17 Things to Know Before Moving to the Isle of Man
If you’re planning on moving to the Isle of Man, congratulations! You’re going to love life on this welcoming island that sits between Northern Ireland and the Lake District.
This beautiful territory is bursting at the seams with history, culture, and traditions that are separately fun, spooky, and fascinating.
34,195 people on the Isle of Man moved there from the UK (United Nations, 2020), so there’ll be plenty of expats who can help you settle into this gorgeous land. There are still some insights you need before you arrive, though – and we’ve got you covered.
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Spanish Head is a great example of the island's gorgeous natural landscapes
1. It’s a Crown Dependency
The Isle of Man is one of three Crown Dependencies, along with Jersey and Guernsey.
The UK is responsible for defending the island – despite it not being part of the UK – but otherwise, this is a self-governing territory.
Its government, led by the chief minister, controls all its non-military affairs, employing 9,000 people as a result – 23% of the island’s working population, according to government data.
Technically, there’s also a lieutenant governor who acts as King Charles III’s proxy and can grant royal assent, but this role has been largely ceremonial since 1990.
2. The isle is small, but full of sounds and sweet airs
The Isle of Man is just 572 km², making it smaller than 91% of territories on Earth.
You can drive from the northern tip of the territory to its southern extreme in just an hour, and its population is dwarfed by those on islands like Curaçao and Kiribati.
However, it’s still twice as big as Birmingham, and if you like living in a land of lush greenery, with beautiful coastlines, forests, and waterfalls always in reach, this is a paradise.
3. Expats are everywhere
You’ll easily find a community of expats here.
41% of the island’s 84,069 inhabitants come from the UK, meaning you’ll have plenty of shared interests to discuss with people all over the island.
You should absolutely learn and enjoy Manx culture, but having so many Brits nearby will make settling into your new home nice and easy.
4. It’s all very familiar
On that note, prepare yourself to feel right at home on the isle.
The weather, currency, and language are practically identical to the UK, apart from some small differences.
It’s windier here, due to the island’s small size, and you’ll also see Manx pounds in circulation – though you don’t need to worry about changing any money. All your notes and coins are legal tender.
In a similar fashion, everyone speaks English, but you’ll also hear a dialect called Manx English, and occasionally the native language of Manx, though unfortunately this branch of Gaelic is dying out.
5. The Isle of Man TT is unmissable
Incredibly, this tiny sliver of land hosts the most famous motorbike racing event in the world.
The annual Isle of Man Tourist Trophy in late spring attracts fans from all over the world to watch the best riders hit speeds above 200 miles per hour as they take on the 37.7-mile course that winds in and out of towns and rural areas.
Racers pass mere feet away from people watching outside houses, pubs, and farm gates as they repeatedly cover around half the island in 20 minutes.
They go so fast that they genuinely appear to fly for several metres when they go over bumps in the road, making these riders seem even more like superheroes.
6. The flag is unusual
The Isle of Man’s flag may unnerve you if you haven’t seen it before, so it’s best to be prepared.
It shows three legs clad in armour and spurs, all connected at the thigh and set against a bright red background.
This arresting image is known as the triskeles, which means ‘three legs’ in Greek, and dates back to at least the 13th century.
To understand its meaning, look to the island’s coat of arms, which contains the motto “Whichever way you throw, it will stand.” In short, whatever hardships its people face, the island will always land on its feet.
The triskeles shows the island will land on its feet, whatever fate has in store
7. Get ready for delicious, fresh food
This land is home to a rich food culture.
Logically for a place made up almost entirely of coastlines, the island’s favourite national dish is queenies – fresh queen scallops served in a cream or white sauce.
The melt-in-your-mouth recipe won this honour in a vote at the 2018 Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival, leading the Minister for Food Geoffrey Boot to say the scallops were “worth millions of pounds to the Island’s economy, and support hundreds of jobs.”
Make sure you also try the delicious Manx dish of cheese, chips, and gravy, as well as the island’s traditional offering, priddhas an' herrin, which is steamed herring served with boiled potatoes.
8. Sport thrives here
As well as the world-famous TT event, the Isle of Man has also made its name on the global stage in several other sports.
The nation has taken part in 17 Commonwealth Games – winning three gold medals and 12 medals overall – and Premier League footballer Kieran Tierney was born on the island.
Like anyone born here, the Arsenal full-back was eligible to play international football for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, as the Isle of Man doesn’t have an official team.
It does, however, have a national club team, Isle of Man FC, which plays in England’s ninth tier and has designs on reaching League Two (the fourth tier) by the end of the 2030s.
9. Politics is different
Forget the party politics of the rest of the UK.
On the Isle of Man, independent candidates rule the roost, with the great majority of seats in parliament handed out to politicians who aren’t affiliated to any party.
If you want to vote for a party, local green, labour, and liberal representatives hold a small presence in the parliament, Tynwald, which is said to have been created by the Vikings around 1,000 years ago.
From the age of 16, you can vote in elections – and you can do so twice, as two representatives are elected from each area of the island.
10. Climate change is front of mind
On this island, the climate emergency looms large.
By 2030, the Isle of Man has pledged to run entirely on renewable electricity and reduce its carbon emissions by 35% – and by 2050, it aims to reach net-zero emissions.
New buildings will not be allowed to include fossil fuel heating systems from 2024 – a year earlier than the UK – and will need to be 97% energy efficient.
11. Explore the island’s history
You should take every opportunity to travel through time on this land, which has been ruled by the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Scots, and English during its storied history.
Make sure you visit Castletown’s Castle Rushen, one of the best-preserved medieval fortresses you’re likely to see, the four-tiered Tynwald Hill, and the imposing Peel Castle.
This Viking castle sits on St Patrick's Isle and is accessible only in summer, only via a causeway, and only if you make it past Moddey Dhoo, a giant, ghostly, mythical black dog with red eyes and sharp teeth that’s said to guard the door.
You can get to most of the island’s historical attractions on its heritage railway system, which is propelled at various points by electricity, horsepower, and steam.
This Viking castle is meant to be guarded by a giant, terrifying black dog ghost
12. LGBT+ people finally have legal protections
The Isle of Man’s LGBT+ community had to wait for longer than their British counterparts for legal recognition of their equal status.
Intimate activity between people of the same gender was only made legal in 1992, and previous convictions for being gay were only expunged in 2022.
Every other legal protection has been gained in the past two decades, including same-gender marriage, the legal right to change your gender, and protection against discrimination.
Pride events have finally sprung up on the island, including the first Isle of Man Youth Pride in December 2020, and while anti-LGBT attitudes are still relatively common here, recent improvements are hugely encouraging.
13. Superstitions and mythology are rife
The Isle of Man was named after Manannán mac Lir, the Celtic sea god and king of the Otherworld – so it makes sense that mythological beasts should form a crucial part of its cultural tapestry.
As well as Peel Castle’s canine ghost, you can also expect to be visited by kelpies – who are horse-like creatures that live in water and can take on a human appearance – and brownies.
These hobgoblins are occasionally mischievous, but usually just help with household chores and farming – which is why their name was adopted by the Girl Guides in 1915.
The isle is also said to be home to fairies, mermen, and giants – indeed, one myth holds that the island was created when third-century warrior chief Fionn mac Cumhaill threw a massive chunk of Irish soil at a giant, missed him, and accidentally made a new piece of land.
We have two tips for you. Firstly, if you cross the Fairy Bridge between Douglas and Castletown, say “good day” to the fairies or risk the consequences. Secondly, don’t say “rat” out loud – or if you do, make sure you knock on wood and whistle.
It’s been considered bad luck to say the word since the 1600s, when the Duke of Atholl returned home to a hero’s reception after receiving a knighthood – and promptly stepped on a rat, tripped, broke his nose, and was forced by an archaic law to give up his dukedom.
14. There are two more bank holidays
As well as adopting the UK’s eight bank holidays, the Isle of Man also gives its populace an extra couple of national days off.
On the Friday of the first full week of June, inhabitants celebrate the TT bank holiday.
This takes place during the national TT event – and specifically on the same day as the Senior TT, which is the most important race of the entire two-week competition.
On or near 5 July each year, we recommend you take part in the Tynwald Day celebrations on Tynwald Hill, to mark another year since the creation of the self-proclaimed oldest continuous parliament in the world.
15. Explore the island’s traditions
Every place has its own traditions, but events on the Isle of Man have a special flavour that makes them extremely fun.
You absolutely have to go see the World Tin Baths Championships, which takes place each July and sees more than 100 participants from around the world race their tin baths around the 400-metre course, trying not to sink in the process.
The event, which is organised by the Castletown Real Ale Drinkers Society, has run for more than 50 years, and donates all its proceeds to local charities.
The World Championship Viking Long Boat Races event sees teams of 10 take turns rowing a Viking craft with giant oars around Peel Harbour, with the fastest lap winning the trophy.
Make sure you also attend the Yn Chruinnaght Celtic Festival, which celebrates the island’s Celtic heritage, and Hop-tu-Naa, a Celtic tradition that marks the end of summer, and features children singing traditional songs while carrying lanterns carved from turnips.
16. You’ll have great nights out here
You may be imagining a sleepy island without much in the way of excitement, but don’t worry: the nightlife here is excellent. The capital city of Douglas in particular contains plenty of pubs and clubs.
Dance the night away at the cool, modern Courthouse, enjoy delicious drinks at the excellently named Basement Jaks, listen to live Irish music at Brendan O’Donnells, and watch the show at Sir Norman’s Theatre Bar, named after late resident Sir Norman Wisdom.
It makes sense that the nightlife is fantastic, as the Isle of Man has a long history of music and dancing, incorporating everything from Manx folk songs and Irish, Scottish, and Scandinavian influences to the Bee Gees, who grew up on the island.
17. You don’t need a car – mostly
For adventurous trips to the island’s far-flung reaches, we recommend hiring a car or booking a taxi.
But otherwise, the island’s public transport system should fulfil all your needs.
Regular bus routes run by Bus Vannin cover the entire territory, and you can also take advantage of the island’s trains that variously run on steam, electricity, and horsepower.