Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea 80 mi/130 km northwest of Liverpool, is a stark, rugged and fascinating land. It is not part of England (or the United Kingdom, for that matter). Instead, it's a crown dependency (and a tax haven for the rich), with its own postage stamps, laws, currency and parliament (more than 1,000 years old).
Most first-time visitors to England will probably not want to slow down long enough to appreciate Isle of Man's subtleties. About 30 mi/48 km long and 10 mi/16 km wide, the island has a shoreline of huge cliffs and a 2,000-ft/610-m mountain (Mount Snaefel) at its center. It is populated by farmers, fishermen and cats with no tails (manx).
The isle's capital, Douglas, makes a good base for exploration. Visitors will want to spend at least two nights absorbing the Gaelic atmosphere, visiting castles, watching birds (especially at The Chasms), scuba diving, golfing, trekking on ponies, sailing, fishing and hiking in the many lush glens.
There's an interesting narrow-gauge steam train that runs between Douglas and Port Erin. Inns and hotels are scattered throughout the island, which is accessible via air or ferry. In June, the island is packed with motorcycle fans, who congregate to watch the famous Tourist Trophy (TT) races.
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