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Old 05-15-2015, 03:27 PM   #1
civ OP
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Laugh The Isle of Man - TT Week

The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea

It is a self-governing British Crown dependency. There are several races held on public roads during the year on various courses, the most famous being the TT, held at the start of June.

If you've not heard of the TT races yet, go and watch this - - and then come back!

The TT course

This is the TT course marked out on a map of the island, which should make some of the locations mentioned below make sense.

The TT is held entirely on what are normally public roads - through town and villages and over a mountain, with little to no "run off" areas to speak of. The top riders can complete a lap at *average* speeds of more than 130mph (209km/h).

Bike loaded up and ready for an early start to catch the ferry in Liverpool

If you're after photos of the racing itself, there are others who have done it much better than I would (my pictures are all taken on my phone and racing bikes are fast! In fact, looking back over these photos, the only ones I seemed to capture were sidecars!). This should hopefully give more an idea of the experience of enjoying being on the island for two weeks, which was a great trip in it's own right, even aside from the racing.

Stopping for breakfast at a motorway services

I brought along a waterproof over-suit belonging to a friend. We all wore them because the weather forecast was "heavy rain". We didn't see a drop.

Checking in for the ferry in Liverpool

There were a few other bikes waiting for the ferry

The Manannan

One of two ferries running to the Isle of Man by the Steam Packet company, the oldest continuously operating passenger shipping company in the world.

My VFR tied down on the ferry

We went upstairs to watch all the later arrivals boarding

Ferry tickets sell out every year a long time in advance. We had to book nearly a year ahead of our sailing and still did not get the sailing times that we wanted.

Goodbye, Liverpool!

Arriving at the other end, there wasn't much breathing room between vehicles!

Going for an explore on foot

After arriving, we went straight to our "homestay" accommodation in Douglas, close to Governors Bridge and right on the TT course.

Homestay is a scheme operated by the Isle of Man government allowing local residents to open up their homes for B&B accommodation during TT week. We were made to feel incredibly welcome!

Every important landmark/corner on the course is marked with these signs

The famous grandstand

The scoreboard

The scoreboard is still manually operated by local scout groups during racing.

Sidecar practice session about to start

With roads closed for the evening, a sidecar practice session was due to begin. Grandstand seating is free during the first few days of practice week.

Rain rain go away

Unfortunately the session was ended before it could begin due to rain around the island. One lap of the course is 37.73 miles (60.72 km), and weather conditions can change drastically for the worse from one part of the course to the next.

To give an idea of scale...

Here is an image (not mine) showing the scale of the course compared to other racetracks.


The next day, with roads open as normal, we attempted to do a lap of the course on our own bikes. Several sections have unrestricted speed limits and the mountain section is made one-way AND unrestricted speed for the entire two weeks of the event. The police have a heavy presence looking out for dangerous riding, though.

This is great fun, but means you do have to share the road with people who think they are competing in the races, and forget that they are still riding on a public road! There were many accidents, and due to the potential speeds involved, the police often opt to close the entire road for safety until the accident has been investigated and cleared away.

In this case, we had to stop our lap in Ramsey as the mountain section was closed due to an accident. As the event went on and the roads got busier and busier, it ended up seeming like it was closed more than it was open :(

Road back open

After a cup of tea and wander around Ramsey, the mountain section of the course was re-opened (until the next accident) and we could complete our lap.

Back at the grandstand

The pit lane is opened up for pubic bike parking when racing is not in progress.

Open paddock

The paddock is completely open to the public to wander around at all times, to see the bikes and the top racers working on them.

Out for another ride, stopped to admire the view over Douglas Bay

A visit to Groudle Glen Railway

A pleasant steam train ride along the coast

To "Sea Lion Rocks"

Formerly a zoo, and now a tea room!

A walk along the cliffs

The zoo which was here used to house Sea Lions and Polar Bears.

Our transport

Sea Lion Rocks

First opened in 1896 to serve the now long-gone zoo, closed at the outbreak of WW2. The railway was re-opened in 1992.

Out for another lap of the course, we stopped at Hillberry Corner

We returned later that week to watch the racing from here (see after pictures of the castle!). Check out the number plates on those bikes just pulling away!

Looking back up the road from Hillberry

During the racing, you get an incredible view of the bikes coming down the hill and in to the corner (see after pictures of the castle!)

A ride down to Castletown, in the South of the island

Castletown racing

Before the TT properly starts, the "Pre TT Classic" race takes place on another road based circuit in the south of the island. We watched from Castletown Corner. I did my best to show just how close the riders get, but they were too quick for my phone's camera. Also pictured: A cup of tea.

Part of the course is a bridge that goes over this

How many racetracks have the odd puff of smoke from a steam train drift across them?

Back on the TT course

Waiting for racing to start at The Gooseneck, another great place to watch from. It goes eerily quiet when the roads close and you're waiting for racing to start.

Other than the paid grandstands, which you're under no obligation to use, it's completely free to sit or stand anywhere at the side of the road around the course. (except for a few areas which are restricted for safety reasons)

Peel Castle

Racing aside, there is so much to do on the island. While out riding, we ended up in Peel Harbour and spotted the castle.

Parked up in the harbour

Bet this bike has a few stories to tell!

Views from the castle

A little hold up on the way home

Back at Hillberry Corner

Although you can watch from most places around the course for free and don't have to sit in any official grandstands, we chose to try it out and the view was excellent. 5 to watch from here for the evening.

Waiting for roads to re-open at Hillberry

Out for a different kind of ride, this time on the Manx Electric Railway

The electric tram can take you up to the mountain section of the TT course

The tram tracks actually cross the road here. During racing, the tram stops just short of the track and there is a footbridge to get to the other side.

When we arrived, there was no racing taking place, but the road had been closed due to another wannabe racer having a crash and an ambulance having to attend.

The tram then continues to the summit of the mountain...

... where we couldn't see much due to the low cloud

Tram crossing the TT course

The mountain section has an unrestricted speed limit

But cones are placed in certain sections to slow riders and drivers down where necessary - such as at the tram crossing!

Each one of these cones needs to be collected before racing starts and put out again afterwards before the road can re-open to the public

At the top of the mountain

Memorial to Joey Dunlop

Joey Dunlop won a record 26 times at the TT. His brother also had 14 podiums, and his nephews William and Michael race now. During the week we were there, Michael won 4 of the races. Quite an extraordinary family!

I'd highly recommend the film "Road" if you're interested in learning more about the Dunlop family

Webcam image

An image from the Isle of Man government's webcams of me taking this screenshot on my phone!

And another webcam image of myself.

Back at the bottom of the mountain

At Laxey station

Isle of Man Steam Railway

We had purchased tickets that allowed us unlimited travel for the day on the Electric Railway, Mountain Tram, Steam Railway and the Horse Tram, so of course had to try them all!

Horse drawn tram along the seafront

The horse tram is unique in the northern hemisphere - the only other similar service being in Victor Harbour, South Australia. It has been operating since 1876.

Former site of Summerland

Summerland was opened on 25 May 1971, designed to accommodate up to 10,000 tourists and comprised a dance area, five floors of holiday games, restaurants and public bars.

On the night of 2 August 1973 a fire, caused by boys who were smoking in a small, disused kiosk adjacent to the centre's miniature golf course, spread through Summerland. Fifty people were killed and eighty seriously injured.

There was no attempt to evacuate the 3,000 people present until the visible evidence of the flames prompted a panic-stricken mass rush for the exits, where many people were crushed and trampled. Because of the locked fire doors, many people headed to the main entrance, which caused a crush.

The fire services were not called for almost thirty minutes, and even then the call did not originate from the centre. Instead the emergency call came via the captain of a ship located 2 miles (3.2 km) out at sea who radioed HM Coastguard and said "It looks as if the whole of the Isle of Man is on fire".

Bikes parked up in Douglas

This seemed to be what the side of every road on the island looked like!

We visited the Manx Museum

Despite the unimpressed look on my brother's face here, we had a genuinely interesting few hours learning about the history of the island.

Needless to say, there were bikes

And dressing up

Riding through Ramsey

Just as the schools were coming out. Needless to say there was much waving and revving of engines!

The Laxey Wheel

The Laxey Wheel (also known as Lady Isabella) is a large waterwheel built in the village of Laxey. 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 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 as an inverted syphon. 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.

The mine employed over 600 miners at its peak producing lead, copper, silver and zinc until it closed in 1929. Now mostly flooded, there is a short section you can explore.

It's hard to show in pictures just how many bikes there were parked everywhere you looked!

Taking in the atmosphere at the Creg Ny Baa pub

As with all the other cones etc on the course, all of this has to be cleared away before racing and put back before it can be re-opened as a public road.

They *really* like their trains and trams on the Isle of Man

Everything everywhere revolves around bikes during the two weeks of the TT

This was outside a cafe, and far from an unusual sight!

Mountain Road Closed

There are signs around the island to show the status of the mountain road, as it is a main route between the two biggest towns (when it's not a racetrack!). This time at least it was closed for racing and not because of somebody crashing! It also provided a convenient place to park my bike.


The marshals were happy for us to sit here, as long as we didn't lean out too far!

Not my video, but this shows the speeds around this part of the course, and how close the bikes get to you!

Walking around the paddock again

These are William Dunlop and Guy Martin's bikes

Connor Cummins

John McGuinness

And after meeting the riders...

... back out on the course to see them race!

Honestly, a pleasant day out on it's own. The bike racing is just the cherry on top!

And the perfect place for a nap between races

After the race, a trip down to the beach

And what trip to the beach is complete without some local ice cream

Spotted on the back of a van

A visit to Port St Mary for the vintage fair

A visit to The Sound, looking over the Calf of Man

And I'm starting to think that everywhere on this island looks like a scene from a postcard

And then on to nearby Port Erin for a trip to the railway museum

To learn about the trains we'd travelled on a few days beforehand

My inner child pretending to be a train driver

A visit to Onchan Raceway to watch the White Helmets, the Royal Signals motorbike display team

They were also joined by the Purple Helmets who... have to be seen to be believed. (not my video)

Back in the pit lane

The guys in front of us are filming that evening's TV coverage!

Sidecar in the paddock

This sidecar ( was sponsored by Safe Response, who among other activities, supply equipment to Blood Bike charities. I volunteer for this one (Freewheelers), who had won a competition to have their logo put on the sidecar for this racing season.

My bike parked next to the podium in pit lane

And under the grandstand

Braddan Bridge

Waiting for roads to close and racing to start. Fantastic vantage point.

Marshals around the course need to make sure the track is clear before racing can start. There are over 500 of them around the course, all volunteers.

Back to Onchan Raceway

We'd seen a "Van Demolition Derby" event advertised. How could we refuse?

Red Arrows

The Red Arrows put on a display over Ramsey

Swing bridge in Ramsey

C90 power at the Ramsey Sprint

The Ramsey Sprint is a drag sprint event over an 1/8th mile strip. Anyone can compete, as long as they are willing to pay the entry fee. Motorcycles from all over the world enter, most already over as part of the TT Festival. Some bikes have special modifications, which keeps things interesting.

TT Teas

Many church/village halls open up serving cakes/snacks and tea during the TT.

You havn't TT-d until you've TT Tea-d

Point of Ayre lighthouse

The oldest lighthouse on the Isle of Man

Getting a better vantage point for some photos

Port Jack Glen, Douglas

A rather pleasant walk back to our accommodation from the chip shop!

Looks like a traffic jam...

... but actually parked cars and bikes along the access road to Brandywell Corner before the race starts!

An essential tool for a trip to the TT

Manx Radio provides live commentary over AM radio, so it's an important thing to have to hear updates on the race, information about road closures etc

Having a nap between races

Fog closing in

Racing was eventually called off for the day as the visibility in this part of the course had reduced so much

The aviation museum at the airport

A wet evening on Douglas seafront

Every shop seemed to have a bike in the window

Jurby Transport Museum

Good advice

My inner child pretending to be a bus driver

Another church hall doing great cooked breakfasts!

A man trying to get a better view of the racing, who trusts his side stand more than me

What? Doesn't every racetrack have a humpback bridge?

Beach at the Northern tip of the island

I was told it was a bit chilly

Queuing up for the ferry home :(

Homeward bound

There are two ferries operating and by the time ours left, the other was already loading up with others departing

There were a lot of other bikes going home

Until next time!

I really can't say enough about how friendly and welcoming everyone we met was. Our hosts were even kind enough to make up packed lunches for us for our ride back home!

This trip was last year, and with the event coming up again at the end of this month, I'll be very jealous of anybody who is going this year. I'm looking forward to a return trip already.
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Old 05-17-2015, 12:15 PM   #2
Joined: Nov 2007
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Beautiful pictures and well narrated. Making it out the TT is definitely on my bucket list.
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Old 05-17-2015, 01:40 PM   #3
Gaston Gagne
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Wow. Very nice report. Thanks for posting that.
Cela est comment nous roulons.
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Old 05-18-2015, 12:43 PM   #4
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Well done that man; very interesting and entertaining.
Thanks for sharing.
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Old 05-18-2015, 05:40 PM   #5
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Bucket list for sure...

Well done
"Avoidance of danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."
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Old 05-18-2015, 10:00 PM   #6
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Great report, the TT is definitely on my bucket list in the next 5 years.
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:07 AM   #7
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Thumb Going Going Going

Great set of photos and comments including locations which are usually left off. Will be there 29 May through 14 June - staying in Peel. Looking so forward to this Bucket list item. Cloud . . .
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:28 AM   #8
High Country Herb
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I'm shipping out in just a couple of weeks for my first TT. That was a great ride report, and has me chomping at the bit to go now.

Thanks for tip about the radio. We bring one to Laguna Seca every year, but it hadn't occurred to me that it might be good to have one there as well.

Is it broadcast on AM radio? Does the signal reach everwhere on the course?
2009 Aprilia Dorsoduro 750 (adventurized):
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Old 05-19-2015, 07:49 AM   #9
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Nice pics and narrative. Everybody needs to get to the TT at least once.

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Old 05-19-2015, 07:54 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by High Country Herb View Post
I'm shipping out in just a couple of weeks for my first TT. That was a great ride report, and has me chomping at the bit to go now.

Thanks for tip about the radio. We bring one to Laguna Seca every year, but it hadn't occurred to me that it might be good to have one there as well.

Is it broadcast on AM radio? Does the signal reach everwhere on the course?
Pretty much. There's fm as well but it doesn't have the coverage. I took something like this:,d.cGU

Definitely don't miss the live radio. You get to hear classics like Michael Dunlop "I know the boys think I'm a bit of a cunt..."
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Old 05-19-2015, 09:20 AM   #11
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Nice report!
Ride Safe, Richard 14 F700GS IBA #59670, MOA #114372 ( My Wyoming has an East infection )
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Old 05-19-2015, 10:06 AM   #12
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Thanks for you report. It really is something to try to get to see.

Some people may not know of the MGP, it may be more convenient time to get away. It is another race meeting/party, now called the Festival of Motorcycling (MGP or Manx Grand Prix) happening over our August Bank Holiday, early September.
Originally for amateurs and the stepping stone to fame and glory, modern riders are just as serious and try just as hard.
As with the TT, lots of alternative activities and attractions.
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