This little gem of a place seems to have stepped back in time. The capital, Douglas, has a 3km long sweeping bay, lined with Victorian townhouses, and has one of the finest examples of a Victorian theatre still in existence, plus the only horse tram service still in use in the northern hemisphere. I used to live there – not because I was rolling in money that needed hiding away, but because the husband had a job there, and we moved there for several years.
The Isle of Man is not part of the UK nor of the EU, and is not represented in Westminster or Brussels. It’s a self-governing British Crown Dependency - as are Jersey and Guernsey - with its own parliament, government and laws.
In an area of 572 sq.km, it contains a central mountain called Snaefell (621 metres) with low-lying land to the north and south. The coastline has fine cliff scenery and many glens that are staggeringly beautiful. Set in the Irish Sea, between Ireland and the UK – it’s accessed by ferry or air, and it’s hard to get to (or from) in bad weather.
It has a rich history dating back to Neolithic times – from ancient Celtic tribes, Norse settlers, and a strong Viking influence, with centuries of British rule. On their Coat of Arms, which dates back to the 13th century, is the motto ‘Quocunque Jeceris Stabit,’ which translates literally as ‘Wherever You Throw It, It Will Stand’, referring to a triskelion - three armoured legs with golden spurs on a red background, which appears both on their Coat of Arms and their flag, and is known as ‘The Three Legs of Man’.
Manx language came back from the dead - In 2009 the Manx language was declared extinct, but some residents are now using Twitter, music and schooling to help revive their mother tongue, which is closely related to Irish and Scots Gaelic. Apparently, only 2,200 people out of a population of around 84,00 have an understanding of Manx Gaelic, with a scant 23 actually speaking it as a first language.
Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, located in St Johns in the centre of the island, is a primary school that teaches almost entirely in the Manx language and has been key to the language’s revival. Apart from one English class, every lesson is taught in Manx. As if lessons needed to be any harder!
Weather – Most striking is the weather - experiencing all four seasons in one day is fairly normal. On average, more rain falls there than for most of the British Isles - with the wettest period being between October and January. Occasionally they will experience frost and snow, and when this happens high on Snaefell, the windy, desolate centre of the island, the road there will be closed. Sometimes it snows enough at the lower levels that the local kids improvise sleds by using tea trays instead!
Famous for Motorbike Racing -The Island’s claim to fame is the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) Race, any anybody who is into motorbike road racing will know all about how dangerous it is, and will probably have been there, or it’s on their bucket list. There are two major events in a year, the TT in May/June (the influx of visitors and bikes is overwhelming!), and the Grand Prix in August - a better time to indulge your biking addiction without the crowds of the TT. The main road that circles the island is closed periodically to the general public for the races (not always welcomed by some locals), and bike fans can get up close and personal around the course to get the ‘whoosh’ experience of speed.
The Great Wheel of Laxey - The Lady Isabella, is worth a visit – it’s one of their most treasured landmarks and is the largest working water wheel in the world.
The Manx Cat is famous for being entirely tail-less, or with very little (known as ‘Stumpies’), and are born that way. They are intelligent and playful, with hind legs longer than their front ones, causing a gait that looks a lot like a bunny hop!
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.