The trans-island A1 follows a deep twelve-mile-long furrow between the northern and southern ranges from Douglas to Peel. A hill at the crossroads settlement of ST JOHN’S, nine miles along, is the original site of Tynwald, the ancient Manx government, which derives its name from the Norse Thing Völlr, meaning “Assembly Field”. Nowadays the word refers to the Douglas-based House of Keys and Legislative Council, but acts passed in the capital only become law once they have been proclaimed here on July 5 (ancient Midsummer’s Day) in an annual open-air parliament that also hears the grievances of the islanders.
Until the nineteenth century the local people arrived with their livestock and stayed a week or more – in true Viking fashion – to thrash out local issues, play sports, make marriages and hold a fair. Now Tynwald Day begins with a service in the chapel, followed by a procession, a fair and concerts.