Island Living: Isle of Man
1. Tell us a little bit about The Isle of Man.
The Isle of Man is a tiny, windy island in the middle of the Irish Sea. And though in the past it's been ruled by the kings of Scotland and England it never became part of the United Kingdom and remains self-governing today. It is extremely beautiful, and for it's size (only 572 km2) contains an incredibly various landscape and rich history going back further than the stone age. It is dotted with medieval castles, Celtic crosses and viking burial grounds. There is a wonderful selection of sandy or pebbly beaches all around, many of which are quite secluded. You have to clamber down hills to get to them, but the views are spectacular.
2. How many people live there? Is the population growing or shrinking?
The population more or less remains the same, at about 80,000 people.
3. What is abundant and what is scarce on the Isle of Man?
Abundant: Beaches, rivers and glens, hills (but just one mountain), mackerel, scallops, queenies and the best kippers in the world (Honest! The Queen of England eats them).
Scarce: A variety of shops, land (a bit more and we could reach, Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and Cornwall). My son says “sun”, and he is right. Being high up in the northern hemisphere, we are light-deprived in the winter and since we are part of the British weather system we could really do with a bit more sun and warmth!
4. What is important to note about the island’s geographical location or history?
What history would you like to hear about? There is plenty. Perhaps about the Neolithic age when giant Monoliths were built throughout the island, some of which still stand today. Or when the Vikings invaded the island at first plundering and then settling here. Or would you like to hear about the legends and myths of the Isle of Man? Like when Ireland’s mythical giant Finn McCool ripped up a portion of the land and tossed it at his Scottish rival. He missed, and the chunk of earth landed in the Irish Sea, creating the Isle of Man. What about the stories of the Celtic God, Mannanin, who regularly sweeps his cloak around the island, which explains why it’s enveloped in mist much of the time. And let’s not forget the faeries that everyone superstitiously greets as they cross the infamous Fairy Bridge. The Isle’s incredibly rich history often mixes with its imaginative folklore.
5. What are some of the practical challenges of living on the Isle of Man?
We are of course water-locked and that is a huge challenge. We are close to the United Kingdom, but not quite close enough to take advantage. Personally, it would be nice to have a wider audience for my art work. I participate in a number of markets, and could probably do the same in the United Kingdom, but the travelling expenses do not make it feasible.
There is also a lot less choice in employment. I think we loose much of our talented youth because there just isn't enough to hold their interest (career-wise). Although the flip-side is that many islanders have moved all over the world and taken a little of their unique culture with them.
6. Is there an assumption or stereotype about the Isle of Man you’d like to correct.
I don't think people are much aware of the Isle of Man, other than through the TT Race and other motor bike races. So luckily there isn't much of a stereotype.
7. What do you think makes island communities, like yours, unique?
If you would like to step back to a time when people really did live in small communities the Isle of Man is for you. This is a place in which people know each other and have a keen interest in what others are doing. People who live here support each other and this benefits everyone. We have a very low crime rate and most crimes are minor. It's easy to police an island where everyone knows what everyone else is doing. This makes it the perfect place for children to grow. They can have so much more freedom here!
8. How are tourists generally seen by locals?
Tourist are obviously welcome. Islanders love to share their homes. We are friendly and hospitable.
9. What is the best way to get here?
You can fly via many UK airports, including London, Liverpool and Manchester. Otherwise, you can sail from Liverpool or Heysham Port.
10. What should visitors know or read before setting out for the Isle of Man.
There are a number of very informative websites about the island. It is always useful to know what you want to do and see when you are on holiday. The island is bigger than people expect, and there is much more to see than you may realize. You will not manage to cover the island in a week, but you may be able to skim the surface. If you want to dig a little deeper it will take much longer that that!
And a little bit about Kate: My family moved to the Isle of Man when I was a baby, so I grew up here. I left at 18 and then returned much later, with my small children. I have been back for around 5 years now. I am an artist working with paper and canvas. My time is split between the art workshops I instruct for children and adults, and my own art work. I sell my work through local galleries, online and at markets. As a painter and printmaker, I love combining pattern and text from famous pieces of English literature in my work.