The Isle Of Man has become a semi-regular jaunt for us as my husband is from the island and we try and get over there every so often to catch up with his friends and see his brother who still lives there.
This time, it was really was just about catching up with people, as well as finally saying goodbye to a dear friend. Needless to say it was an emotional trip, and not really one for the blog (but it might explain why we were in Liverpool in the last post!).
However, I don’t have enough time this week to write in depth about my Iceland trip, so it’s handy that I had this post roughly to hand, as it conveniently slots in to the timeline of my posts very nicely!
It has the longest running government in the world
While the Isle Of Man is part of the British Isles, it is in fact its own autonomous entity with its own self-governing parliament. Not only that, it’s actually the longest continuously running parliament in the world, stretching back over 1,000 years!
There are quite a few benefits to this – they have lower taxes than the UK, they haven’t been affected by Brexit, and they can make all their own decisions. They also have their own currency (still pounds but different notes and coins).
There’s no national speed limit
Caveat: There are speed limits within towns and built-up areas. Outside of towns? It’s a free for all! Like the autobahn!
Naturally there’s quite a lot of controversy surrounding this, and it can be perilous on some roads, but the vast majority of people just use their good old common sense and drive to the nature of the road. I have to say, I haven’t even gone 100mph yet, as there aren’t many roads long enough to feel safe to!
Read more: A Day Road Tripping The Isle Of Man
You have to say hello to the fairies
One of the more fun features of the island is the unassuming Fairy Bridge. There are actually two – the real one is out in the woods somewhere, and I’ve never got around to finding it.
The one everyone visits though (and I do mean pretty much everyone, as it’s between the airport and the main town of Douglas) is on the main road, and you have to say hello to the fairies as you go past. If you don’t, it’ll bring you bad luck!
Actually – don’t call them fairies; you have to call them “little people”. “Moghrey mie Vooinjer Veggey” is “good morning little people” in Manx Gaelic.
This is ingrained in Manx culture to the point that even the buses make an announcement as they go across the bridge! A lot of residents will simply wave or do a customary nod.
Another fun Manx legend: you’re not allowed to say rat on the island! It’s considered very bad luck to say r-a-t on the Isle Of Man – people call them long-tails instead.
There’s a rare type of Manx sheep
The Isle Of Man has a native breed of sheep called the Loaghton sheep – unique because they have four massive horns! (I’ve just read that sometimes they even have six!) Unfortunately, I only seem to have the above photo, which doesn’t really show them at all.
Loaghton sheep actually descend from Scottish sheep found on the Hebrides and Shetland, which is interesting. They’re also incredibly rare – at one point, there were only 43 left in the world, and they are the closest remaining species to the Jersey sheep which is now extinct. I had no idea any sheep had gone extinct!
Their meat is a Manx delicacy, but one interesting gift I picked up on our recent visit was the oil of the wool… turned into soap! Manx wool soap! How weird is that?
There’s a hill where your car will roll UP the hill
There is a hill on the Isle Of Man where, if you stop the car, it will start rolling back up the hill!
Of course, it’s an optical illusion but a very strange one all the same. Unfortunately we tried it and it didn’t seem to work, so we must have been doing something wrong as it’s definitely not a myth! It’s known as Magnetic Hill.
It has the world’s largest working water wheel
The Laxey wheel is a tourist attraction in its own right, but it’s actually the largest working water wheel in the world, too!
A bonus fun fact: there’s also a water wheel in Silverdale glen, which powers a Victorian carousel!! It is as awesome as it sounds! Yes, we went on it. Obviously.
Gimli does the ferry safety video
I feel like this might be quite a niche fact – John Rhys-Davies, most well known for playing Gimli in Lord Of The Rings, is actually a Manx resident.
When we went over recently, we watched the safety video on the ferry from Liverpool, and it was Gimli dressed as a pirate! Well, it got our attention anyway.
He’s lent his services to other tourist attractions too – he also does a voice-over in Castle Rushen in Castletown.
There’s a fault line splitting the UK and America
The Iapetus Suture runs through the Irish Sea, but is visible at one of our favourite places on the Isle Of Man, Niarbyl.
The Niarbyl fault shows where two ancient continents collided – Avalonia and Laurentia. Avalonia is now England, while Laurentia has part of North America and, interestingly, Scotland. I knew that the Appalachian mountains are related to the mountains we have here in Scotland and also in Norway, but it didn’t really click that Scotland and England were ever separated geographically.
Manx cats have no tail
Ever seen a cat without a tail? That’s probably a Manx cat!
These unique cats are native to the Isle Of Man, and their only real discernible feature is that they don’t have a tail.
There’s a vampire grave – yes, really!
This is probably one of my favourite fun facts – when I found out about this, it was one of the first places we visited on our next visit!
Nobody really knows the true history of this grave in Malew and why it’s been covered in chains and stakes since the 1850’s. We know it belongs to Mathew Hassal and his wife Margaret, and the story goes that Mathew Hassal made an ungodly groan during his wake and had a stake through the heart to ensure he didn’t come alive again.
Who really knows, though? I wonder what he did during his life, and whether he ever thought he would be immortalised, if not literally through being a vampire, but through legends and a very unique burial ground!
Chips, cheese & gravy is the national dish*
Every time we go to the Isle Of Man. EVERY TIME…
We HAVE to get chips, cheese & gravy!
It’s exactly how it sounds – chip shop chips piled with exceedingly colossal amounts of grated cheese and gravy.
I will add that we had it twice on this trip. And yes, it is very good.
*Okay, unofficially the national dish. The actual national dish is … well, it’s officially Queenies, or queen scallops, as voted for by the public. I will point out that chips, cheese & gravy only lost by around 100 votes. Traditionally, though, the actual national dish is “Priddhas an’ Herrin'” – boiled potatoes and another popular Manx food, kippers.
It hosts the TT races
You may have heard of the TT races, and in fact if you’ve heard of the Isle Of Man it’s probably BECAUSE of the TT races that you know it!
The TT, or Tourist Trophy, is an annual motorbike road race around the island, and of course where better to hold it than somewhere that doesn’t have a speed limit? It’s been going since 1907, making it a core part of the island’s traditions.
I’ve never actually been over for TT, partly because the costs absolutely explode. The population literally doubles for the two weeks that it’s on, and so does the price of the ferry. You often have to book a year in advance to have any hope of going, too.
We will, of course, be back over at some point, and you never know, I might bring you some more Isle Of Man content in the future.
If you fancy reading more about the Isle Of Man, I have these two posts – one if you have your own transport, and one about all the fun ways to travel around the island on public transport – including horse-drawn trams and mountain railways!