The Isle of Man – 50 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide – is situated in the Irish Sea, midway between Ireland, England and Scotland the Island is often described as “northern England” in miniature, but it is culturally distinct, with a Celtic and Viking heritage. It has its own language, postal service, parliament (Tynewald) and an independent fiscal system which has allowed it to develop as an offshore finance centre. In Victorian times holidaymakers reached the Isle of Man by steamship, sailing out of Liverpool, Heysham, Belfast and Dublin. In recent years fast catamarans have also been introduce, but the success of the island’s airline – Manx (now a subsidiary of British Airways) made it at important carrier for business and leisure passengers. The island’s airport, Ronaldsway, is linked to many regional airports in the UK, Ireland and the Channel Islands.
The island can provide a variety of at attractions, such as:
Douglas, with its sweeping Victorian promenade of guest houses and terraced hotels, is the capital and major seaport of the Isle of Man, featuring the Manx museum and ‘The Story of Mann’ exhibition. It represents the main concentration of bed spaces, and offers a range of restaurants and entertainment facilities that are used by residents and visitors alike, such as the Summerland casino and leisure centre. Other coastal towns, each with a range of small visitor attractions, craft workshops and accommodation, include Port Erin, Peel, Ramsey and Castle town.
The cultural heritage includes many historic buildings, for example the castle and cathedral in Peel and Castle Rushen at Castle town, which was the former capital. The best-known feature is the world’s largest working waterwheel at Laxey. There are a number of museums and craft centers, while the Cregneash Folk Village interprets the crafting way of life of islanders in the past.
The natural heritage provides the setting for special interest holidays and both walking and cycling trails are available.
The transport heritage includes horse-drawn trams and narrow gauge railways. But the most famous attraction is the annual Tourist Trophy (TT) motorcycle races, which started in 1904 as a way of extending the holiday season. This event takes place on a road circuit around the island and fills hotels to capacity during ‘TT Week’ in June.
The Isle of Man has a varied accommodation base, ranging from luxury country house hotels to value-for-money guesthouses. The Manx government has a longstanding scheme to assist the accommodation sector both to adjust to the demands of the contemporary holidaymaker and to attract new accommodation stock. The tourism authorities also operate a compulsory registration and grading scheme for accommodation. By 2002 there were almost 7000 bed spaces available on the island, mostly in serviced accommodation.
The Department of Tourism and Leisure has responsibility for both the promotion and development of tourism on the island as well as leisure and public transport. The Isle of Man has had to adapt its tourism product to the tastes of twenty-first century holidaymakers. The island’s traditional markets sought an English seaside product, and while this still forms part of the island’s appeal, other elements of the destination mix are now seen as more important in attracting visitors.