Perhaps it is better known for its TT motorcycle races, when the whole island is suffused with the smell of burning rubber. But the Isle of Man has a rather more historic claim to fame: 600 years ago this week, the Tynwald was founded, which claims to be the oldest continuous parliament in the world, writes The Telegraph.
Far from being stuck in the past, this forward-thinking and hi-tech Crown Dependency of just 83,314 people punches far above its weight. Thirty-two years of continuous economic growth, virtually zero unemployment and 10 years of tech infrastructure investment continue to tempt IT workers and e-gaming companies to the British isle.
It was the combined offering of old-fashioned community values and tech sophistication that drew Tom Granger to the Isle of Man from Leicestershire five years ago. The entrepreneur runs a software company and lives with his wife Vicky and two daughters in Port Erin, a popular west coast fishing village with an attractive swathe of Victorian seafront villas.
“I had visited the island for the TT motor racing event over the years and, because of its good schools, I heard it was ideal for children,” says Tom. “We gave it a try for six months and loved it. The girls get to live a freer, safer life than they would on the mainland.”
Their four-bedroom Victorian townhouse near the beach cost £390,000; the average property price on the island was £265,000 last year. There are plenty of cottages with traditional Manx slate roofs plus a good choice of new-builds; the island’s recent Budget included innovative approaches to unlocking development sites for builders.
Those people working in the island’s hefty financial services sector, or who want to be close to the airport or King William’s College, the international baccalaureate school, gravitate towards the historic capital, says Tim Groves of estate agent Black Grace Cowley.
“Demand is strongest around Douglas, especially in the south, focused around Castletown, Port Soderick and Santon,” he says. “The buy-to-let market is also strong here, driven by gaming industry employees,” who include many of the island’s 4,000 South African residents. Gross yields are around five to six per cent.
You can spend £975,000 on a four-bedroom Georgian townhouse, but the lion’s share of market activity is between £250,000 to £450,000. “If you head west or north on the island your money goes 30 per cent further,” says Neil Taggart of Chrystals estate agency. Both Port Erin and Peel, which has the feel of a mini St Ives, are the west coast hotspots and offer more of a beach holiday feel.
There’s plenty of room in the north-west of the island for those buyers who want to land their own helicopter on a large, private turnkey property. Near Kirk Michael on the wild west coast, developer Dandara has a new six-bedroom home with a pool, spa and triple-height entrance hall for £5.9 million.
It’s more than just the real estate and picturesque locations that lure people to the isle: the attractive tax regime means the top rate is just 20 per cent and there is a cap of £125,000. There is also no stamp duty, inheritance tax or capital gains tax. “We are targeting 25- to 45-year-olds who are making their first million,” says Nick Preskey, who provides the government’s “concierge service” for high earners moving to the island. There are grants to fledgling businesses too through the government’s Enterprise Development Fund.
Preskey admits that the island needs 15,000 more people to attract better bars and restaurants. While heather-covered moors and dramatic hills create a bikers’ paradise (and produced the cycling “Manx Missile” Mark Cavendish, who is second on the all-time list of Tour de France stage wins), and long sandy beaches wrap around the 100-mile coastline, you’ll struggle to find much high-end shopping or dining.
MaryBeth and Ian Coll recently opened the Foraging Vintners wine bar next to Port Erin’s coastguard
Things are changing, though. The Isle of Man now has artisan gins and a sourdough bread shop, says MaryBeth Coll, a lawyer from Colorado who has recently opened the Foraging Vintners wine bar next to Port Erin’s coastguard with her Australian husband, Ian.
“The TT and tax were the reasons that brought us here – Ian was working on the rigs until the price of oil fell – so making rhubarb and elderflower wine here was our Plan B,” she says. “We just did our first pop-up bar at the TT and had a Glastonbury DJ here for a rave-style party under a pink sunset over our deck.”