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What Should I Know About the Isle of Man?

Stone crosses from the Celtic era are common on the Isle of Man.
Great Britain first took control of the Isle of Man in the 14th century.
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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 September 2014
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The Isle of Man is a small dependency in the Irish Sea. The Isle covers 220 square miles (570 sq. km), making it roughly three times the size of Washington, DC. The Isle of Man is located right between Ireland, Scotland, and England. In addition to the actual island of Man, the Isle also contains three smaller islands, Chicken Rock, St. Patrick’s Isle, and Calf of Man.

People first settled the Isle of Man in roughly the 8th millennium BCE. The early history of the Isle of Man is uncertain, and much of it is shrouded in myth regarding the settlement of the island by the Brythons sometime in the first half of the 1st millennium. Sometime in the 7th century the Irish invaded the islands, and settled permanently, introducing the Celtic language Manx.

The Vikings first invaded the island near the end of the 8th century, but left the culture roughly the same as it had been before their invasion. In the 11th century the island was transformed into a kingdom under the Norse, where it remained until given to the Scots by Norway in the 13th century.

In the 14th century the British took control of the Isle of Man, and rule would pass between the Scottish and the British over the next century. Ultimately the Isle would fall under control of Britain, in spite of a number of rebellions and discomfort with British rule.

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In the mid-19th century the Isle of Man was granted a decent level of autonomy, which increased over the next century and a half. Politically, the Isle of Man is somewhat unique. It is a self-governing kingdom, under the protection of Britain as a Crown dependency. It has its own parliament, the Tynwald, and administers its own laws. It is not fully a part of the United Kingdom, and is neither a part of the European Union.

The Manx culture experienced a revival in the 20th century, with traditional crafts, cultural festivals, and the Manx language all finding a new place among the inhabitants. Manx continues to be taught and spoken, and although all native speakers died out in the 1970's, recent efforts have resulted in a new generation of native speakers.

The Isle of Man is a popular vacation destination for inhabitants of both Britain and Ireland, although with the advent of affordable flights to Continental Europe its popularity has decreased somewhat. Nonetheless, it offers a fascinating holiday nestled right in the midst of the British Isles.

The pace of life on the Isle of Man is quite laid back, and many people enjoy visiting as a respite from traveling around Ireland, Scotland, and England. The main island is small enough that driving around is easy, and both a steam train and electric rail connect major points of interest. Historical sites such as Castle Rushen, Peel Castle, Rushen Abbey, and the many stone crosses dating back to the Celtic era make wonderful outings, and lush gardens dot the island.

Flights arrive daily from the British Isles. Ferries also regularly connect Douglas with Scotland, England, and Ireland.

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