Village Folk Museum
At Cregneish is the Manx Village Folk Museum, a group of thatched cottages with their original furnishings and the implements of various trades and occupations (blacksmithing, fishing, weaving, as well as a shop).