The Isle of Man (in Manx, Ellan Vannin) is an island in the British Isles, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland. It is a British Crown dependency (and therefore not part of the United Kingdom itself); the UK is responsible for defence and foreign affairs. The island has its own government (headed by a Chief Minister) and parliament - "Tynwald" (consisting of the democratically-elected "House of Keys" and the nominated "Legislative Council".) The Isle of Man is not a full member of the European Union, but an associate member.
Temperate; cool summers and mild winters; overcast about one-third of the time. The Island typically enjoys 'British' weather tempered by the effects of the Gulf Stream that runs through the surrounding Irish Sea. Exposure to sea breezes keeps average summer temperatures in the early to mid twenties centigrade, while winters tend to hover around 9 degrees and snow sometimes strikes in late February/ early March. The thick sea fog that occasionally smothers the island's lowland areas is known locally as Manannan's Cloak, a reference to the Island's ancient Sea God swathing his kingdom in mist to protect it from unwanted visitors.
A plain in the far north, with hills in north and south bisected by central valley. One small islet, the Calf of Man, lies to the southwest, and is a bird sanctuary. The highest point is Snaefell, at 621 meters above sea level.
The Isle of Man was part of the Norwegian Kingdom of the Hebrides until the 13th century when it was ceded to Scotland. The Duke of Atholl sold the sovereignty of the isle to the British crown in 1765, henceforth the British monarch has also held the title "Lord of Mann". Current concerns include reviving the almost extinct Manx Celtic language.
A number of airlines operate regular services to the Isle of Man from regional airports throughout the British Isles such as Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Belfast, London (Gatwick, Luton, London City) and Birmingham.
The Isle of Man Airport is located at Ronaldsway, near Castletown, in the south of the island. There are regular bus services from the Airport to Castletown and Douglas.
There are many flights operating from the island's Ronaldsway airport to several destinations in England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the Channel Islands. The only airline based on the island, Manx2 operates flights to Belfast from £15 one-way including tax.
Ferries operated by the Steam Packet Company to Douglas from:
The island has two main historic narrow-gauge railways, both starting from (separate) stations in Douglas.
In the south of the island, the Isle of Man Railway is a historic narrow-gauge steam railway operating between Douglas, Castletown and Port Erin (except during winter months).
In the north of the island, the Manx Electric Railway runs between Douglas and Ramsey (using the original historic tramcars from the 1890s.)
Additionally, the Snaefell Mountain Railway (to the summit of Snaefell) starts from Laxey, where connections with the Manx Electric Railway are available. The Groudle Glen Railway is a small steam-operated railway (take the Manx Electric Railway from Douglas and change at Groudle Glen.)
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.
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 Isle of Man has a quite extensive public transit system using mostly buses. With a bit of planning, it is possible to get almost everywhere on the Island using this transit system.
The island's capital, Douglas, has horse drawn trams operating along the Promenade (linking with the Manx Electric Railway). This is really a novelty available during the summer rather than a serious way of getting anywhere in particular.
English is the first language of all but 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.
Many UK chain stores are represented in the Island (mainly in the capital, Douglas); for example, Boots, WH Smith, Waterstone's, Marks and Spencer, Next, B&Q. The island has its own supermarket chain, Shoprite, with branches in Peel, Douglas, Ramsey, Castletown and Port Erin. UK-based supermarkets (such as Tesco) also have branches. There is a small 'lifestyle' shopping centre at Tynwald Mills near St John's, with a number of outlets selling upmarket clothing, furnishings and gifts.
Uniquely Manx products include Smoked Kippers and Manx Tartan.
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.
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.
The Isle of Man has two breweries, Okells and Bushy's. 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.
Wine is quite reasonably priced and readily available in food stores.
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.
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 .
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 (including persons from the UK) obtainable from the Isle of Man Government.
The Isle of Man is generally a fairly safe place. 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.
Health conditions are very similar to the UK. The island has a well-equipped modern hospital (Noble's Hospital, near Douglas) but some complicated medical conditions may require removal to the UK.
The Isle of Man is still a fairly socially conservative place, although some major social reforms (in line with the rest of western Europe) have been legislated for by Tynwald, the Manx parliament.
Capital punishment for murder was officially abolished as recently as 1993 - although no execution had taken place on the island for over 100 years. Corporal punishment has also been abolished - it was used for young male offenders until the mid 1970s.
People from the Isle of Man are known as Manx. The Manx are very proud of their identity; the Manx flag will be frequently seen. To dismiss the island as just a "tax haven" may cause annoyance; the finance industry is the major employer and considerable efforts have been made by the Manx authorities to improve the regulation and propriety of this industry. Nevertheless, taxes are considerably lower than in the UK - although Valued Added Tax is the same by agreement between the Manx and UK Governments.
The UK is often referred to simply as "across" (i.e., travelling across to the UK.)
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