An insiders guide for anyone planning to visit the Isle of Man TT races. Where to stay, eat and drink plus the best spots to watch the IOM
An insiders guide for anyone planning to visit the Isle of Man TT races. Where to stay, eat and drink plus the best spots to watch the IOM
Many come to see the Isle of Man TT races every year. Other motorsport fans coming from far away lands are here to tick off an item at the top of their bucket list.
A few others will arrive on the island and stay for the rest of their lives. Yes, this island will do that to you if you let it.
There really is nothing like the Isle of Man TT and once witnessed, most are hooked for life.
At speeds reaching over 200mph, it is 37.73 miles around the mountain course which starts in Douglas, the islands capital. Once out of Douglas the riders head off through the many Manx villages to Ramsey in the North of the island. From Ramsey it’s racing over the mountain and back to Douglas and the Grandstand.
There are 8 scheduled races with distances ranging from 3 to 6 laps and 1 Zero TT race which is 1 lap.
All on standard roads. Most of which are lined with traditional Manx stone walls, trees, kerbs, telephone poles, sign posts and spectators.
The reason I do it is because if you do it wrong, it will kill you. If you think it’s too dangerous then go home and cut your lawn and leave us to it – Guy Martin
The Isle of Man welcomes over 45,000 road racing fans over the course of the TT fortnight.
That’s a lot of bikers that need somewhere to stay, eat and drink. If you are planning a trip to the IOM TT I hope you will find some of the following helpful.
What's on this page
- 1 GETTING TO THE ISLAND
- 2 WHERE TO STAY
- 3 EATING AND DRINKING
- 4 FOOD
- 5 ISLE OF MAN TT VIEWING LOCATIONS
- 6 STAYING SAFE AT THE IOM TT
- 7 CRIME ON THE ISLAND
- 8 MANX POLICE
GETTING TO THE ISLAND
During the Isle of Man TT fortnight there are multiple daily sailings from the Liverpool and Heysham docks. Also regular sailings from Belfast and Dublin.
The Steam Packet Company try to get people to book for next years TT races when going home from the racing, it is possible to get a sailing at relatively short notice though.
Today as I’m writing this it’s Mad Sunday and I’ve just checked for availability for a sailing from England to the Isle of Man.
As you can see from the screenshot it’s offered me a sailing on Monday night with a return on Sunday night for a total of £260. That’s for 1 person and a motorcycle.
That is probably considerably more than you would pay had you booked at Christmas time. It does show though that despite what you may have heard, you can get to the IOM TT races at short notice.
Sailings on the Fast craft Manannan take approximately 2 hours 45 minutes from Liverpool or Belfast while the Ben-My-Chree from Heysham is around 3 hours 45 minutes.
Dublin on the Manannan is 3 hours and 4:45 on the Ben-My-Chree.
As a side note it looks very likely that the Steam Packet Company is to be purchased at some point this year by the Isle of Man Government. Hopefully there will be some changes made to the pricing to encourage visitors to the island for the various road racing events held on the island during the Summer months.
I’ve just checked for a return flight via Easy Jet to the island from Liverpool and was offered several options. Although today (mad Sunday) and tomorrow are sold out I could have secured a flight on Tuesday arriving at 2.30pm and returning on Sunday at 9.05am.
Total cost £178 including insurance and my own choice of seat.
I don’t think that’s bad considering we are actually in race week. Also, Easy Jet are well known for bumping the price up for late bookings. If this were booked at Christmas for TT2019 I would expect the price to be at least half that.
Flights take approximately 35 minutes from Liverpool, 45 minutes from Manchester and about an hour from London City. Other airlines are available including Aer Lingus from and to Ireland, Flybe and British Airways.
WHERE TO STAY
Like rocking horse shit during the IOM TT and probably about the same price. Most of the hotels in Douglas refuse to take bookings for the next years TT until after Senior race day.
This is to give this years guests first refusal on the following years rooms. Most will take them up on the offer.
Even the smaller, less well-known places outside of Douglas you would need to book well in advance.
I recommend you first put together a list of hotels in the order that you would like to stay at. Start telephoning them on the first Sunday AFTER Senior race day until you find one that has availability.
My favourite 3 hotels in Douglas are:
The Empress Hotel
On the central Prom and a brisk walk from the main shopping area and both beer tents but the benefit is that there is less external noise. A quality hotel and one I always check for availability when having a night out in Douglas.
Tel: 01624 661155
The Claremont Hotel
The only hotel on the island to have the 4 star gold standard award. A stones throw from the ferry terminal this is a popular hotel with the business community.
Tel: 01624 617068
The Sefton Hotel
My favourite hotel in Douglas. It is next to the Gaiety and Villa Marina complex so you are right in the middle of the TT attractions. The rooms are great, as is the breakfast.
Tel: 01624 645500
I currently pay around £90 for any of the above rooms with breakfast for two on a Saturday night. A stay during the Isle of Man TT is gonna hurt!
Some time ago the government introduced tax breaks for those opening their spare rooms to visitors coming to the Isle of Man TT or the Festival of Motorcycling held later in the year. The idea was to help cope with the influx of visitors for these events and it’s been a real success.
Around 850 locals are currently Government registered for Homestay. You can find everything from a single bed for a few nights to multi bedroom luxury houses complete with double garages ideal for the teams competing in the races.
Many people return to the same Manx home year after year and have become lifelong friends with their hosts.
You can find all the details on the official Homestay website here.
This is probably your best option if you are late to the party or trying to keep within a budget.
Several of the islands football clubs now double up as camp sites for both the IOM TT and The Festival of Motorcycling to help with the cost of running their club.
This means that the money they make goes towards new and better facilities rather than straight into someones back pocket. Something to consider when choosing your camp site.
Unlike the hotels I’ve recommended I haven’t actually stayed at either of these campsites. I chose them for their great locations and then I visited each during TT2018 to get some photos.
Set in the grounds of Douglas Rugby Club which is just past the Quaterbridge Pub and roundabout.
A very popular campsite, probably due to them offering pre-erected tents. Perfect if you ride a Triumph Bonneville Bobber or just travel light by choice.
You can of course just pay for a pitch and bring your own tent if you prefer.
Being a rugby club they have a fully licensed bar (obviously) with a large function room. I’ve been here a few times for private parties and the like.
All the money made during TT goes towards the cost of running the club. The team compete in the Cheshire league Union which isn’t going to be cheap.
As well as the bar and hot food served from morning to evening you will find 24 hour free to use showers.
There’s also free wi-fi and phone charger points and free hairdryers and straighteners for the women and hipsters.
For TT2019 a one to four man tent is £11 per head. The pre-erected tents are £70 per night based on 2 people sharing. You can book now for next years Isle of Man TT via their website here.
The Quarterbridge TT campsite is ideally located if you want to keep close to Douglas and its nightlife. A brisk 20 minute walk will see you reach the Quay or 30 minutes to the Hooded Ram beer tent.
The Quarterbridge pub is bouncing race days and the roundabout offers one of the best viewing spots on the course. You will also have a cracking view of the racing from the campsite as it runs along the course.
To find it from your ferry turn left onto Peel road after you disembark and leave the sea terminal. Go straight over the next roundabout and heading past all the bus shelters, just stay on Peel road. You will go through a couple of sets of traffic lights and past the McDonalds and Fire Station.
You will be able to see the Quarterbridge pub situated on the roundabout by then, it will be up ahead on your left. Go straight over the roundabout and you are now on the course. The camp site is on your immediate right with the entrance further down the road.
I visited on Tuesday morning of race week and there were plenty of people sat outside the clubhouse enjoying a breakfast as you can see from the above photo. Everyone seemed in good spirits and the place was spotlessly clean.
If I were coming to the Isle of Man TT with my tent then this would be the campsite I would want to pitch on.
St. Georges Campsite. Telephone 01624 627634
Situated on Glencrutchery Road just before you get to the start/finish line at the Grandstand, you can’t get much closer to the action than this.
Home to St Georges AFC so has all the facilities you would expect of a football club. These include shower and toilet blocks and a licensed clubhouse that also provides hot food.
St. Georges also provide free wi-fi and plenty of phone charging points for your convenience. They have secure parking for your motorcycle and their own private viewing area of a section of the final straight.
From the boat go left onto Peel road and stay on it until you get to the famous Quaterbridge roundabout.
Resisting the urge to get your first lap in, turn right. Congratulations, you are now on the TT course (just going the wrong way).
Stay on this road going through the traffic lights and then go up Bray hill. Go through the St. Ninian traffic lights and past the grandstand and paddocks. The campsite is immediately visible on your right hand side.
Alternatively, go straight on at the Quarterbridge and get your first lap in. As you come onto the finishing straight and can see the Grandstand and paddocks coming into into view you will see St Georges immediately on your left. If you get to the finish line you’ve gone to far, go round again.
As of TT2018 the price was £10 per head with your own tent.
If you plan on spending your time at the Grandstand then St. Georges is the ideal campsite for you.
EATING AND DRINKING
Assuming you are staying in Douglas the following should keep you occupied every evening after the racing has finished as well as on the rest days.
THE FAMOUS ISLE OF MAN TT BEER TENTS
For the first time in 2 decades TT2018 saw Bushy’s beer tent being replaced with one of its competitors, another local brewery fairly new to the scene called The Hooded Ram. They have a pub in Douglas, one in Wolverhampton and another in Birmingham.
The Douglas Council put the hire of the Bottleneck car park where the beer tent has always been situated to tender. Hooded Ram promptly outbid Bushy’s only then for the Government to hand the Villa Marina Gardens over to Bushy’s for the duration of the TT.
The bad news for the owner of the Hooded Ram is that he’s been well stitched up while the good news for the TT race visitors is that they now have 2 large venues on Douglas Promenade to spend their cash in.
The Hooded Ram TT festival is situated on the right hand car park as you come out of the Ferry terminal on the prom.
Carlsberg (sake) is £4 if you like your lager weak while Hooded Ram’s own prize winning craft beers are also £4 a pint and very nice it is too.
There are plenty of outdoor wooden picnic tables available within the fenced off area and various food outlets to keep you going. Within the large tent is a stage at one end that has live bands on throughout TT.
TT2018 included UK acts Scouting For Girls and Fun Lovin Criminals as well as local acts including the excellent Post War Stories and Pink Floyd tribute act Pigs on the Wing.
Bushy’s is now in the Villa Marina Gardens together with plenty of food outlets. It’s got a good sized stage with local rock bands playing every evening during TT2018.
Heron and Brearley, the largest brewery on the island have their beer tent up at the Grandstand. Live music from local bands is on the stage and they have plenty of outside seating to soak up the Sun and atmosphere.
There are also the usual food vans at the grandstand offering a variety of foods and the Carvery (shown below) does a nice roast pork bap.
Jaks on the prom is open until 3am during the IOM TT. Good selection of drinks, a steak restaurant upstairs as well as good pub food served in the main bar during the day. John McGuiness and some of the other TT racers are known to call in on occasion.
They have been open until 3:30am during TT2018 and seem to be doing well so I assume they will continue this for TT2019 and beyond.
If you fancy a change from the TT hot spots then the Quayside in Douglas is a favourite of the locals.
Pubs include The British (which does great pub lunches), The Saddle (a favourite of the late Joey Dunlop), The Hooded Ram bar, The Railway Inn and The Bridge.
All these are within a pleasant mostly pedestrianised 10 minute walk. There’s also several quality restaurants and a pizza outlet on the Quayside.
Finding the North Quay. From the sea terminal head towards the large car park on the left rather than going towards the prom. Once you are at the car park you will see the Yacht masts in the harbour which you want to keep on your left, don’t cross the bridge.
The Barbary Coast Bar and Grill is one of the first bars you will see when approaching the Quay and it offers good pub food as do many of the other pubs on the island.
For those wanting to keep out of the bars there are always plenty of burger vans scattered around.
Fresh sandwiches including a breakfast menu are sold at all the Mr. B’s outlets. You will also find a McDonalds on Peel road heading towards the Quaterbridge.
They describe the place as an Artisan sourdough bakery.
You can watch the staff baking the bread and making cakes and pastries. The sandwiches are filled with local Manx produce and the coffee is fantastic.
Come out of the left side of the sea terminal walking towards all the bus shelters. Once at the buses, cross the road and you should see it on the other side of a little green park on a small through road that leads to town.
If you are on your bike you can park it on the pavement opposite the buses.
Update: Noa’s now have a second house in the old Market Hall on the Quay side. For those of you that know Douglas it used to be Harry’s Cafe.
Strang Stores: For the best breakfast baps on the island follow the course to Union Mills and take the right turn just before the Spar shop. Follow it all the way up to the roundabout which you want to go straight over and you will find a small local shop immediately on your left.
It gets very busy but is well worth the effort. One of their Manx sausage and egg baps will keep you going all day and unlike some places, the prices don’t go up for TT.
ISLE OF MAN TT VIEWING LOCATIONS
Many of the viewing spots are only accessible via the TT course. This means that you need to get to it before roads close and you are stuck in the place until roads open again at the end of racing.
I don’t like that, I like to be able to move location should I want to. For example, I will often start at the Quarterbridge but once the first race finishes head to another spot.
I’m also not a fan of the really fast spots like Bray Hill and Cronk-Y-Voddy. I prefer seeing who’s on which bike instead of just a blur flashing by you.
So, with the above said here’s my own personal favourite TT viewing spots.
If your visit to the Isle of Man TT is to be your one and only visit then you need to book yourself a seat at the grandstand. Even if it’s just for 1 days racing.
You get a perfect view of the start and finish line as well as the pit lane action. Many a race is lost in the pits with a bad tyre change or speed penalty.
You also get to see the presentation on the podium after the race.
The TT village is behind the Grandstand so there’s plenty for you to do and see before the races start. Watching the crews prepping the bikes, browsing the merchandise stalls and there are plenty of options for food and drink.
At around £60 for the IOM TT (cheaper for the Classic TT and Grand Prix) it’s not cheap but racing lasts a full day. These tend to sell out so you will need to book in advance – especially for Senior race day. You can book online here.
If you want to push the boat out there are a couple of VIP options available. Mix with previous winners and team owners while enjoying your complimentary buffet and wine.
One of the iconic spots of the Isle of Man TT is the Quarterbridge. You can view from outside the pub or on the other side of the roundabout is a large grass banking.
You need to be in your spot early but you will be rewarded with some fantastic action. Watch them braking down the hill, throwing the bike into the right hander. They then scream off down the straight towards Braddan Bridge.
One of the busiest places to watch the racing. Probably because you are on the outside of the course so you aren’t stuck waiting for the roads to open.
It’s also convenient for getting back into town, a 25 minutes walk will see you down at the Hooded Ram beer tent.
Another of my favourite places is a seat in the Braddan Church grounds grandstand. Some great action shots to be had from here as the bikes come through the S-bend and head off towards Union Mills.
There are just over 600 seats available and a small fee is asked for at the gate which goes toward the upkeep of the church. Volunteers also put on some cracking refreshments for the spectators.
You are on the outside of the course so you can escape.
THE RAILWAY INN, UNION MILLS
This is my go to viewing point whenever I can’t make my mind up about where to go.
It has the 4 essentials:
- Good views of the racing
- Good food & drink
- An escape route
The Railway Inn has a raised beer garden with plenty of picnic style tables. You get a great view of the bikes coming into the village and taking the bend.
The landlord over staffs the place for TT so service is always efficient. On race days they do breakfasts from about 10am and the kitchen stays open until early evening. They often fire up the BBQ in the beer garden in the afternoons too.
Where the course takes the turn from West to North to take the racers onto the Glen Helen section.
You can either watch from the barrier put up at the end of Curragh road or pay a few quid for a seat on the embankment. Both are on the outside of the course.
You get a good view of the motorcycles coming down the straight before hard braking for the tight right hander and heading off towards Kirk Michael.
The Ballacraine is handy enough to get away from too. The Curragh Rd shown on the map takes you to Foxdale. Once at the village you can either carry on through to head South or turn left at the top of the village to head into Douglas.
Peel is also accessible by taking the first right as you go along Curragh rd. This will bring you out at the Tynwald Inn in St Johns.
There’s something surreal about watching a superbike going flat out between the garden walls of a village.
The Mitre is a good pub but like most of the others on the course, it will be very busy. Once you get there, you can’t get out again until the roads open. It’s not the best spot either with viewing from the car park limited, blink and you’ve missed them.
A good spot is the junction where the A4 Peel coast road meets the course (A3).
From here and if you are early enough you can get yourself a good spot to watch them coming into the village, taking the long right hand bend and head off through the village.
There’s also a small area at Whitehouse park further on into the village. They have seating for £10 on race days and free during practice week.
This is another very popular viewing place and with good reason. Get the right spot and you can watch the bikes come down the mountain and take the sweeping right hander. They then accelerate off down the straight towards Sign Post Corner and the last section.
There are 2 Grandstands which provide excellent views. For those not wanting to pay the 2 fields below the Creg Ny Baa are open to spectators. You will need to be early to get a spot on the grass banking though.
This photo is taken from the first field looking back towards the pub and one of the temporary grandstands. It was taken Senior race day 2018.
The Creg Ny Baa also has a beer tent set up in the car park providing drinks, hot meals and sandwiches. The first field also has a marquee selling hot foods and drinks. All this means that you aren’t waiting long for refreshments.
You can get to and from the Creg Ny Baa via the backroad. It is sign posted on your left as you come into Lonan heading from Douglas to Laxey.
For the last 5 years I have spent the Senior Race Day here.
And a few other honourary mentions….
You are stuck here if you watch from the Raven Hotel but not if you watch from behind the barrier on the outside. Very busy but worth the hassle at least once to see the bikes taking off from the bridge before screaming away through the village.
CURRAGH’S WILDLIFE PARK
The Quarry bends are my favourite part of the course to ride and if you get to the Wildlife park before roads close you can watch the bikes from the carpark entrance. If you have kids with you it’s ideal as you can fend off the boredom between races with breaks inside the park.
They have several play areas as well as plenty of animals to keep the kids happy.
There’s also a cafe inside and toilets etc. so probably worth buying a day pass even if you don’t have the kids with you.
THE GINGER HALL
Cracking atmosphere and the kitchen provides a decent menu throughout the TT. On the inside of the course so leave the bike at the campsite and share a taxi, it’s going to be a long day.
PARLIAMENT SQUARE, RAMSEY
Very popular with a great atmosphere. Plenty of places in Ramsey to get a bite to eat between races. Easy to get to and from via the coast road.
If it’s a warm day and you don’t mind being stuck here for the day, you get some great views of the bikes from the Gooseneck. There’s usually a burger van and some portaloos here too.
You get to see well over a mile of action from The Bungalow which is the longest stretch viewable. You can cross the course using the Bungalow bridge. The electric tram from Laxey stops on the outside of the course to drop off and pick up so you could leave your bike in the village and take it up.
The owners of a house that backs onto Signpost Corner open up their back garden to spectators. A voluntary donation to the Helicopter Rescue Fund is happily accepted.
There are plenty of other great viewing locations and all the locals have their particular favourites. If you are doing a Homestay ask your hosts which spots they prefer and you might uncover a gem of your own.
STAYING SAFE AT THE IOM TT
The Isle of Man TT can be an amazing experience but for a few visitors it will be a game changer. Those trying to emulate their TT hero’s face big fines, long bans or a stay in Nobles hospital and they are the lucky ones. The unlucky visitors will be going home in a body bag.
Keep calm and slow down. We’ve had one visitor die so far at TT2018 and the hospital is hosting several lucky to be alive bikers.
It is only a track once the roads are closed. For the rest of the time it is just normal roads used by commutors, builders vans, Mums dropping kids off etc.
Over the last couple of years the Manx Police have been using unmarked motorcycles and cars. Ride within yourself and they’ll leave you to it but start pushing it and you will be pulled up.
During 2017 several bikers heading to the Isle of Man TT were targeted in Liverpool by organised motorcycle thief’s while waiting to board the ferry.
- Don’t leave your bike unattended near the Liverpool docks if you can avoid it.
- If you are travelling with others, always leave someone with the bikes.
- When travelling here alone get something to eat at a service station before you reach Liverpool or wait until you are on the boat.
CRIME ON THE ISLAND
Like most small islands the Isle of Man benefits from a low crime rate. A pushbike being stolen makes the front page. When I’m out riding and stop for lunch or a coffee the keys stay in the ignition and the helmet is left hanging on the handlebars.
I was once asked by a visitor what I thought the difference was between the IOMTT and the later in the year Festival of Motorcycling. My response was that the TT has the vibe of a huge stag party with some racing thrown in as part of the entertainment while the Festival feels much more like a traditional motorcycle rally.
During the IOMTT there’s a lot of drinking involved which means people lower their guard. Where ever there are crowds and drinking the low life’s are sure to follow. Thankfully not many due to the expense of getting here and the strong judicial system but be aware that an opportunist toe rag is always on the look out for an easy target.
The Manx Police bring in extra bodies from the UK and a few from Germany to help so there are always plenty of officers around both on foot and on patrol.
The Isle of Man has a no tolerance policy to drugs (including weed). If you are caught with so much as a single joint you risk doing some jail time.
Obey instructions from the Marshalls at all times. This year we have a visitor serving 20 days for refusing to move when told to do so. When he gets out he will have missed TT2018. He will also be put on the boat with an exclusion order preventing him from returning for 5 years. He won’t be watching the Isle of Man TT in person any time soon.
Are you a frequent visitor to the Isle of Man TT and have some tips of your own? Please leave them in the comments below.
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Last updated 21st October 2019