Isle of Man UK

Isle of Man UK is, as its name implies, an island. It sits in the Irish Sea between the island of Great Britain (where England, Scotland, and Wales are located) and the island of Ireland, where the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (part of the UK) are located. Like Guernsey and the other Channel Islands, it is a Crown Dependency, meaning it has an entirely independent self-government, relying on the UK only for defense and foreign affairs.

The island has been inhabited for thousands of years. Vikings from Scandinavia settled here in the ninth century, and in 1266 the island became part of Scotland. For the next 100 or so years, the island was ruled alternately by Scotland and England. Isle of Man tours can be self-guided or guided by experienced professionals.

The island is only 32 miles long and 15 miles wide, making it fairly easy to explore on your own, using one or two Isle of Man hotels as the base of operations. There are only a handful of towns, and approximately half of the Isle of Man UK is uninhabited. This means that outdoor recreation is at the forefront of tourism here, especially walking and hiking one of the most popular activities in all of the British Isles. One of the best Isle of Man tours is a walk along the "Raad ny Foillan" (Way of the Gull) footpath. This is a long distance walk (95 miles) to rival the hiking trails in the extensive wilderness of the Scottish Highlands on the mainland.

If you are coming to witness the International Isle of Man UK TT in late May to early June, you need to make your arrangements as far in advance as possible. This is one of the most famous motorcycle races in the world—the "TT' stands for Tourist Trophy—and it draws more than 10,000 racers. It has been part of the Grand Prix circuit of motorcycle racing almost ever since there was motorcycle racing (1904). The Snaefell Mountain Course that hosts the TT is the oldest motorcycle racecourse in the world. It's a time trial race held on public roads—a race about speed, speed, and more speed. Isle of Man hotels are booked to capacity months before the event.

You can whiz around the island at a more sedate speed on Isle of Man tours as a passenger on the Victorian narrow gauge steam and electric railways on vintage rolling stock pulled by original locomotives. The steam line was built in 1870 and once stretched for 46 miles, a considerable distance given the island's size. On the train route is the charming village of Laxey known for its water wheel, said to be the largest operating water wheel in the world. The train schedules are now timed to match the schedules of ferries bringing visitors for vacation getaways. There are ferries from Liverpool, Belfast, Dublin, and Heysham (England) into the harbor of the capital city of Douglas. Douglas is also where the largest number of Isle of Man hotels are located. Here, you can even find a hotel with a casino like the four-star Palace Hotel located on the Central Promenade a bit north of the ferry pier. If you don't come by ferry, you will find there are flights from a number of regional airports in the UK, including Manchester, Liverpool, Belfast, Dublin, London, and Birmingham.

The Isle of Man is one of the six recognized Celtic nations that include Brittany (on the northwestern coast of France), Scotland, Cornwall (on the southwestern coast of England), Ireland, and Wales. These are distinct cultural regions that have unique languages (in this case, the Manx language) that is still spoken or was spoken into modern times. This is also the place of origin for the tailless Manx cat.

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