It’s May, which in the world of bike racing means one thing. TT Time.
The legendary road race is high up on most bucket lists so if you have always wanted to visit; we’ve pulled together all the info you need!
What is the Isle of Man TT?
The Tourist Trophy is a 37.73-mile circuit which starts and ends in Douglas. The racing takes place on public roads which are open to all until an hour before practice or racing. Giving fans the opportunity to ride the same route as their heroes just hours before the racing begins. With a history spanning back 111 years, the Isle of Man TT has stood firm against ever increasing health and safety rules. Making it one of the most controversial bike races of all time.
Officials and spectators watch as Freddie Frith of Great Britain riding the #1 Norton 500cc motorcycle prepares for the start of the Isle of Man Senior TT Tourist Trophy motorcycle race on 18 June 1937 at Douglas
The small island attracts more than 45,000 visitors each year for this legendary race. Over a two week period motorcyclists and race fans can continuously be seen pouring off the ferries from both Ireland and England. Amongst the crowds, you will find all pockets of the world represented and one of the most magical elements of the TT are the stories each spectator or rider has to share.
Unlike traditional circuit racing, the paddock is open to all so you can walk around and see names such as BetVictor ambassador John McGuinness, preparing for the race and you can rub shoulders with the riders moments before they set out on ‘the road.’ What makes the TT unique is the inclusive feel, regardless of whether you are a regular member of the bike community or not, you will be captured by the raw emotion, the genuine danger, and the heart-stopping action. Here, there are no barriers to keep you off the track. You can perch in a hedge and feel the punch of air as the riders scream past you at speeds in excess of 170 mph. The current lap record is held my Micheal Dunlop and stands at 16 minutes 53.929 seconds. His average speed clocking in at 133.962 around the almost 40-mile circuit. You will share the incredible atmosphere with an amazingly diverse selection of riders and racers. Moped riders, Harley riders, Sportsbikes sitting alongside touring machines. There are no boundaries here. It is open to all.
When is the Isle of Man TT?
In 3 days time, on Saturday 26th May, the IOM TT officially starts. So we’re taking a look at how to get there, what to do, where to watch. The BetVictor Guide to the Isle of Man TT.
How to get to the Isle of Man TT?
By land or sea, there are only two ways to get to this legendary island. For those wanting to take a bike, you will need to book your tickets with Steam Packet pretty quickly. There is only one company that transport the public on and off the island, meaning the prices aren’t competitive and the places are limited. Last minute reservations are possible however you won’t find these on the website. Prices vary from £100 right up to £900 depending on the size of vehicle and number of passengers you are bringing.
Steam Packet will prepare your bikes for the crossing. Even in good weather, the Irish Sea can stir up quite a chop. You will be told on your booking confirmation to immobilise your alarms for the crossing, make sure you remember or your trip could start with a flat battery. If you are planning on bringing a caravan, there are significant restrictions on the IOM. You will need to have a permit, and although you will be allowed on the ferry without one, you won’t be allowed off the boat the other end.
For those traveling on foot, flying would be the best option. Most major (and some minor) airports have regular flights to the Isle of Man. It is more economical and efficient; however, the airport is located a short drive from Douglas, the heart of the TT. Make sure you have made arrangements as it can be pretty tricky getting a taxi during race fortnight.
Once on the island, nipping about is simple. Often locals will pull over and invite you to jump in their car. It is a hitchhikers paradise. There are regular buses, and a horse pulled tram which runs the length of the promenade in Douglas.
Where To Stay for the Isle of Man TT?
Camping is part of the TT experience and will offer you a true glimpse into the camaraderie of the motorcycling world. There are plenty of options on the Island and often some late availability. Choosing your site can be hard. We have highlighted a few of the best.
Best for Amenities: You can’t go wrong with Quarterbridge TT Campsite. Situated in Douglas, the riders come down from Bray Hill and round Quarterbridge along to Bradden. It is a fast section of the course and the viewing from the campsite is fantastic. However, you will be caught the wrong side of the circuit if you are viewing from here. This means you won’t be able to access the paddock and Nobles Park, the heart of the action until the roads reopen. The Campsite offers fabulous amenities including Showers, A restaurant, bar and more charging points than you could imagine.
Dog-Friendly: Believe it or not, your canine companion is welcome at this race. So if you are heading over with your pooch, Silly Moos in Ramsey will accommodate you. You will have close viewing of the circuit, charging points and plenty of entertainment. However, you will need to drive to Douglas if you want to be a part of the paddock buzz.
Best for Luxury: Right in the heart of Douglas you will find Hotel Bell Tent. This luxuriously comfortable camping accommodation, gives guests access to some fantastic facilities to enhance their stay, including a 25-meter swimming pool. You can choose between 5 different packages ranging from standard (airbeds) right up to VIP ( a beautifully dressed, majestic emperor tent, with a real bed, sumptuous bedding and plenty of special extras )
Residential B&B’s offer a more authentic stay. Here you occupy a room within a family home. This is great for those who prefer a little more comfort and don’t mind getting up close and personal with the locals. You will have a deeper insight to the IOM and can learn all the secrets from people who have lived and breathed this race for their whole life!
There are some stunning hotels on the Isle of Man, for those who require the finer things in life. You’ll have to book now to ensure a room in 2020 though. Some hotels are booked out two years ahead!
What are the Road rules on the Isle of Man?
On the Isle of Man road rules are slightly different. There is no national speed limit, so if you find yourself on an unrestricted road, then you can drive at a speed you are comfortable with. This isn’t too bad around the majority of the circuit, where you will come across speed limitations through residential areas. On the Mountain though, it is another story. Bikers head to this island from all over the world and many attempt to grasp a feel of the race on this famous stretch of tarmac. You should prepare yourself for bikers reaching speeds of 200 mph. Ensure you keep to your limits and THINK BIKE! if you are in a car.
Regulars to the IOM will know how often road closures happen due to an accident. They also understand this can compromise vital practice sessions and race days too. As such, the police are hot on anyone who is misbehaving or looks like a danger to themselves and others. You will see a lot of police around the island. Providing you are in control and respecting other road users, they will leave you to your fun.
Let’s Go Racing!
The event itself starts on Saturday the 26th May. For the first week, there are lots of practice sessions in the early evening. These are an excellent opportunity to find the ideal spot for spectating during the races. Practice week is also the best time to get a taster of the TT before it becomes too busy.
There are extensive road closures and safety checks across the entire 36-mile lap. Ensure you respect the marshals when they give you advice. These guys volunteer their time to keep the riders safe and keep you safe. They don’t make the rules, but they do need to ensure you abide by them to keep the IOM TT running. They are also the first on the scene if there is an accident. The role they play is invaluable, and the pressure they are under is immense.
Race week is insane. Prepare for more emotion than you imagined possible. If you aren’t a die-hard bike fan, prepare to become one. Very few people leave the island after their first visit without a new found passion for racing.
BetVictor ambassador, John McGuinness has said the best places to view are Gorse Lea, Glen Helen, and Blackfield. These are ‘sit in the hedge’ spots, and there is no doubt about it, the best way to watch the racing. Be prepared. The race days can be long if there are any major incidents you could get stuck in one spot for up to 8 hours.
John also points out The Cronk ny Voddy straight is excellent if you want to see riders airborne. You can watch from fields, or you can walk into the residential area and sit in a pub. Less preparation needed if you have a friendly barman to keep you fed and watered!
John’s best tip is to get up to the Mountain to watch. You need to ensure you take the right kit with you. If the weather is hot, you will need plenty of water and food. If the weather is terrible (and it often is) take wet weather gear. You can feel quite isolated on the mountain, but it is worth it. You can understand the feeling the riders get up here and tap into what it is that keeps them coming back year after year.
Spend at least one day in the paddock in Douglas then hit the town in the evening. There are loads of events going on here for your entertainment plus you are most likely to bump into some of the racing legends. Riders will make time to talk to you but respect their time especially if it is race day.
Where to Eat on Isle of Man?
You can’t go to the Isle of Man and not get stuck into a Kipper Bap. Peel is the best place for this.
Douglas is full of fabulous restaurants. The Quay is home to Little Fish Cafe. If they have Queenies on the menu, order nothing else.
Niabryl offers some great dining in stunning surroundings away from the madness of TT. You can fish here and cook your own mackerel on a BBQ on the beach. Or head up to one of the clifftop restaurants and enjoy the view.
Locals will send you to the Port Jack Chippy in Onchan. Situated just outside Douglas you may find a long queue, but it is definitely worth the wait!
Ultimate tips for the Isle of Man TT
Buy a radio and use it. There aren’t lots of tannoys around the circuit, and your radio will be an essential tool for knowing what is going on. Course closures can get pretty lonely in some spots! Having a radio will keep you entertained during the quiet moments and informed during the sessions.
You’ll need an escape route. When accidents happen, you can end up stuck until the roads reopen. So if you are driving/riding use Google maps to plan an exit road. You can leave your car and walk to your spot. Giving you the ability to choose when you go. There are lots of places around the island where you can pay to take your car in and then have it right behind you as you sit in a hedge. Great for rainy days!
While heading off with a picnic hamper full of beer might seem like a good idea in the morning, come midday when the sun is beating down you are going to start to dehydrate. Plenty of people do, and it is a real strain on the emergency services. Know your limits with alcohol. Pack plenty of water. Look after yourself.
No selfie sticks on track! Anything that extends over the road is a potential accident. Hitting your selfie stick at 200mph will result in a lot of damage and potentially death. Make sure your clothing is secure. Hats blowing onto the circuit are also a hazard. If something does fall onto the road, do NOT try and retrieve it yourself. There are marshals at very regular intervals. Alert one. Even if this means walking up the track a little to find one. There is also a ban on Drone flights for this year’s TT.
Our final piece of advice for the ultimate IOM TT experience is to make friends with the residents. They have all the best tips and they love sharing their beautiful island with TT visitors. Make sure you respect their home and appreciate that for them, this isn’t a holiday. Most are trying to work around the races. Where possible, support the family-run business too!
The IOM TT kicks off on Saturday May 26 and ends on June 8th.