"A lot for a little Island" Isle of Man by Ellie22

Isle of Man Travel Guide: 28 reviews and 86 photos

An Introduction to the Island

Imagine a place steeped in history and tradition, with a rich cultural heritage, stunning coastlines and countryside with diverse scenery, home to folklore, tales of Vikings, battles, treason and smuggling and even the odd fairy about. Well that place is a small island in the middle of the Irish sea called The Isle of Man.

The Isle of Man (or Ellan Vannin in Manx Gaelic) is a small island (just 33 miles long and 13 miles wide) and is not part of the United Kingdom but is under British Crown. Though The Queen is the Lord of Mann as opposed to Queen.

Despite its small size, the Island has a very varying landscape, with cliffs, bays, beaches, hills, countryside and 100 miles of coastline. Snaefell is the only islands mountain and stands at 2,036 feet above sea level. There are much smaller Islands located off the Island’s coast including the Calf of Man at the southern tip, which is home to a nature reserve and bird observatory, and St Patrick’s Isle on which is Peel Castle .

Although geographically small, there is a fair bit of climate variation around the Island. I have been in the south where it has been raining and foggy only to travel north and find it is sunny and fairly warm (for Britain). The fog can be quite frequent on the south and east coasts, coming up towards Laxey and Snaefell. It is often referred to as Manannan’s cloak, from the legend of Sea God Manannan who put a cloak of fog and mist around the island to protect it from possible invaders. Though island is generally pleasantly warm during the summer months and mild during the winter.

There is so much to learn and discover on the Isle of Man, I have been 9 times and even on the last visit I found out new things that I didn’t know before and visited places I had missed previously. Indeed I am going again this year and have places and attractions on the itinerary that I've never been to before.

Extremely proud of its diverse culture and fascinating heritage the Island has a fascinating and captivating story to tell, which goes back for thousands of years. A visit here is a guaranteed voyage of discovery and will give you the chance to explore numerous heritage sites which tell the Story of Man .

Discover more about the Island by reading my other travel pages:
St Johns
Port Erin
Sulby & Snaefell Mountain
Onchan & the East
Jurby & the North
Port St Mary & the South, including Cregneash
Glen Maye & the West including Kirk Michael

General Information

Getting there
You can fly in to Ronaldsway airport, near Castletown, the Islands only airport, from most British airports. I have not traveled to the Island by plane but my Dad has and he said that it was remarkably good for a small airport. From inside the UK it is a short flight, likely to be around an hour (my Dad says that they got to cruising altitude, had some tea and snacks and then it was time to land as his flight was only 40 minutes long)

Or if you’re not particularly fond of flying, like myself, or you want to take your car with you then you can go by ferry. The ferry port is at Douglas and the main sea route is between Douglas and Heysham, but you can also get a ferry from Liverpool, and in the summer there are additional routes to Birkenhead, Dublin and Belfast. We normally go from Liverpool but have gone from Heysham once. All of the crossings are around 3 hours long.

The Welcome Centre
The centre was invaluable on our first few visits, they are extremely helpful people, and you can also pick up loads of free leaflets and brochures about the island and its attractions as well as being able to buy guide books, gifts and souvenirs. The Welcome Centre is in the Sea terminal at the ferry port but is accessible from the street too. It is open Monday to Saturday all year, and Sundays in the summer season.

The Island has its own Sterling coins and bank notes, even a £1 note, which can be used everywhere on the island. Although British sterling can also be used, you will get your change in Manx money. They are worth exactly the same amount; basically they just have different designs. Manx Sterling currency can't be used outside the Island though, so use it all up before you leave or on the ferry.

A passport isn’t needed when visiting the Isle of Man from Britain or the Republic of Ireland. However if coming from outside the British Isles you will need one.

Visitors to the Island are entitled to emergency medical treatment at no charge, just as in the UK. The Island's hospital is Noble's Hospital in Braddan (IM4 4RJ)

Society and safety
People on the island are on the whole very friendly and welcoming. The Island itself is a quiet, safe place to be, with very little crime.

English is the spoken and written language of the Isle of Man, but the traditional language of the Island is Manx Gaelic. Though there are no official native Manx speakers left, many understand it and it is now being taught in schools. Manx is used on town signs and at attractions and many places are also referred to with Gaelic names or part of Gaelic names. Though don't panic as signs and attractions will all also be labelled in English.

The island have their own government, Tynwald, that is responsible for laws, taxation and life in general on the island. The mainland British government is responsible for defence and ensuring general good governance and can force the Tynwald to change laws. Visit Tynwald Hill on July 5th to see the Manx National Day ceremony, where the laws are read out.

The Isle of Man has its own telecoms airspace. It is important to remember to sort out roaming for your phone even if you are from the UK as to the phone companies the island is classed as abroad. We got surprised with a large phone bill after our first visit as we had assumed it was part of the UK and there was no extra charge.

Getting Around

The Horse Tram
There are horse drawn trams going up and down Douglas promenade for most of the day. You can get them from stops along the prom, which are signposted, like a bus stop, but with a picture of a horse.

The Railway
The steam railway operates from Douglas down to the south coast, ending at Port Erin, stopping at Castletown, Port St Mary and other larger towns along the coast.

The Manx Electric Railway (M.E.R) operates in the opposite direction, going from Douglas to Ramsey, via Laxey and other coastal towns. Once at Laxey there is the option to get on the Snaefell Mountain Railway which goes to the Bungalow and Snaefell summit.

Multi ticket saver options can be purchased from the Welcome Centre or bus and railway stations, with Island Explorer tickets entitling you to unlimited travel while Heritage Explorer tickets gives you the same as an Island Explorer, but includes entry to Manx National Heritage sites. They can be for 1, 3, 5 or 7 days. These tickets can be very good for saving money if you plan to use a lot of public transport, however if you are planning on using your own vehicle then it is probably not worth it.

If you are relying on public transport to get around then you will need to use the buses (Bus Vannin) as the railways do not go to the west side of the island. My experiences of the buses are that they are very cheap, offer a good service and are on time. As well as the heritage or explorer tickets you can purchase a Short Hop Fare that will let you make short urban journeys, for 60p, allowing you to travel up to 3 stops. Or a Manx rider ticket which can get you 12 journeys for a discount price.

Car/ motorbike
Manx road law is similar to that of the UK and as in the UK, motorists drive on the left side and distances are measured in miles. Built up areas have usual speed restrictions but after passing a 'National Speed Limit' sign (same as the UK) there is no speed restriction on roads and you may drive at any speed which is safe and appropriate. A roads are the main roads of the island whilst B and D roads decrease in size. Quite a few roads are narrow and twisty with several hairpin bends, especially on the mountain roads. I would also add to be extra careful in the fog as on our first visit we arrived in the evening in heavy rain and thick fog and went quite quickly to our accommodation in the mountains, only to see how close we came to the edge in the morning.

Something you must get on arrival to the island is a parking disc. Areas around the island have been zoned for parking and you must indicate the time of your arrival using the disc. Parking discs are available at the Sea Terminal, the airport information desk and at tourist information points.

Caravans/ Campervans
Caravans are not permitted unless you have a permit. A written request needs to be submitted to the Department of Infrastructure at least two weeks before your visit in order to get one. However, campervans and tenting campers are fine.

During TT or Grand Prix times any roads that make up the track will close for practices and races. I would say only come during these times if you are there for the racing as otherwise you may get annoyed at not being able to go from one side of the track to the other, until the race ends. However you can still get around during these times as you are either on the outside of the track or inside. And there are plenty of things to do on both.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:So much to discover here; beautiful scenery, fascinating heritage, something for everyone.
  • Cons:The ferry can be quite expensive, especially in racing weeks
  • Last visit to Isle of Man: Jul 2012
  • Intro Updated Mar 17, 2014
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