|Touring is relatively easy since it is just 33 miles long and 13 miles wide.
At its heart lies the 620m-high Snaefell mountain which looks down imperiously over a landscape packed with historical features, from stone circles, Celtic earth ‘chapels’, majestic castles, modern seaside resorts and a up-to-date tourist attractions.
Most famous for its TT motorcycle races, which have taken place each summer since 1907, it has also given the world the tail-less Manx cat and the unique four-horned Loaghtan sheep. The island’s strange symbol The Three Legs of Man represents independence and means "Whichever way you throw me I stand". These armour-clad legs have a common link to both the Swastika and Sicily’s distinctive emblem of three naked legs surrounding Medusa’s head – all reminders of ancient sun worship. The isle even has its own tartan whose colours refer to its landscape and flora – pale blue (for the sky), yellow (for gorse), white (representing its cottages), green (for its hills) and purple (for heather).
A place given to warm welcomes, in recent years the island has become something of a hotbed for both movies and TV dramas thanks to the Tynwald’s investment policy and the plethora of interesting locations. Typical of its unusual charms is a sea fog which occasionally descends upon lowland areas and is known as Mannan’s Cloak, a picturesque reference to an old sea god.
|Attractions for families and children are numerous and range from leisure-sports parks and nightspots to angling, surfing, sailing, golf, riding, bowls, wildlife parks, the Manx Museum, the House of Manannan and narrow Victorian electric and steam railways.
The Manx Museum tells the story of the island during the days of the Norse occupation and has natural history, archaeological and folklore collections besides. Bird-lovers should take a trip to the southern tip of the island and the two-square kilometre islet called Calf of Man, a bird sanctuary run by the Manx National Trust, though there is a more adventurous quarry to be spotted around the west coast – giant basking sharks.
Although it is British, the Isle of Man is not part of Great Britain and people born here are called Manx. Queen Elizabeth is head of state (Lord of Mann), represented by a Lieutenant Governor.
|The island has strong associations with the Celts and the Vikings and its most startling man-made structure is the four-tiered mound of earth called Tynwald Hill, a burial mound ‘adopted’ by the Vikings as a place for open-air law-making.
Early Christian priests lived in small earth sod ‘chapels’, or Keeils, built on more than 200 sites. Much later, Rushen Abbey became a significant religious building, housing Cistercian monks who also founded a nunnery on the outskirts of Douglas.
An important modern building is The Gaiety Theatre which opened on the prom at Douglas in 1900; it is one of the world’s finest surviving Victorian theatres, with multiple entrances and exits designed to prevent social classes from intermingling!