A small island in the northern Irish Sea, a mere 33 miles in length and 13.5 miles in width, yet boasting a proud history and a diverse and beautiful landscape. The character of the Island is shaped by its location. Cradled between the Cumbrian coastline, Scotland and Northern Ireland, this strategic position encouraged Norse invasion and settlement in the 8th century. The Isle was a prize to be squabbled over by England and Scotland in the Middle Ages and it became a notorious smuggling centre and a thorn in the British side in the 18th century. Today, along with Jersey and Guernsey, it is a Crown Dependency, self governing, part of the British Isles but not of the United Kingdom. The twin strands of the island's Norse and Celtic heritage reach deep into the 21st century, not least by the survival of the language, Manx Gaelic and the island's legislature, the Tynwald - which claims to be the world's oldest continuous parliament. The result ' a fabulous place to visit, rich in culture, with its own unique identity.
If you are looking for a self catering beach holiday
- the island has a fantastic variety on offer. Visit Douglas, the island's capital since 1869, for its lively family friendly beach, 'a 2 mile sandy crescent with promenade and horse-drawn tramway. For those who like it quieter there are plenty of secluded bays and rugged coastline to suit. Opportunities for outdoor pursuits abound in the island's glorious countryside - the long distance footpath Raad ny Foillan (Way of the Gull) skirts the coastline and offers spectacular scenery. The coast is also a magnate for those who enjoy watersports. If kayaking, coasteering or diving are not to your taste, why not take a leisurely boat trip and try and spot some of the myriad marine life that inhabit these waters. Inland there are numerous paths and trails for cyclists and walkers of all abilities. The island is also a haven for bird watchers, with impressive seabird colonies at Spanish Head and the sanctuary on the Calf of Man.
Don't miss: 'Tynwald Day' - the 5th of July, when the parliament meets at its historic outdoor site at St Johns. A national holiday, 1000's turn out to watch the spectacle. Castletown, with its quaint narrow streets, attractive period buildings and fishing harbour, is home to one of the best preserved medieval castles in Europe ' Castle Rushen. Celtic and Norse decorated stone crosses - some 204 dotted accross the island. Snaefell Mountain Railway - board the mountain railway at Laxey and climb 2,000 feet to the top of Snaefell - the Isle's only mountain. Billed as ' the only place in the British Isles where you can see the seven kingdoms, (Mann, Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of the sea)' - the views are incredible. The Manx Museum
, Douglas - a great guide to Manx history, culture and tradition.