The Isle of Man is steeped in fascinating heritage from stunning castles and excellent museums to the Manx language and Tynwald, the oldest continual parliament in the world.
Peel Castle is a castle in Peel, Isle of Man originally constructed by Vikings. The castle stands on St Patrick's Isle which is connected to the town by causeway. It is now owned by Manx National Heritage and is open to visitors during the summer.
The castle was built in the 11th century by the Vikings, under the rule of King Magnus Barelegs. While there were older stone Celtic monastic buildings on the island, the first Viking fortifications were built of wood. The prominent round tower was originally part of the Celtic monastery, but has had battlements added at a later date. In the early 14th century, the majority of the walls and towers were built primarily from local red sandstone, which is found abundantly in the area. After the rule of the Vikings, the castle continued to be used by the church due to the cathedral built there – the see of Sodor Diocese – but was eventually abandoned in the 18th century.
The castle remained fortified and new defensive positions were added as late as 1860. The buildings within the castle are now mostly ruined, but the outer walls remain intact. Excavations in 1982-87 revealed an extensive graveyard as well as the remains of Magnus Bareleg's original wooden fort. The most spectacular finds were the 10th century grave of ‘The Pagan Lady’ which included a fine example of a Viking necklace and a cache of silver coins dating from about 1030. The Castle's most famous "resident" is the so called Moddey Dhoo or Black Dog ghost.
Peel Castle features today on the reverse side of the £10 notes issued by the Isle of Man Government.
Peel Castle is sometimes confused with Piel Castle, located on Piel Island, around 30 miles to the east in the Irish Sea. This particularly occurs in reference to the William Wordsworth poem describing Piel, spelling its name as 'Peele'. Further confusion is added by the fact that Wordsworth is documented as having visited Peel Castle, and wrote about the Isle of Man on a number of times.
Castle Rushen (Manx: Cashtal Rushen) is a medieval castle located in the Isle of Man's historic capital, Castletown in the south of the island. It towers over the Market Square to the south-east and the harbour to the north-east. The castle is amongst the best examples of medieval castles on the British Isles, and is still in use as a court house, museum and educational centre.
Construction of the castle is believed to have begun around the reign of the last Norse kings of Mann Magnus III who died in the castle in 1265 A.D., being buried in the nearby Rushen Abbey. The Isle of Man had then been under Norse control since the late 8th century. The Isle of Man was transferred to Scotland the year after, as part of the Treaty of Perth ending the 1263-1266 Scottish-Norwegian War. The original Castle Rushen consisted of a central square stone tower, or keep. The site was also fortified to guard the entrance to the Silverburn River. From its early beginnings, the castle was continually developed by successive rulers of Mann between the 13th and 16th century. The limestone walls dominated much of the surrounding landscape, serving as a point of dominance for the various rulers of the Isle of Man. By 1313, the original keep had been reinforced with towers to the west and south. In the 14th century, an east tower, gatehouses, and curtain wall were added. Although parts of the castle were destroyed by Robert the Bruce in 1313, the damage was rebuilt by William Montacute, King of Mann by the year 1344.
The keep of Castle Rushen's first line of defence is an outer wall, 25 feet (7.6 m) high and 7 feet (2.1 m) thick. Attached to the wall are five towers, which in the post-defensive era of Castle Rushen saw use in civilian, administrative, functions. The keep itself has walls 12 feet (3.7 m) thick at the base and 7 feet (2.1 m) thick at the top. Four towers sit atop the keep, the main in the north rising to a height of 80 feet (24 m) and other three to around 70 feet (21 m).
The entrance to the keep is protected by a drawbridge and a fortified inner gatehouse entrance with two portcullis with a killing area in between covered by three so-called murder holes through which the defenders could attack any intruders trapped between the two portcullis. On either side of the gatehouse are located guard houses, which were converted into prison cells in the later history of the castle. When on duty the garrison would spend most of their time in the gatehouses. Inside the gatehouse is a lower level with a tide mill for grinding corn. The castle also included a medieval chapel, housing Castle Rushen's clock mechanism. The still functioning Castle Rushen clock is a notable landmark in Castletown, having been presented by Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1597, while she controlled the island during a dispute. The outer parts of the castle is protected by a moat and a glacis, with the glacis originally extending as far as the moat, around the entire land front of Castle Rushen.
In 1988, the control of the castle was handed over to the Manx National Heritage for restoration, opening in July 1991 by the Rt Hon. Earl of Derby MC as the first major Manx heritage site. Castle Rushen is one of four Manx National Heritage sites in Castletown, the others being the Nautical Museum, The Old Grammar School and the Old House of Keys.
Today, it is run as a museum by the Manx National Heritage, depicting the history of the Kings and Lords of Mann. Most rooms are open to the public during the opening season (March to October), and all open rooms have signs telling their stories. The exhibitions include a working medieval kitchen where authentic period food is prepared on special occasions and re-enactments of various aspects of medieval life are held on a regular basis, with particular emphasis on educating the local children about their history. Archaeological finds made during excavations in the 1980s are displayed and used as learning tools for visitors. A centre of the school activities at Castle Rushen is the recreation of the preparations and events surrounding the May 1507 visit to the castle by Thomas Stanley, 2nd Earl of Derby and King of Mann. Stanley's visit in 1507 was a momentous occasion as most Kings of Mann rarely if ever visited the island, leaving the governing of the isle to lower ranking officials. The exhibitions at Castle Rushen are part of the Manx National Heritage Story of Mann collection of cultural, historical and heritage sites and attractions. In addition to its functions as a museum the castle still functions as an official court house.
Castle Rushen features today on the reverse side of the Manx pound £5 notes issued by the Isle of Man Government. The Castle Rushen £5 note has the unusual feature of displaying a pub, the Castle Arms, opposite Castle Rushen.
The closing ceremony for the 7 to 13 September 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games, held in the Isle of Man, will be held in Castletown's Market Square in front of Castle Rushen on 12 September 2011.
Castle Rushen also gives its name to Castletown's secondary state school, Castle Rushen High School.
During World War II a Castle class corvette was named after Castle Rushen, the HMS Rushen Castle.
The 28 miles (45 km) Millennium Way long distance footpath, which opened in 1979, the 1000th anniversary year of Tynwald, starts at Castle Rushen before heading towards the northern Manx town of Ramsey. The footpath ends at the foot of Sky Hill around 1 mile (1.6 km) from the town square in Ramsey.
Castle Rushen is said to be haunted by a lady ghost, walking the castle drawbridge.
The House of Manannan Museum was built in 1997, costing £5.5M, partly new and partly in the old Peel railway station. The museum covers the past and present of the island and houses a replica Viking longship, Odin's Raven, which had been built in and sailed from, Norway, in 1979 to celebrate the millennium of Tynwald. Manx Transportation Museum, which opened in 2002, is housed in the former Brickworks building near to the harbour.
The Laxey Wheel (also known as Lady Isabella) is a large waterwheel built in the village of Laxey in the Isle of Man. Designed by Robert Casement, it has a 72-foot-6-inch (22.1 m) diameter, is 6 feet (1.83 m) wide and revolves at approximately three revolutions per minute.
It was built in 1854 to pump water from the mineshafts and named ‘Lady Isabella’ after the wife of Lieutenant Governor Charles Hope who was the island's governor at that time.
The Laxey Wheel is the largest working waterwheel in the world. The wheel was used to pump water from the Glen Mooar part of the ‘Great Laxey Mines’ industrial complex.
The Triskelion is visible on the front of the wheel. However it is backwards; this happened by accident when transferring the image on to the wall, they forgot to reverse the image so it is actually a mirror image of the authentic
The 150th anniversary of the Lady Isabella was celebrated by the people of Laxey with a grand Fayre on Saturday 24 September 2004. It is currently maintained by Manx National Heritage as part of the Great Laxey Wheel & Mines Trail.
The Wheel features today on the reverse side of the £20 notes issued by the Isle of Man Government.
The wheel is water-powered since the Isle of Man does not have a supply of coal but does have an abundance of water.
Water from the surrounding area, including the local river, is collected in a cistern which is above the level of the top of the wheel. A closed pipe connects the cistern to the top of the wheel; thus the water flows up the tower without problem. The water falls from the pipe into the buckets (formed from wooden slats on the circumference) and makes the wheel rotate in what is described as the 'reverse' direction. The crank has a throw of 4 feet (1.22 m) and connects to a counterweight and to a very long rod. This rod runs along the rod viaduct to the pumping shaft where the 8 feet (2.44 m) stroke is converted by T-rockers into a pumping action.
Most of the wheel and rod is made of wood; however, key mechanical parts are metal to provide tension and bearing surfaces. The rod has attached wheels at intervals to permit the stroke's motion with minimal friction.
Cregneash or Cregneish (Manx: Creneash) is a remote village situated on Mull Hill in the south of the Isle of Man.
Annual Manx festivals are held in Cregneash and it is home to a flock of the rare four-horned Loaghtan sheep. Much of the village forms a ‘Living Museum’ dedicated to the preservation of the traditional Manx ways of life. Officially opened in 1938, the Cregneash Folk Village shows the typical way of life of a small Manx village in the 19th century. Many original Manx cottages have been preserved and display Victorian farming and fishing equipment as museum exhibits. Historically most of the cottages were thatched, a practice which to this day is reflected on many of the cottages. There are also a number of private homes in the village but their external appearance is controlled to maintain an older look.
A central museum holds a wealth of historical information whilst many of the cottages in the village allow visitors to see country activities being performed by museum workers in traditional dress. Harry Kelly's cottage in the centre of the village typifies a Manx villager's home, where weaving or knitting often took place in the living area. In the workshop a blacksmith demonstrates some of the tools and techniques used to make horse shoes and other metal equipment of the time.
Calf of Man (Manx: yn Cholloo) is a 250 hectare island (almost 1 square mile), off the southwest coast of the Isle of Man. It is separated from the Isle of Man by a narrow stretch of water called the Calf Sound. Like the nearby rocky islets of Chicken Rock and Kitterland, it is part of the parish of Rushen. It has two seasonal inhabitants. The word 'calf' derives from the Old Norse word kalfr which means a small island lying near a larger one.
Until 1939 the island was under private ownership by the Keig family, but in that year the island was donated to the National Trust to become a bird sanctuary. In 1951 the Manx National Trust was established, which became Manx National Heritage. The island has been a bird observatory since 1962 and welcomes visits from volunteers and ornithologists. The observatory is able to accommodate up to eight visitors in basic self-catering accommodation which can be booked through Manx National Heritage.
The Calf of Man currently boasts the world's highest density of lighthouses: two lighthouses were built in 1818 by Robert Stevenson to warn mariners of the hazards of the Chicken Rocks off the south end of the Calf. These were replaced in 1875 by a lighthouse built on the Chicken Rocks themselves. In 1968, a third lighthouse was built on the Calf after a severe fire destroyed the Chicken Rocks light. The Chicken Rocks lighthouse was later rebuilt.
In 2006 Manx National Heritage employed the charity Manx Wildlife Trust as the Calf Warden Service Provider, but it retains ownership.
Between the Isle of Man and the Calf is the islet of Kitterland, while the islets of Yn Burroo and The Stack lie close to the Calf's shore. Almost a mile southwest of the Calf is Chicken Rock, the most southerly part of the Isle of Man's territory.
Calf of Man is home to a breeding population of Manx Shearwaters, a seabird which derives its name from its presence in Manx waters.
Snaefell (Manx: Sniaull) is the highest mountain and the only summit higher than 2,000 feet (610 m) on the Isle of Man at 620 metres (2,034 ft) above sea level. The summit is crowned by a train station, cafe, and several communications masts.
It is a well-known saying in the Isle of Man that on a clear day six kingdoms can be seen from the top: the Isle of Man, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Heaven. Some versions add a seventh kingdom, that of Manannán, (or the Sea).
The plaque at the summit indicates the relative positions of five points from Snaefell as well as their distances:
31 miles (50 km) to the Mull of Galloway (Scotland)
51 miles (82 km) to Scafell (England)
66 miles (106 km) (to the Mountains of Mourne (Northern Ireland)
85 miles (137 km) to Liverpool (England)
97 miles (156 km) to Dublin (Ireland).
In Manx Gaelic, a curragh refers to the willow scrub habitat. The Curraghs, also known as the Ballaugh Curraghs is an area of wetland in the north-west of the Isle of Man. The area has a rich and varied biodiversity and is also the location of the Curraghs Wildlife Park, a zoo and nature reserve that incorporates the wetlands.
During the Ice Age the area was covered in sheets of ice. When this ice retreated, a depression was left at the bottom of the Northern Hills and the wetlands were formed in this basin.
Over the years the land has been used to graze animals and grow hay, one of the few exploitable crops suited to the conditions of the wetlands. The Curraghs has also been a valuable resource for humans, as well as providing aesthetic appeal; the area is rich in peat, which was used as a fuel in the island's homes. The nearby town of Kirk Michael was a great consumer of the peat in the Curraghs.
It was the exploitation of peat that made the land slightly drier than it is today. When the practice of peat cutting was discontinued, the ditches in the area filled with water and bogs were formed.
In the 1930s, the Manx government intended to make a profit by growing New Zealand flax on the Curraghs. This plan failed, but in the 1950s the government pressed ahead with another plan to drain the Curraghs, so that the area could be extensively farmed. However, with the land 15 m above sea level, it was decided that it was not economically viable to drain the wetlands.
The 1963 much of the area came under control of the Manx government, and two years later, the 26-acre (110,000 m2) Curraghs Wildlife Park was opened. In 1990, protection of the government-controlled area was transferred to the Manx National Heritage; and in 2006 193 hectares of the Curragh became a designated RAMSAR site, an organisation devoted to conserving important areas of wetland worldwide.
The area is deemed important as it is inhabited by the second-largest roost of Hen Harriers in Europe; a bird that descends on the area during the Winter months. Other birds include peregrine falcons, merlins, robins, willow warblers, song thrushes and dunnocks among others. There is also a subspecies of wren, possibly unique to the Isle.
The area is also notable for its diversity of butterflies, and the Wildlife Park, whilst home to over 100 animals from around the world (including pelicans, gibbons, otters and penguins), also features a Butterfly Walk, an opportunity for visitors to see the insects in an environment designed for them. One notable species is the Orange Tip.
Ballaugh Curragh has a persistent breeding colony of wild wallabies, said to be the largest in the British Isles, descended from two that escaped from the wildlife park some years ago. They seem to occupy a similar ecological niche to hares.
The Curraghs are a veritable tapestry of scrubland, including willow and bog myrtle scrub. Sphagnum Moss, a common species, is responsible for the high levels of peat in the area. The peat and wetland topography of the area combine to create a series of bogs. The abundance of peat has had a direct affect on the Isle's human inhabitants over the years, with the peat being used as fuel in people's homes.
The Curraghs are also home to six different species of orchid; including the Heath spotted orchid.
The Point of Ayre is the northernmost point of the Isle of Man. It lies at the northern end of Ramsey Bay 10 kilometres north of the town of Ramsey. The point can be accessed by the A16 road from Bride.
It is the closest point on the Isle of Man to the British Mainland, being 26 kilometres south of Burrow Head in Scotland.
The name Ayre comes from the Norse word Eyrr meaning gravel bank. Strong currents off-shore cause an ever changing build-up of shingle which literally means the beach changes shape with each tide, i.e. twice a day.
The considerable difference between high and low water at the Point of Ayre provides excellent fishing from the beach. Many visitors are attracted by the beautiful carpet of gorse and heather which surrounds the lighthouse and merges with sand dunes stretching to the south-west, providing cover for rare wild flowers and forming part of a Manx National Nature Reserve. A wide variety of land and sea birds visit the area throughout the year, as do a number of grey seals.
The Point of Ayre lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on the Isle of Man. It was designed and built by Robert Stevenson, grandfather of prolific writer and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, and was first lit in 1818. The light has a nominal range of around 19 miles (27 kilometres) at an elevation of 104 feet (32 metres). Painted with two distinctive red bands, the light can be seen clearly from across the water in south-west Scotland. Owing to the continuous accumulation of shingle and gravel deposited by the strong currents, a smaller light commonly referred to as a 'winkie' had to be built 750 feet (231 metres) to the seaward side of the main tower in 1899. This was then repositioned a further 250 feet (77 metres) in the same direction and for the same reasons in 1950.The 'winkie' light was discontinued on 7th.April 2010
The lighthouse buildings and land have been in private ownership since 1993 when the light was fully automated. The light continues to be maintained by the Northern Lighthouse Board based in Edinburgh. In August, 2005, the fog signal at the lighthouse was de-commissioned owing to the assumed reliance and availability of GPS and modern shipping guidance systems.
Godred Crovan (Old Irish: Gofraid mac meic Arailt, Gofraid Méranech; GuQrXQr; Manx: Gorree Crovan) (died 1095) was a Norse-Gael ruler of Dublin, and King of Mann and the Isles in the second half of the 11th century. Godred's epithet Crovan may mean ‘white hand’ (Middle Irish: crobh bhan). In Manx folklore he is known as King Orry.
The notice of Godred’s death in the Annals of Tigernach calls him Gofraid mac meic Aralt or Godred, son of Harald’s son. As a result, it has been suggested that Godred was a son, or nephew, of the Norse-Gael king Ímar mac Arailt (or Ivar Haraldsson) who ruled Dublin from 1038 to 1046, who was in turn a nephew of Sigtrygg Silkbeard and grandson of Amlaíb Cuarán. The Chronicles of Mann call Godred the son of Harald the Black of Ysland, variously interpreted as Islay, Ireland or Iceland, and make him a survivor of Harald Hardraade’s defeat at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on 25 September 1066. They say that he took refuge with his kinsman Godred Sigtryggsson, then King of Mann and the Isles. Irish annals record that Godred was subject to the Irish King of Dublin, Murchad son of Diarmait mac Maíl na mBó of the Uí Cheinnselaig. Godred Sigtryggsson and Murchad both died in 1070 and the rule of the Isle of Man passed to Godred's son Fingal.
In 1079, the Chronicles of Mann say that Godred invaded the Isle of Man three times:
"In the year 1056 , Godred Crovan collected a number of ships and came to Mann; he gave battle to the natives but was defeated, and forced to fly. Again he assembled an army and a fleet, came to Mann, encountered the Manxmen, was defeated and put to fight. A third time he collected a numerous body of followers, came by night to the port called Ramsey, and concealed 300 men in a wood, on the sloping brow of a hill called Sky Hill. At daylight the men of Mann drew up in order of battle, and, with a mighty rush, encountered Godred. During the heat of the contest the 300 men, rising from the ambuscade in the rear, threw the Manxmen into disorder, and compelled them to fly."
Godred left three known sons, Lagmann, Olaf and Harald. Harald was blinded by Lagmann and disappears from the record, but the descendants of Lagmann and Olaf ruled the Kingdom of the Isles until the rise of Somerled and his sons, and ruled the Isle of Man until the end of the kingdom 1265 and its annexation by Alexander III, King of Scots. Even as late as 1275 Godred son of the last King of Mann tried to seize the island.
The Manx Gaelic language is a Goidelic Celtic language and is one of a number of insular Celtic languages spoken in the British Isles. Manx Gaelic has been officially recognised as a legitimate autochthonous regional language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, ratified by the United Kingdom on 27 March 2001 on behalf of the Isle of Man government.
The Manx language is closely related to the Irish language and Scottish Gaelic. By the middle of the 20th century only a few elderly native speakers remained: the last of them, Ned Maddrell, died on 27 December 1974. By then a scholarly revival had begun to spread to the populace and many had learned Manx as a second language. The first native speakers of Manx (bilingual with English) in many years have now appeared: children brought up by Manx-speaking parents. Primary immersion education in Manx is provided by the Manx government: since 2003, the former St John's School building has been used by the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh (Manx language-medium school). Degrees in Manx are available from the Isle of Man College and the Centre for Manx Studies. Manx-language playgroups also exist and Manx language classes are available in island schools. In the 2001 census, 1,689 out of 76,315, or 2.2% of the population, claimed to have knowledge of Manx, although the degree of knowledge in these cases was presumably varied.
In common use are the greetings: 'moghrey mie' and 'fastyr mie' which mean good morning and good afternoon respectively. The Manx language knows no evening as it is afternoon. Another frequently heard Manx expression is 'traa dy liooar' meaning time enough, and represents a stereotypical view of the Manx attitude to life.
The island's symbol is its ancient Triskelion - three bent legs, each with a spur, joined at the thigh. The three legs are reflected in the island's motto: 'Quocunque Jeceris Stabit', traditionally translated from Latin as 'Whichever way you throw it, it will stand'.
The origin of the Three Legs of Man (as they are usually called) is explained in the Manx legend that Manannan repelled an invasion by transforming into the three legs and rolling down the hill and defeating the invaders.
The House of Keys (Manx: Kiare as Feed) is the directly elected lower branch of Tynwald, the parliament of the Isle of Man, the other branch being the Legislative Council.
The oldest known reference to the name is in a document of 1417, written by an English scholar in Latin, which refers to Claves Mann and Claves Legis ('The Keys of Mann' and 'The Keys of Law'). There is a dispute, however, over the origin of the name. The word 'keys' is thought by some to be an English corruption of the Norse word kjósa meaning 'chosen'. However a more likely explanation is that it is a mishearing of the Manx-language term for 'four and twenty', kiare as feed (pronounced kee-air…), the House having always had 24 members. The Manx-language name of the House of Keys remains Yn Chiare as Feed ('The Four and Twenty').
Members are known as Members of the House of Keys, (MHKs). Citizens over the age of 16 may vote, while one must be at least 21 years old and a resident of the Island for three years to be elected. There are 15 constituencies, based on the sheadings and other local government units. There are currently two 3-member constituencies, five 2-member constituencies and eight 1-member constituencies. The term of the House of Keys is normally fixed at five years, but provisions exist for dissolution before the expiration of the term.
The Speaker of the House of Keys (SHK) is an MHK chosen to be the presiding officer. He may vote in the same manner as other members, but he may also abstain, unlike the others; however, if the vote is tied the Speaker may not abstain and must cast the deciding vote. Unusually for a legislative body attendance is required by law and if a member cannot attend they must request permission for absence.
The House of Keys elects most of the members of the Legislative Council. Legislation does not usually originate in the Council. Thus, the Keys have much more power than the Council, which performs the function of a revising chamber.
The House of Keys meets about once each month with the Legislative Council in a joint session called 'Tynwald Court'. The President of Tynwald, elected by both branches, presides over Tynwald Court and over the Legislative Council. Once each year, however, the Lieutenant Governor presides on Tynwald Day, the Isle of Man's national day.
Tynwald, the island's parliament, was founded in AD 979 (over 1,000 years ago) and is the oldest continuous parliament in the world. The annual ceremonial meeting in July on Tynwald Day, the island's national day, continues to be held at Tynwald Hill.
On this day the Isle's legislature, Tynwald, meets at St John's, instead of its usual meeting place, Douglas. The session is held partly in the Royal Chapel of St John the Baptist and partly in the open air on the adjacent Tynwald Hill (an artificial mound). The meeting, the first recorded instance of which dates to 1417, is known as Midsummer Court. It is attended by members of the two branches of Tynwald: the House of Keys, and the Legislative Council. The Lieutenant Governor, the representative of the Lord of Mann, presides except on the occasions when the Lord or another member of the British Royal Family is present.