If you're like me, your bucket list is a never-ending scroll of countries and cities. If you're not like me, you probably still have a list of places you want to see and experience. Either way, I highly recommend adding the Isle of Man to your list. Or at least to your itinerary if you're planning a trip to the United Kingdom.
If you haven't heard of the Isle of Man, don't worry. You are far from alone. I discovered the island by accident while exploring the UK on Google Maps.
The Isle of Man is a small island in the Irish Sea between Ireland and the United Kingdom. It is one of the seven kingdoms: Man, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, Heaven, and Earth. However, it is not part of the United Kingdom but rather a crown dependency. This is a kind of complicated arrangement but basically, the island belongs to the Queen (she is known as the Lord of Mann) but not the United Kingdom as the political state.
It's a darling country of fewer than 89,000 people, three of which grew up to be the Bee Gees. There are no cities on the Isle of Man and its biggest town, Douglas, has the population of about 28,000. So far it sounds almost as if I am recommending an expensive and long trip to Tobaccoville, North Carolina. If you're paying for a plane ticket to Europe, you probably want to see big cities and ancient architecture. This is great and dandy and something I would also highly recommend. But cities can get exhausting. It's good to head to the countryside for rest and fresh air and to get a more holistic view of the area.
So why specifically the Isle of Man? The best way I can think to describe the country is that someone took the stat of North Carolina, removed the cities, the pick-up trucks, and about 11 million people, and compressed it into an island. Tree and pasture covered mountains (technically hills because they do not meet height standards) and a sparkling sea can be seen in one magnificent view from almost anywhere on the island. And while there are few to no pick-up trucks, I saw a few blue tractors and signs warning of farm traffic. It was like a home far, far away from home.
The beaches, from what I saw, were flat, sandy, and friendly to dogs off leashes. Sidewalks wind along the coast so you can enjoy the view without getting your shoes sandy. Piers jut out into the sea. Lighthouses sprinkle the island. If you go to the right places at the right times of the year, you can spot whales, seals, and puffins.
The hills, covered in trees and pastures, are mosaics of greens. It is as if a Cezanne painting came to life. The island has one mountain according to international standards and from its peak, one can see all seven kingdoms.
Because of its relative isolation and its minuscule population and quaint way of life, the night sky over the Isle of Man is littered with more stars than Abraham would ever want to count. The island easily cracks through the top of my list of places with the best star gazing (rivaled only by the Outer Banks, North Carolina and the Everglades in Florida).
And if that is not enough to convince you to visit the Isle of man, let me tell you about their flag. The Manx flag consists of three legs bent at the knee connected at the center to make a pinwheel-like shape on top of a plain red background. How do you not travel to a place like that?