At the heart of the British Isles, surrounded by Ireland and the United Kingdom, lies the Isle of Man. A dependency of the British Crown, the island is not part of the UK or the European Union, and has its own unique story. Here are 5 things you should know about this quirky island:
1. It has its own language, Manx. Closely related to Scots Gaelic and Irish, and known just as Gaelg by speakers, it’s an important part of the island’s cultural heritage. The last original native speaker, fisherman Ned Maddrell, died in 1974, but in recent years there’s been a language revival and use of Manx has become more evident, especially on signs and in print. Now, almost 2000 people (from a total population of around 80,000) speak the language to various extent.
2. It is home to the oldest continuous parliament in the world. The Manx people celebrated the millennium of the Tynwald assembly in 1979, its origins from the time the island was under the rule of the Viking kings of Dublin. The Icelandic parliament, the Alþingi, founded in 930, is older, but was suspended for 45 years around 1800. The original ceremony is preserved with an outdoor meeting every year on the fields below Tynwald Hill.
3. Whichever way you throw me, I will stand. The Three Legs of Mann (Tree Cassyn Vannin in Manx), a triskelion of three armoured legs joined together at the thigh, is the symbol of the Isle of Man, and appears everywhere. On flags and coats of arms, on banknotes and street signs, on car registration plates and on the front of the huge waterwheel at Laxey.
4. From the summit of Snaefell, the highest mountain at 620m (2034ft), it’s said that you can see seven kingdoms. That’s not the seven kingdoms of Westeros, Game of Thrones fans, but England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Mann. The final two kingdoms are said to be those of heaven and the sea, home of Manannán mac Lir, the mythical first King of Mann. That’s provided you have a clear day on this famously misty mountain.
5. The Isle of Man is a surprising centre of space travel research and development. Although the vehicle most associated with the island is a motorbike, a number of companies involved in building robots lunar rovers are based in on the island. And according to some sources, it’s 5th in the list of nations most likely to make the next moon landing.