Isle of Man
The Isle of Man (in Manx: Ellan Vannin) is a picturesque island in the British Isles, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland. It is a British Crown dependency and therefore not part of the United Kingdom itself; the UK is responsible for defence and foreign affairs.
The island has its own government, headed by a Chief Minister, and has a parliament called the "Tynwald". This consists of the democratically elected House of Keys and the nominated Legislative Council. The Isle of Man is not a full member of the European Union, but is an associate member.
Towns and villages
- (Doolish) – the capital and largest town on the island.
- (Balley Chashtal) – a fine castle and the Old House of Keys.
- (Purt ny h-Inshey) – an impressive castle, cathedral and nice museums.
- (Rhumsaa) – beach and harbour for yachts.
- (Laksaa) – delightful village on the electric railway between Douglas and Ramsey. Noted for its water wheel (claimed to be the world's largest in operation), its mines railway and an electric railway to the top of Snaefell.
- (Purt Çhiarn) – is a seaside village in the south west.
- (Purt le Moirrey) – village in south west.
- (Balley Keeill Eoin) – a small village, next to Tynwald Hill. The Isle of Man's original parliament; thousands head here every Tynwald Day (July 5th) to witness the proclamation of new laws read in Manx and English.
- Calf of Man (Yn Cholloo) – small island bird sanctuary.
- – Owned by the Manx National Trust, has well laid out paths that lead past small waterfalls and through dense woodland. Look out for the Medieval Monks' Bridge in Ballasalla, which links Silverdale Glen to the historic Rushen Abbey, and the Monks Well which is a perfect place to throw in a few pennies and make a wish. An extensive playground area and pretty boating lake are also available. On site you’ll find a restaurant and well-stocked gift shop.
- Snaefell (Sniaull) – During summer, take the tram to the summit of Snaefell, the highest point on the Island. From the summit, the visitor can see 6 Kingdoms (Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Heaven). It is a unique experience in that from the summit you can see the whole Island and the bodies of water that surround it. There is also a hiking trail to the summit that takes only about half an hour.
ClimateTemperate; cool summers and mild winters; overcast about one-third of the time.
The Island typically enjoys "British" weather, tempered by the effects of the Gulf Stream that runs through the surrounding Irish Sea. Exposure to sea breezes keeps average summer temperatures in the low to mid twenties Celsius, while winters tend to hover around 9 degrees and snow sometimes strikes in late February/ early March. The thick sea fog that occasionally smothers the island's lowland areas is known locally as Manannan's Cloak, a reference to the Island's ancient Sea God swathing his kingdom in mist to protect it from unwanted visitors. Snow in winter is rare, except in the mountains - although recent years have seen an increase in snowfall.
TerrainA plain in the far north, with hills in north and south bisected by central valley. One small islet, the Calf of Man, lies to the southwest, and is a bird sanctuary. The highest point is Snaefell, at 621 meters above sea level. The summit can be reached by the Snaefell Mountain Railway from Laxey and on a good day it is possible to see Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
HistoryThe Isle of Man was part of the Norwegian Kingdom of the Hebrides until the 13th century, when it was ceded to Scotland. The Duke of Atholl sold the sovereignty of the isle to the British crown in 1765, henceforth the British monarch has also held the title "Lord of Mann". Current concerns include reviving the almost extinct Manx Gaelic language.
A small-scale revival of Manx has been in progress since the last native speaker died in the 1970s. All children on the Isle of Man have the option of studying Manx at school, and there is now a primary school where Manx is the language of instruction.
Numerous street signs will have their Manx equivalent printed alongside English.
Entry requirementsBritish and EEA citizens are able to enter and live in the Isle of Man without a visa or clearance from the Immigration Office. However, these citizens will need a work permit if they want to work.
The visa policy here is very similar to the UK's, and if you have a valid UK, Jersey or Guernsey visa, you are able to visit the Isle of Man. However, Schengen visas are not valid for travel to the Isle of Man.
If you are not a non-EEA citizen (including the UK), and don't have a valid UK visa, you probably need a visa to travel to the Isle of Man. Visa applications can be made at the UK Government website.
The only airport of the Isle of Man is the Isle of Man Airport (IOM). The Airport is located at Ronaldsway, near Castletown, in the south of the island. There are regular bus services from the Airport to Castletown and Douglas.
A number of airlines operate regular services to the Isle of Man from regional airports throughout the British Isles such as Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Belfast, London (Gatwick, Luton, London City) and Birmingham. A ticketing agency based on the island, CityWing operates flights to Belfast from £15 one-way including tax.
Flybe operate several direct services to the UK, Jersey, Geneva and Brussels and also offer connecting services (often through Birmingham or Manchester) to many other destinations on their route network.
Isle of Man Sea Terminal
- Liverpool/Birkenhead, England – 2h 30m (Fast craft) / 4h (conventional ferry)
- Heysham, Lancashire, England – 4h 30m (conventional ferry)
- Belfast, Northern Ireland – 2h 45m (Fast craft)
- Dublin, Ireland – 2h 50m (Fast craft) / 4h 45m (conventional ferry)
Isle of Man RailwayIn the south of the island, is a historic narrow-gauge steam railway operating between Douglas, Castletown and Port Erin (except during winter months).
Manx Electric RailwayIn the north of the island, runs between Douglas and Ramsey, using the original historic tramcars from the 1890s.
Snaefell Mountain Railwaystarts from Laxey, where connections with the Manx Electric Railway are available.
Groudle Glen Railwayis a small steam-operated railway
By carCars can be hired from various locations on the island, including the airport and Douglas Sea Terminal. Local agents operate on behalf of major international rental firms.
The Isle of Man has a very extensive road network which is passably well maintained. Congestion is low (outside Douglas at rush hour). Rules of the road closely mirror those of the United Kingdom with the exception that there is no overall speed limit for private vehicles (in other words, in a derestricted zone there is no blanket 70 or 60 mph limit like there is in the UK). Drive on the left. It is illegal to use a hand held mobile phone whilst driving. Petrol is expensive, even by UK standards.
Any penalties enforced on your driving license will be upheld in the UK.
Many of the country roads are narrow with substantial stone walls on each side, making evasive driving potentially tricky. Despite the absence of speed limits outside urban areas, caution is advised.
Caravans (camper trailers) may not be brought to the island.
The roads on the Isle of Man are popular with bikers, and care is encouraged when out and about.
During the Tourist Trophy (TT) motorcycle road racing fortnight, the main mountain road becomes a one way road from Ramsey to Douglas. Extreme care is recommended, as the number of bikers is exceptionally high, and they're known to ride the roads as if they were racing. There is no speed limit on rural roads at any point of the year.
The Isle of Man has a quite extensive public transit system using mostly buses. With a bit of planning, it is possible to get almost everywhere on the Island using this transit system. Note the availability of a
bus timetable online.
Taxis are available from numerous taxi ranks, or can be hired by phone. Some provide an online booking service 24 hours in advance. Prices are a little higher than most in the UK, and considerably higher after midnight.
By tramThe island's capital, Douglas, has horse drawn trams operating along the Promenade (linking with the Manx Electric Railway). This is really a novelty available during the summer rather than a serious way of getting anywhere in particular. Please note that during the year 2019 the service is very limited due to roadworks.
- Laxey Wheel, Laxey. A restored waterwheel operational during the summer months.
- Located in Castletown, the ancient capital of the Isle of Man, Castletown, the impressive fortress of Castle Rushen.
- Peel. Situated on St Patrick’s Isle, Peel Castle was originally a place of worship before becoming the fort of Magnus Barefoot – an 11th century Viking King of Mann. Also located on the Peel Quayside is the House of Manannan, a museum of the island's story from Celtic times through the Viking period to 19th century Peel.
- The Sound Visitor Centre, near Port St Mary. One of the most picturesque points in the south of the Island.
- Cregneash, near Port St Mary. A preserved and restored small Manx crofting village in the far south of the island.
- Hike – There are many hiking/walking trails and footpaths on the Isle of Man, the most significant being the Raad ny Foillan (The Way of the Gull) which is a 95-mile footpath around the Island. Other trails cross the Island in various locations. The Raad ny Foillan follows the coast for much of its route and is really quite a spectacular hike, well worth the time and effort while visiting the Island.
- Fish – There are numerous places to fish from piers and in lakes etc. Permits may be required in some areas.
- Cycle – The roads of the Isle of Man are popular with cyclists, however it is recommended to be proficient and of a decent fitness, as the terrain is very hilly. Mountain biking trails are also available.
HeritageThe Manx National Heritage maintain numerous locations and museums important to Manx history, such as castles. The village of Cregneash in the South forms a 'living museum' dedicated to the preservation of the traditional Manx ways of life.
TT racesHeld annually in June, are world famous, and motorcycling tourists visit to experience legal high speed riding.
Uniquely Manx products include Smoked Kippers and Manx Tartan.
Smoked kipper is a smoked fish dish. Fish and chips are also popular. Crab baps are available from a kiosk on Peel Quay.
Locally fished queen scallops, referred to as "queenies", are a popular dish - often served with bacon and garlic butter.
There are several varieties of Manx cheese. Boxes of Manx kippers can be ordered for delivery by post.
A local speciality worth trying is chips, cheese and gravy, similar to the Canadian dish poutine.
Another favourite available as a takeaway is a baked potato with a topping such as chili.
Also try the "Peel flapjack" from Michael Street bakers in Peel.
The Isle of Man has three breweries, Bushy's, Okell's, and Hooded Ram plus The Shore, a brew-pub in Old Laxey. The Isle of Man has a beer purity law that permits no ingredients in beer other than water, yeast, hops and malt. Accordingly, a well-kept pint of Manx beer is worth seeking out.
Standout bars include The Bay View in Port Erin, The Rovers Return in Douglas and The Whitehouse and Creek (both in Peel).
Wine is quite reasonably priced and readily available in food stores.
During and around the TT fortnight, numerous beer tents are erected on the promenade, and a travelling fairground is often in attendance for the festival. The Bushy's tent is erected closest to the sea terminal, playing host to numerous live local bands, as well as serving Bushy's ales. An Okell's tent is erected closer to the Villa Marina, providing a great location to view the evening street entertainment (stunt shows etc) put on during the fortnight. The two are often connected by the travelling fairground.
BeWelcome and Couchsurfing hospitality is available.
During the TT fortnight, a government-sponsored homeshare scheme is available, with residents renting out their homes and flats to visitors. Some residents offer this service outside of the government scheme.
Located in the southeast, King William’s College opened on 1 August 1833. The College was the first of the ‘new’ public schools, its mix of 'day boys' and boarders together with older academic (university) students, constituting an institution unlike any other at its time. The beautiful stone buildings can be seen on approach to Ronaldsway Airport.
The online gaming industry is also a major employer, with PokerStars having their head office just outside of Douglas in Onchan. Numerous other companies that provide support, software and other systems to online gaming companies world-wide are also present.
The IT sector is in a growth period, albeit small.
Town centres have real glass in bus shelters and graffiti has become a thing of the past, even though birching as a punishment was abolished in 2000.
Capital punishment for murder was officially abolished as recently as 1993 - although no execution had taken place on the island for over 100 years. Corporal punishment has also been abolished - it was used for young male offenders until the mid 1970s.
People from the Isle of Man are known as Manx. The Manx are very proud of their identity; the Manx flag will be frequently seen. To dismiss the island as just a "tax haven" may cause annoyance; the finance industry is the major employer and considerable efforts have been made by the Manx authorities to improve the regulation and propriety of this industry. Nevertheless, taxes are considerably lower than in the UK - although Valued Added Tax is the same by agreement between the Manx and UK Governments.
The UK is often referred to simply as "across", and the more patriotic Manx residents may be offended if you call the UK "the mainland". Similarly, the island is very proud of its long history of autonomy and it should be remembered that the Isle of Man has never been part of the United Kingdom nor the European Union. Calling it "England" is likely to raise eyebrows.
Prepaid SIM cards are readily available in mobile phone shops around the place. The local networks are Manx Telecom and Sure.
It is worth noting that UK networks do not cover the Isle of Man, and will be in roaming mode if used. The inverse is also true – Manx networks will be roaming when in the UK.
It is worth buying a cheap handset and PAYG SIM card for your stay – obtainable from either the MT or Sure shops, or from local shops (e.g. Spar). These shops may also stock cheap, basic handsets behind the counter for between £10-20, prepaid SIM included. Alternatively for travellers with a desire to use their current phone can get a SIM from Manx Telecom or a different carrier providing their phone is SIM-unlocked.
Manx mobile networks have the dialling code of 07624.
When dialling from a Manx mobile or landline phone to any other Manx number, the dialling code is not needed - i.e. to reach 01624 111111, one would simply dial 111111.