Man and nature exist in harmony on the Isle of Man; in 2016 UNESCO awarded the island 'biosphere reserve status' in recognition of a unique balance between the people and their surroundings.

More than 250 historical sites stand in contrast with beautiful valleys, dramatic coastline, and the island's highest point, Snaefell. The legend goes that visitors who reach the summit can see six kingdoms; Mann, Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, and Heaven.

Early Celtic influences have given the island a distinctive culture of music, language, and dance, celebrated in the annual summer festival of Yn Chruinnaght. Subsequent occupation by the likes of Norway, Scotland, and England could not dampen an independent streak, and today the island is a self-governing dependency of the British Crown.

There are direct flights from numerous airports in the UK and Ireland. Ferries arrive in Douglas, the capital, from Heysham, Liverpool, Belfast, and Dublin. There are regular bus and steam train services from the airport to Castletown and Douglas, and even a horse tram service dating back to 1876. The 'Go Explore' smartcard covers all bus, rail and horse tram services. The Isle of Man may be a little off the beaten tourist track, but its status as an offshore financial centre and low-tax economy makes it a popular business destination.

For many, the island is synonymous with motorbikes. The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy has become the most famous motorcycle event in the world. This festival of motorcycling culture is part of the fabric of the island, attracting a huge following in May/June each year. However, for those looking to avoid the fumes and noise of the TT, there are attractions aplenty.

Visitors can explore the remarkably well-preserved 13th century Castle Rushen in Castletown, and get an insight into the lifestyles of traditional Manx 'crofting' farmers in the Cregneash Village Folk Museum. Douglas, the Victorian seaside capital, is home to a variety of different museums. The train between Douglas and Ramsey stops at the lovely village of Laxey, home to the Great Laxey Wheel, the largest water pumping wheel in the world.

Adventurous souls can explore the Raad ny Foillan hiking trail, a 95 mile (150km) footpath hugging the coast, or visit the Calf of Man, a tiny island just off the south corner of the Isle of Man, which has been a bird sanctuary since 1939. Ancient, unique, and independent, the island will richly reward the curious traveller.


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