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Fact 1: One mountain
The island has many hills but only one mountain, Snaefell, which at 2,036ft high just about qualifies as a ‘mountain’ rather than a hill according to the Oxford English Dictionary. However, there is no universally accepted definition of a mountain and many geographers state that a mountain only needs to be greater than 300 metres (1,000 feet) above sea level to qualify. The famous TT road racing course goes over the mountain from Ramsey to Douglas and also referred to as ‘The Mountain Course’.
Fact 2: Two cats with no tail
The Manx cat is famous the world over for its distinct lack of tail – in fact, there are two varieties of Manx cat; the ‘rumpy’ has no tail at all, whilst the ‘stumpy’ has a very small tail. The breed also exhibits very large hind legs and a rounded head. According to legend, two Manx cats were last to board Noah’s Ark and their tails became trapped in the closing door. Manx cats are a common feature around the Island and they even have a pub named after them which, inventively, is called “The Cat With No Tail”.
Fact 3: Three road racing circuits
The Isle of Man is the motorcycle road racing capital of the world. The Manx parliament passed a law in 1907 allowing the roads to be closed and used for the TT (Tourist Trophy) race. It is considered the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world and a single lap covers 37.73 miles of public roads. The festival takes place at the end of May (Practice Week) and the beginning of June (Race Week). The circuit is is marshaled by over 500 volunteers, many of whom come to the Island for their annual pilgrimage and are referred to locally as ‘The Orange Army’ thanks to their high-vis orange jackets.
Medical teams including trauma specialists are stationed at key locations round the course to supplement the marshals. A team of travelling marshals (all of whom are ex-racers) can get to any incident on the track within about three minutes during the race. Casualties are often airlifted to Nobles Hospital from one of the two emergency helicopters stationed on either side of the course and the time from any rider hitting the tarmac to being on the operating theatre is often less than 20 minutes – making it one of the fastest racing incident to prime full service medical treatment centre response times anywhere in the world.
But it’s not all about the TT! There are two other road racing tracks on the Island which take place on closed public roads; the Castletown circuit in the south and the Jurby circuit in the north.
Fact 4: Four horns
The Manx Loaghtan sheep is a breed of relatively a small sized sheep native to the Isle of Man. It is also sometimes spelled as Loghtan or Loaghtyn. It is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep breeds which descends from the primitive sheep once found throughout Hebrides, Scotland and Shetland Islands
The word Loaghtan comes from the Manx words lugh dhoan, which mean mouse-brown and describes the colour of the sheep. They have no wool on their dark brown legs and faces. They are fined boned animals and have short tails. They are Moorit in colour – that’s somewhere between fawn and dark reddish brown – and their body colour bleaches in the sun.
The Manx Loaghtan sheep are easily characterized by their horns – they usually have four horns (but some are also found with 2 or 6 horns). They are primarily bread for their meet which is considered a delicacy with an adult female weighs about 40 kg, and an adult male about a third more.
Fact 5: The 5th July is Tynwald Day
The Island has the world’s oldest continuous parliament, known as Tynwald, which was setup by the Vikings in 979 AD. Although today’s parliament has modern offices in the capital, Douglas, on the 5th July it meets at Tynwald Hill, an ancient Viking site near St John’s, to declare each law that has been passed in the past year. During the ceremony the laws are read in both Manx Gaelic and English. Any Manx citizen can also make a petition which, providing it meets certain criteria, will then have to be considered.
Fact 7: Seven Kingdoms
From the summit of the Snaefell mountain seven kingdoms are visible on a clear day. The Kingdom of Man, the Kingdoms of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of Manannan (the sea). Manannan Mac Lir (Son of the Sea) is the ancient sea god who ruled the Island. Manannan protected the Islanders with his cloak of mist and had the power to make one man appear to be one hundred. Today, he’s said to cloak the Island to protect it from invaders.