At The Races / Isle of Man TT: Getting There, Beginner’s Guide
The Isle of Man TT ranks very high on most motorcyclists’ to-do list, but while getting there seems easy, the planning process can become a real logistical challenge.
Having visited the races this year (2022), I thought I would put together a How-To, more geared towards North American runners. I’m sure UK and EU runners will add helpful tips in the comments.
First: When do you want to leave?
It’s not something that can (usually) be planned weeks or even months before the race. The TT is a very popular destination and the biggest problem may just be getting there. Ferry space is limited.
To give you an example, I started the booking process 14 months, over a year before my trip—and booked one of the last available tickets for the dates I wanted.
Initially, I contacted a few campsites to see if they had space. They all did, but they all asked the same question: “Have you booked your ferry ticket?” »
“Do it first, then we can talk about your camping reservation!”
This is where you need to make your first decision.
When do you plan to go and leave?
Check the IOM TT website for the race program. Practices and races usually last 10-12 days, and there may also be a few non-race days. Use all of this information to determine when you need to go, to see what you want to see.
Where do you catch a ferry from to the Isle of Man? (and the follow-up question, are you going with or without a motorbike?)
I chose Heysham and for 2022 the return price was £115. I went there as a foot passenger. Didn’t go because race regulars told me that as it was my first time there I could see a lot in a week on foot or by taking the buses locals to get to the best running sites. Of course, this also helped keep the price low. The obvious downside is that I couldn’t get around the IoM TT circuit.
Why did I choose Heysham Port as my port of choice?
Again, this was advice from friends who had attended several times. Heysham Port station is at the ferry port, get off the train, walk less than 100 yards and get on the ferry.
It reduced the logistics of getting to port with hundreds more trying to do the same. No need to jump in a traffic jam if you don’t have to!
Trains in England are (for the most part) reliable and punctual, but obviously, like any journey, arrive around an hour early just in case of delays. An easy way to book trains in England is to use the TrainLine app. It’s quick and easy ; you can pay from your phone, and the tickets are also on your phone. Most UK airports are also on the rail network, so you have minimal logistics to sort out when you step off the plane.
Where to stay on the IoM?
There are plenty of choices if you book far enough in advance: camping, glamping, hotels, B’n’B’s, airbnbs, homestays etc. it all depends on your personal budget and where you want to be on the tour.
What did I choose and why?
I chose glamping with a company called InTentsGP located at the Douglas Rugby Club just a 1 mile walk from the ferry or a short bus ride.
I chose this option because it made my life easier and saved me from lugging a lot of gear around the island. It included all bedding, electricity, towels, lights, showers, toilets and free wi-fi. It was located directly on the Douglas Rugby Ground circuit, where there is breakfast, lunch and dinner (for a fee). There is also a licensed bar open all day and night.
The actual location is just past Mile 1 at the corner of QuarterBridge. You’ll be surprised how close you can get to the action; there are more than areas where runners are only a few feet away when they pass you.
Were there any downsides to this choice?
Yes, but the problem was minimal and I was notified in advance. The Rugby Club is on the on the inside the circuit.
Once the race is ready to start, approximately 30 to 45 minutes before the first bike leaves the start and finish line, the circuit is closed to all traffic, pedestrians and vehicles, without exception. This means you have to get where you want before it happens. Take this into account when you leave so as not to miss your ferry, because the ferry is outside the circuit!
When I arrived, even though the rugby ground was only one street wide, I had to wait about two hours for the race to finish before I could cross the road (circuit) to my tent.
If you plan to bring your own tent, the 2022 race was one of the busiest for crowds, organizers said, but there was no shortage of camping spaces.
If there is no race you can still go there and people watch!!!
The 2022 races have been an incredible experience for me. Once you’ve been to the TT, you’ll understand why people go there again and again, year after year.