Recently named the fifth most likely nation to next reach the Moon. All three of the Bee Gees – Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, were born in the capital city, Douglas. The native cat, The Manx, has no tail, and the Manx Loaghtan, a sheep, has either four or six horns. The nation has the largest working water wheel on Earth, Laxey Wheel, which was my pick in Post 367 – ‘Which Is Your Favourite Man-Made Wonder of North West England?’ Tynwald, the nation’s parliament, is the oldest continuously governing body in the world. There is no national speed limit – you can go as fast as you want. Caravans aren’t allowed on the islands. And, since 1971, the nation has been home to the World Tin Bath Championships. Participants take to the water to race against one another in tin baths, with the winner being the first to finish the course or the one who covers the farthest distance before sinking. Well, at least they’ve covered all their bases, there. Yes, today we’re in The Isle of Man.
The Isle of Man is made up of one main island and several smaller islands. It’s a British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. It is not a part of the United Kingdom, nor a member of the EU or the Commonwealth of Nations. But, strangely, they are allowed to participate in the UK National Lottery. It has a total area of 221 square miles with a population of nearly 84,500. The flag has a well-known ancient symbol in the middle, the triskelion, known in Manx (the native language), as ‘ny tree cassyn’. Nobody knows why it was chosen for the flag or where the red background comes from. It is by far my favourite flag. And their motto is also quite brilliant. ‘Quocunque Jeceris Stabit’ or ‘Whithersoever you throw it, it will stand’. It symbolises the island’s resilience. My favourite part of it is the use of the word ‘whithersoever’. Nobody uses that anymore. It’s brilliant…
Food, drink and sport are very important to the people. It’s most famous for ‘The TT’, long considered to be one of the ‘greatest motorcycle sporting events of the world’. Their culture is heavily influenced by their Celtic and Norse origins. Their last native speaker, Ned Maddrell, died in 1974, and the language is considered critically endangered. Mythology and folklore are a big part of their history, and the islands are said to be home to fairies. It’s said that their only mountain, Snaefell (2,000 feet), is believed to be the only place in the British Isles from where you can see England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. A local saying is that six kingdoms can be seen, adding the Isle of Man itself, and Heaven. And some even add a seventh kingdom, that of Manannán (the Sea). But for me, the best views are within.
You have the rugged fortress of Peel Castle, a durous rock on the shore, oozing rustic charm and elegance. You have the glowering dominance of Bradda Head, thrusting up from the mere. You have the Victorian Grand Union Camera Obscura building, up high on Douglas Head. Inside, using a system of lights and mirrors, it reflects images of the surrounding area onto large white screens, originally used to spy on tourists bathing in the nearby baths, or on couples ‘cuddling’ on the headland. It’s not used for that anymore. I hope.
Since I’ve already chosen the Laxey Wheel, I’ll go for the Gaiety Theatre on Harris Promenade in Douglas as my favourite sight. This delightful slice of classic architecture is a wondrous incicurable beauty. Gleaming white and standing proud, it’s a true gem of a gem of a place. It is truly spectacular, but then again, pretty much everything here is.
The Isle of Man. A nation of awesome scenery, a rich heritage and tin baths.
Images: 1) The flag of The Isle of Man (credit: wikimedia.org), 2) Part of Harris Promenade in Douglas, with the Gaiety Theatre on the far right (credit: tripadvisor.com), 3) Peel Castle (credit: wikimedia.org)
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