Staycation: TT Week on the Isle of Man
So, that’s another half term over and done with in a blink of an eye! There is very little rest for residents of the Isle of Man, as it’s more than just a weeks break from school… it’s TT week!
If you ask a local what they think about the TT, expect to get conflicting views – it’s not always embraced with open arms. I personally love it! and at the request of the boys, this year we are staying to enjoy the delights of the TT, but what’s all the hype?!
TT stands for Tourist Trophy and is a 2 week-long road race focused entirely on motorbikes, stunt shows, accompanied with some drinking, dirty burgers and people… lots and lots of people! I love the mix of nationalities but overall I love that everyone is here to enjoy what our island has to offer.
The hotels are bursting to capacity and so residents rent their homes to accommodate the large influx of people, you’d be lucky to find availability as bookings are already being taken for next year! The better option for families is homestay, where you can spread out and usually homeowners will make sure you have everything you need for your visit!
In recent years there are more and more campsites opening up on Football and Rugby grounds but this presents its own problems, namely the weather! The Isle of Man is blessed with a multitude of weather systems and we can have 4 seasons in 1 day or it can be raining down south and sunny up north! You have to be a tough camper to be able to brave the elements our island has to throw at you.
Fear not though as our island has the best community spirit and you can rely on them to give you a helping hand. So many times I’ve seen bikers picked up from a bus stop in the pouring rain, given a lift to visitors to a good viewing spot, campers saved from washed out sites and broken tents and offered homes, food & washing facilities, all for free. No questions asked… just manx hospitality at it’s best.
Where is the Race Track?
That would be our main roads around the centre of the island… It can be an inconvenience for anyone who lives on the course as our roads turn into a race track in a matter of minutes. As a local, we have to keep a close eye on social media (@IOMTT) and listen to local radio stations as the schedule can change daily depending on weather conditions! This can make it difficult to get around at times but keeping abreast of the schedule and being organised can keep everyone happy.
The course starts in the Capital – Douglas, and speeds through Union Mills, heading West before turning at Ballacraine. It dips under the tree cover through Glen Helen out towards Cronk Y Voddy, reaching the narrow roads of Kirk Michael in no time at all. The course then moves through Ballaugh & Sulby onwards to Ramsey before the ascent up the mountain circuit and finally returning back to Douglas. Now if you ask me which milestones they were… wouldn’t have the foggiest. I’m rubbish – I know!
Is it easy to get around the island?
It takes a bit of planning (even if it’s not TT!), but you can get there via bus, train (albeit steam!), trams (including by horse), bike (available to hire) or car (taxi’s or friendly residents will happily offer lifts).
It’s definitely more difficult to get around at night, but, there is an increase in buses taking visitors to key areas. There are also local taxis available but these are usually fairly booked up and cost quite a lot with estimated cost of a taxi from Douglas to Onchan (2 miles, costs approx £10). Don’t worry costs aren’t increased.. this is how much it costs us!
Hmm… that is a very moot point (especially this year!) It’s supposed to be warm and sunny most days being June, but that’s not always the case. The Race organisers produce a schedule every year @iomtt or IOM TT races website (I’d be interested to know whether it actually ever went to plan!!). As I mentioned above the weather does not always play ball.
One year the races were cancelled and spectators were in uproar as the sun was blazing all around the course, unless you were sat at the Grandstand, as Mannanan’s cloak had enveloped the coastline producing a blanket of fog! Frustrating for organisers, racers and spectators alike. So the advice is to just go with the flow, things can change within minutes. And if you are considering camping, I’d check homestay options first…
Watching the Races
Riders take unimaginable risks to race around the famous TT circuit, but spectators do too with feet dangling over the hedges and walls around the course. You can choose to take up a spot almost anywhere around the course with the orange army (Marshalls) guiding you on where is safe.
There are some specific seating areas such as Grandstand, Nobles Park, Creg-ny baa etc.. but for most they bring a chair/blanket and camp out for the day waiting for that tap on the 1st riders shoulder.
This year, we walked the boys up to Windy Corner from Glen Roy which took 35 minutes up hill, 25 minutes downhill ;-)There are wide open spaces around the mountain circuit so kids don’t have to feel they are penned in just watching bikes all day.
I personally love the TT. I have worked in many bars, cafes and restaurants over the years and met so many lovely people. I’ve met people who have been coming for 20 years+ and some who are excited for their first TT. Whatever their reason, they love the buzz of the race and being so close to the most exciting race in the world.
There are obviously going to be a few who spoil things but that could be said for a Saturday night out! If ever I’m out driving and have space in the car I will also stop (especially if raining) to see if anyone needs a lift! Never been turned down once 🙂
The IOM Government have been good in the past to provide lots of entertainment and local councils have set up days out. They are spread out during TT week and include Port Erin Day (Monday), Peel Day (Mad Sunday), Ramsey Sprints (Tuesday) etc… But this year there was a definite lack in evening entertainment which draws crowds (both local and visitor) into Douglas town centre. They even forgot to book the red arrows!!!
I certainly miss the days when bikers would randomly do a burnout or donuts in front of Bushy’s beer tent. It’s all frowned upon nowadays and was replaced with lots of entertainment such as the jet bike, purple helmets, Monster Energy stunt shows.. but this year – nothing 🙁 Probably something to do with budget or left hand and right hand not talking to each other! Thankfully the Purple Helmets continue to entertain the TT crowd with their tom-foolery/stunt shows (see pic below).
Although, nothing beats being able to stroll around the Grandstand and paddock though, meeting the riders face to face. The kids love it… and it’s FREE! This y ear monster energy were based here with their fabulous stunt shows but only during the day.
So I suppose you’d think I loved motorbikes… nope! Not really interested at all. But ask me if I love the TT and it’s a different question altogether! Maybe one year you could come and enjoy the amazing atmosphere and see why most people can’t fail to love our little island!
If that’s not enough to keep you entertained then check out my other IOM blog posts Top 10 rainy day activities on the Isle of Man or My favourite days out on the Isle of Man (to follow shortly).
Happy TT week everyone 🙂
Feature photo courtesy of www.jcimages.co.uk