Stubborn, small and a little bizarre: everything is a little different on the Isle of Man, located between Great Britain and Ireland. King Charles III is head of state – but this island does not belong to the United Kingdom. Being formed over millions of years by mud and sand that came from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the Irish Sea and hardened there. Gentle hills, steep cliffs, dunes, valleys and heather-lined plains characterise the varied and idyllic landscape of the Isle of Man today. Territorially, it is about twice the size of Dortmund, the ninth largest city in Germany. The island also has its own laws and low taxes. It has its own money (pence and pounds), its own stamps, telephone cards and recently even its own domain (“.im”). The most popular / notorious motorbike race in the world takes place here: the Tourist Trophy. The Isle of Man underlines its status as a motorbike mecca by hosting the annual Manx Grand Prix.
A paradise for hikers
The population of around 76,000, called Manx, is joined by over 170,000 sheep. There are medieval castles and Victorian buildings. The capital is Douglas, the island’s busiest centre, which is located in a bay. Outside the towns, unspoilt nature is to be found wherever you look. With its walls of unhewn stone, the landscape is a reminder of Scottish or Irish idylls and proves that the Isle of Man is not so far from the larger neighbouring islands.
The only mountain on the island is the 620-metre-high Snaefell, which on a clear day offers views as far as Great Britain and Ireland. The 160 km coastline with its cliffs, dunes and numerous bays is equally inviting. Sandy beaches attract holidaymakers who enjoy swimming in summer. The island has a balanced climate. The Gulf Stream provides warmer air, especially on the coasts. May and June are the driest months, July and August are the warmest.
The island’s original language, Manx Gaelic, is a variation of Irish and Scottish Gaelic; English was only adopted in the last century.
Another peculiarity of the island are the so-called Manx cats. This breed has no tail – a genetic defect that can be fatal if inherited from both parents.
The old steam locomotive, for example, which has connected Port Erin in the south with the capital Douglas in the east since 1873, is a pleasantly leisurely ride. The antiquated railway only reaches a speed of 40 km/h.
On the oldest horse-drawn tramway in the world, which has been in existence for about 125 years, horses provide the locomotion for a tram, the so-called Horse Tram. Moving through the tranquil town with its Victorian buildings in this way is guaranteed to take you back to the 19th century.
Castles from the Middle Ages
If you like it medieval, you should visit one of the many castles on the Isle of Man. Castle Rushen, a sandstone fortress, and Peel Castle on St. Patrick’s Isle date back to the Viking Age.
Mull or Meayll Circles – burial sites
Particularly mysterious are the Mull or Meayll Circles, prehistoric burial sites laid out in a circle, which puzzle researchers.
Manx Museum in Douglas – History of the Island
Just as turbulent as the island’s geological formation was the history of its inhabitants. First came the Celts and then the Vikings. While the Celts left their myths on the island, the Vikings are considered to be the originators of the civic assembly held annually on Tynwald Hill on 5 July, the day of the old Midsummer Festival. In 1266, the Isle of Man passed to the Scottish Crown, and it was not until the mid-14th century that it was owned by the English. In the following centuries, English, Scottish and Irish settlers became established.
Tourist Trophy – Motorcycle Racing Spectacular and Dangerous
The Isle of Man is best known for its annual motorbike race. Towards the end of May/beginning of June, the normally quiet and tranquil island is transformed into a Mecca of the international motorbike scene: 40,000 motorbike fans then come to the Isle of Man to take part in or watch the Tourist Trophy. The race has been held here since 1907. Originally, it was supposed to take place in Great Britain. There, however, a strict speed limit of just 24 km/h was in force at the beginning of the 20th century. The Isle of Man had no speed limit, so the organisers decided to hold the race here.
No other motorbike race has such a demanding route! With 264 bends (but that depends on how you define bend), the road winds between stone houses, embankments, stone bridges, stone walls, rock walls, traffic islands, intersections with red lights, manhole covers and telegraph poles. The roads are mostly narrow, high curbs on both sides create a breakneck course. Spectators can experience the race up close – although this is not without danger: only sandbags along the roadsides serve as protective measures for drivers and fans. Each section of the approx. 60 km long course has a name so that the spectators know where the riders are at any given moment. The weather plays a critical role. While the sun shines at the start in Douglas, it can be foggy or rainy 422 metres higher at “Hailwood’s Height“. You can experience practically all four seasons in one day along this route.
Start of the Manx Grand Prix
Less hype than the Tourist Trophy, but an equally extensive supporting programme is offered by the Manx Grand Prix (MGP), which takes place this year from 20th to 28th August. The annual race follows the same route as the Tourist Trophy. The MGP – formerly called the Manx Amateur Road Race Championship – has been around since 1923 and was once seen as a test for young up-and-coming riders to compete in the Tourist Trophy.
Are you ready for pure adrenaline – get your tickets for the Manx Grand Prix now, it’s still not too late.