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Just a stone's throw from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, the Isle of Man occupies a mighty 227 square miles in the Irish Sea. Though awfully close to its larger neighbours, the island kingdom is unique. It boasts the world's oldest continuous parliament, Tynwald, a relic of the island's Scandinavian influence. A further sign of the island’s proud heritage is the revival of Manx, a local form of Gaelic which died away in the 18th century.
For the traveller, the Isle of Man is culturally fascinating. The fact that almost half of the island is unpopulated also adds to the appeal, as vast stretches of open countryside offer wonderful opportunities for avid walkers. For those less inclined to use their legs quite so much, the harbour-side capital of Douglas is the perfect place for a relaxing getaway.
The Isle of Man became separated from Britain and Ireland by about 8000 BC. It appears that colonisation took place by sea sometime before 6,500 BC. The Neolithic Period marked the coming of knowledge of farming, better stone tools and pottery. During the Bronze Age, the large communal tombs of the Megaliths were replaced with smaller burial mounds. Bodies were put in stone lined graves along with ornamental containers. The Bronze Age burial mounds created long lasting markers about the countryside. The Iron Age marked the beginning of Celtic cultural influence. Around AD 700 it is assumed that Irish invasion or immigration formed the basis of the early Manx population. This is evident in the change in language used in Ogham inscriptions. Manx Gaelic remains closely related to Irish and Scots Gaelic. Viking settlement of the Isle of Man began at the end of the 8th century. Although the Manx language does contain Norse influences, they are few. During Viking times, the islands of this kingdom were called the Súðreyjar or Sudreys ("southern isles") in contrast to the Norðreyjar ("northern isles") of Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides.
In 1266, as dictated in the Treaty of Perth, Norway's King Magnus VI ceded the isles to Scotland. The Isle of Man came under English control in the 14th century. During this period the Isle was dominated by the Stanley family, who also held the title of Earl of Derby, who had been given possession of Man by King Henry IV. In 1703 the Act of Settlement secured peasant rights and marked the beginning of a move away from feudal government. In 1765, however, the British Crown secured a greater control over the island, without incorporating it into Great Britain, laying the grounds for the island's status as a Crown dependency. In 1866 greater autonomy was restored to the island's parliament and a full transition to democracy began. The Isle quickly developed as a finance centre and tourist destination, becoming increasingly prosperous during the 20th century. During both the First and Second World Wars the island was used as a location for internment camps for Central Powers and Axis citizens and suspected sympathisers, respectively.
The Isle of Man is located in the middle of the northern Irish Sea, approximately equidistant from the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. The closest land is southern Scotland. It is 52 kilometres (32 miles) long and, at its widest point, 22 kilometres (14 miles) wide. It has an area of around 572 square kilometres (221 sq mi). Besides the island of Mann itself, the political unit of the Isle of Man includes some nearby small islands: the seasonally inhabited Calf of Man, Chicken Rock on which stands an unmanned lighthouse, St Patrick's Isle and St Michael's Isle. Both of the latter are connected to the mainland by permanent roads/causeways. Hills in the north and south are separated by a central valley. The extreme north is exceptionally flat, consisting mainly of deposits from glacial advances from western Scotland during colder times. There are more recently deposited shingle beaches at the Point of Ayre. The island has one mountain higher than 600 metres (2,000 ft), Snaefell, with a height of 620 metres (2,034 ft).
The Isle of Man is divided into six administrative districts, called sheadings.
As well as the main island of Man itself, several small islands are included in the Isle of Man. These are the Calf of Man, Chicken Rock and St Patrick's Isle.
The people of the Isle of Man have uniquely and painstakingly maintained their rail network as it was at the turn of the (19th) century. The Island can be explored travelling on the Isle of Man Steam Railway (1873), the Manx Electric Railway (1893) and the Snaefell Mountain Railway (1895).
The waters around the island provide an ideal environment for basking sharks. Sharks can sometimes be seen from the beaches around Peel.
Once home to a thriving community based around the mining and textiles industries, the village of Laxey offers the modern visitor an insight into the 19th Century. As well as exploring the reconstructed mine it's possible to view the iconic Laxey Wheel, the largest working waterwheel in the world.
An important historical monument in an attractive location on St Patrick's Isle, Peel. Some parts of the structure date from the 11th Century.
Snaefell is the highest point on the Isle of Man, well over 600 metres. On a very clear day it's possible to see England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland from the summit.
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Isle of Man has a typical maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. June to September is summer season with temperatures between 16 °C and 20 °C and nights around 10 °C. Winters are still above zero, even at night, though frost is not unheard of. The highest and lowest temperatures possible are around 28 °C and around -5 °C. Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year, with autumn and winter being the wettest time and spring being the driest month. May is the driest and most sunny month of the year.
Isle of Man Airport (IATA: IOM, ICAO: EGNS), located 11 kilometres southwest of the capital Douglas, is the main gateway to the country. Manx2 is based here and has flights to Blackpool, Leeds, Jersey, Nottingham, Gloucester and Belfast.
Other airlines flying into this airport include Aer Arann (from Dublin), Blue Islands (Jersey, Guernsey), Eastern Airways (Birmingham, Newcastle), Flybe (Birmingham, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Southampton), Loganair (Edinburgh, Glasgow), VLM (London).
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company run a regular service from Heysham, near Lancaster (England), and a slightly less frequent service from Larne, (Northern Ireland). There also are services to and from Belfast, Liverpool and Dublin.
Train is an interesting way to travel in the Isle of Man with three historic rail lines - the Isle of Man Steam Railway (1873), the Manx Electric Railway (1893) and the Snaefell Mountain Railway (1895) - all maintained by the Isle of Man Transport Authority.
Cars 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 TT fortnight, the main mountain road becomes a one way road from Ramsey to Douglas. Extreme care is recommended, as the amount of bikers is exceptionally high, and are known to drive the roads as if they were racing. There is no speed limit on this road at any point of the year.
Although technically not part of the UK (nor EU), the entry requirements are the same. Passport holders of members countries of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland have the right of free movement and residence in the UK.
European Economic Area: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom. Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not members of the European Union (EU) but citizens of these countries have the same rights to enter, live in and work in the United Kingdom as EU citizens.
For all other nationals, entry clearance (visa) may or may not be required for visiting the UK.
Nationals from the following countries do not require entry clearance (visa) for a stay of three or six months:
Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Canada, Caymen Islands, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, East Timor, El Salvador, Falkland Islands, Faroes, Gibraltar, Greenland, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong (SAR), Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Korea (South), Macau (SAR), Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Montserrat, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, South Georgia and Sandwich Islands, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tristan da Cunha, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City.
Visa nationals are required to apply for entry clearance before entering the UK.
For the latest visa requirements, visa application guides and other immigration matters, refer to the UK Border Agency Visa Services.
See also: Money Matters
The currency of Isle of Man is the pound sterling with the international currency code GBP (Great Britain Pound). The currency sign for pound is £ (the symbol is derived from the letter L). It is also known to the locals as quid (both singular and plural), which a slang term, so you might hear people say "two quid" instead of two pounds. One pound is divided into 100 pence (singular: penny).
The Isle of Man has very low unemployment, largely because of the financial sector. Seasonal work in the tourism industry is available, but note that a Work Permit is required to work on the island for anybody born outside of the island and is obtainable from the Isle of Man Government.
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.
There is no university on the island, although the University of Liverpool runs some courses. There is an Isle of Man College, and an International Business School.
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.
English is the first language of all but there are a very small number of native speakers of Manx Gaelic. All children on the Isle of Man have the option to study Manx at school, and there have been efforts to revive the language. It is a descendant of Old Irish, along with Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic. One of the most striking elements of the language is many consonant mutations can occur, e.g., Doolish (the Manx name for Douglas), can easily become Ghoolish.
Numerous street signs will have their Manx equivalent printed alongside English.
Manx food is often very good and continues to improve. Some good restaurants and bistros can be found. 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 majority of hotels are located in Douglas, including the traditional seafront hotels on the Douglas Promenade. Standards can be variable - some are rather dated and in need of refurbishment. More luxurious hotels (up to four stars) are also available. B&Bs are also available, mostly outside of Douglas.
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.
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The Isle of Man has three breweries, Bushy's, Okells, and Doghouse 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.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Isle of Man.
See also: Travel Safety
The Isle of Man is generally a very safe place, more so than much of the United Kingdom. In an emergency contact the Isle of Man Constabulary (the island's police force) on 999.
Town centres have real glass in bus shelters and graffiti has become a thing of the past.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The international dial code for the Isle of Man is the same as the United Kingdom and as part of the UK telephone system has the dial code 01624.
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. 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. The inverse is also true - Manx networks will be roaming when in the UK.
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.
Ask Rach-a a question about Isle of Man
I was born and bred on the Isle of Man, although have travelled widely. I can help to explain some of the history, advise of the best places to stay, the best pubs to go to and restaurants also.
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