As quirky destinations go, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the Isle of Man. Its mere existence is even a bit odd. Though officially part of the British Isles, the island is a self-governing kingdom that belongs to neither the United Kingdom nor European Union. Confused? You should be.
Things get stranger still, when you arrive on the island and find you’ve travelled back in time – this is a place where it is possible to get a steam train to the airport.
Suffice to say the island’s antiquity adds to the charm of this destination, which is also home to some spectacular scenery: lush valleys, rugged shores and fine sandy beaches abound, making it an adventure playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
Measuring 53km (33 miles) long and 21km (13 miles) wide, the Isle of Man floats in the middle of the Irish Sea, just off the Lancashire coastline. Killer whales, humpbacks, basking sharks, dolphins, seals and myriad bird species can be spotted in the surrounding waters, which are ripe for scuba diving.
The island’s main draw, however, is the notoriously dangerous TT motorcycle race, which takes place annually. Too fast for you? Then hit one of the many hiking and mountain biking trails, which crisscross the island. Or delve into the island’s curious history by exploring the prehistoric tombs, elaborate Celtic crosses and Iron Age hilltop forts, which are scattered across the wild landscape.
Beneath the time-warp surface, present-day Isle of Man has a contemporary edge. It’s still heavily associated with the finance industry, yet film-making and tourism are increasingly important as people start to discover the island's quiet natural beauty and rich heritage.
All things considered, the Isle of Man is a curious destination and perhaps the best-kept secret in the British Isles.