The Isle of Man, almost equidistant from Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland, is one of the most beautiful spots in Britain, a mountainous, cliff-fringed island just 33 miles by thirteen. There’s peace and quiet in abundance, walks around the unspoilt hundred-mile coastline, rural villages and steam trains straight out of a 1950s picture book – a yesteryear ensemble if ever there was one.
Many true Manx inhabitants, who comprise a shade under fifty percent of its 80,000 population, insist that the Isle of Man is not part of England, nor even of the UK. Indeed, although a Crown dependency, the island has its own government, Tynwald, arguably the world’s oldest democratic parliament, which has run continuously since 979 AD. To further complicate matters, the island maintains a unique associate status in the EU, and also has its own sterling currency (worth the same as the mainland currency), its own laws, an independent postal service, and a Gaelic-based language which is taught in schools and seen on dual-language road signs.
All roads lead to the capital, Douglas, the only town of any size. From the summit of Snaefell, the island’s highest peak, you get an idea of the island’s varied scenery, the finest parts of which are to be found in the seventeen officially designated National Glens. Most of these are linked by the 100-mile Raad Ny Foillan (Road of the Gull) coastal footpath, which passes several of the island’s numerous hill forts, Viking ship burials and Celtic crosses. Scenery aside, the main tourist draw is the TT (Tourist Trophy) motorcycle races (held in the two weeks around the late May bank holiday), a frenzy of speed and burning rubber that’s shattered the island’s peace annually since 1907.