5 Isle of Man Festivals

From the adrenaline-pumped to the outright weird, discover the festivals of the Isle of Man.

Culture & History, Europe

Ancient Celtic versions of Halloween, the oldest continuous Parliament in the World, Viking Longboats and Tin Baths, there is a lot to celebrate on the Isle of Man, including a certain motorbike race. Here is our select list of five Isle of Man festivals.

Isle of Man TT – 27 May to 8 June

Let’s start with the Isle of Man festival most of you probably already know. The Isle of Man TT (or Tourist Trophy) starts on the Spring Bank holiday each year at the end of May. Motorbike riders from around the world descend upon the Isle of Man to take on the 37-mile track over the Snaefell Mountain Course, reaching speeds in excess of 200 mph. The origins of the Isle of Man TT date back to 1904 when Julian Orde, Secretary of the Automobile Car Club of Britain and Ireland, approached the island’s Tynwald Parliament to enquire whether he could race cars on the Isle of Man. At the time there was a speed limit of 20mph in the UK. The first race was called the Gordon Bennett Eliminating Trial. Motorbikes were introduced a year later. There still is no national speed limit for vehicles on the Isle of Man, except where stated in urban areas.

Tynwald Day – 5 July

Tynwald Day
Tynwald Day

Tynwald is the Parliament of the Isle of Man. On 5 July, the island’s Parliamentarians go to the Royal Chapel in St John’s for a religious service, before walking in a procession to Tynwald Hill. The ceremony is presided over by The Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man, who reports back to King Charles III. Full of pomp and ceremony, as well as disquietingly bagpipes, the Tynwald Day tradition hails back some 1,000 years or so when the Vikings occupied the Isle of Man. Not only is the Tynwald the longest unbroken national Parliament in the world, but it was also the first to give women the vote – in 1881, more than a quarter of a decade before the UK. Learn more about Tynwald Day.

World Championship Viking Longboat Races – 20 July

Staying with the Isle of Man’s Norse heritage, the World Championship Viking Longboat Races is held each July in Peel harbour. Crews take it in turn to row 400 metres around the course – like a more sedate waterborne TT – with hundreds competing. Each boat holds ten people, so if you can find nine other hearty souls who fancy ploughing through the waters with 3.3-metre-long oars, then you can find out more details here. Alternatively, you can always pop down to Peel and enjoy the event over a pint of Isle of Man beer. The first races were held in 1963 to provide people with a hand’s on view of what Viking culture was really like. The following day (21 July) is set aside as a reserve day should Njord decide to cut up rough.

World Tin Bath Championships, Castletown – 7 September

Perhaps less strenuous but undeniably more bizarre is the World Tin Bath Championships which are held in the former capital of Castletown in September. The year 2024 will see the 53rd staging of this annual event organised by the Castletown Ale Drinkers with proceeds going to charity. Competitors old and young alike take part in the ‘race’ that has only one rule from what I can make out – your boat must not be seaworthy. For more information, visit the official Facebook page.

Hop tu Naa Festival, Cregneash – 31 October
Hop Tu Naa Isle of Man Festivals
Hop tu Naa Festival, Isle of Man

Hop tu Naa is the Isle of Man’s very own Halloween celebrations. Children visit houses, sing songs and dance for which they are occasionally given money. Believed to be the oldest festival in Manx culture, Hop tu Naa marks the onset of winter and is thought to stem from the same Celtic tradition as its more famous distant American cousin. However, on the Isle of Man it is the turnip or ‘moot’, that is carved to create lanterns not the pumpkin, so I wouldn’t set up a pumpkin farm here. Although the official day falls on 31 October, just like Halloween, there is a festival in Cregneash, the National Folk Museum, on 27 October. Discover more about Hop tu Naa.

More Isle of Man Festivals

These are just a sample of the many festivals on the Isle of Man. To discover more, visit the Festival page on the Visit Isle of Man website.

Images of these Isle of Man festivals provided by Visit Isle of Man. 

Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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