The nine Isle of Man TT courses

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If you are one of the 45,000 very excited motorcycle racing fans visiting the Isle of Man’s famous 37 ¾ mile TT mountain course this year you will know that, after an unbearable COVID-19 related hiatus, motorcycles are once more racing around the TT course in earnest.

Last Sunday’s date of the first closed road lap since the Senior Manx GP race in August 2019 is quite significant as the very first TT race was held almost exactly 115 years earlier on the 28th May 1907 when two motorcycle races were run on the 15.85 mile horse and cart track that ran between the Manx fields. The circuit known as the St John’s Course ran two events, one race for single-cylinder machines and the other for twin-cylinder machines.

The 25 entrants started the race in pairs and finished with the single cylinder-class being won by Charles Collier riding a Matchless. He covered the course in 4 hours, 8 minutes, and 8 seconds at an average race speed of 38.21 mph which was remarkable considering the state of what could only loosely be described as roads.

The twin cylinder class was won by Rem Fowler riding a Peugeot – Norton motorcycle finishing in 4 hours, 21 minutes 53 seconds at an average speed of 36.21mph.

Both machines were equipped with silencers, pedals, and mudguards and both recorded top speeds between 75 and 90mph. The fastest lap was set by Harry Bowen on a twin cylinder BAT machine at 53.15mph.

By comparison, today’s lap record, obtained by Peter Hickman in 2018, is 135.452 mph.

Few fans however will be aware that today’s TT course is not actually the only road racing circuit on the Island, and another half dozen routes were used for the famous race over the years.

Some of these six tracks still survive today so when there is no racing and you fancy following in the tyre tracks of some of the early TT riders around some of these now forgotten circuits that they travelled then follow the directions below.


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Above: The Highroads Course map. Credit: Harrias - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


The Highroads Course

The 52.15-mile Highroads Course was created as a street circuit for the Gordon Bennett Trophy with cars starting from Quarter Bridge in Douglas. Competitors were sent along the A5 from Douglas to Castletown then via the A3 to Peel and on to Ballaugh Bridge. From there it took the A10 Jurby coast road to the Ballaugh Cronk and then the A13 Jurby Road to Ramsey via the A9 Bowring Road known as the Sandygate loop.

Drivers then took the A2 Albert Road in Ramsey to the A18 Mountain Road (using a private road) via Brandywell to the junction with the A21 and on to the C10 Scholag Road at Cronk-ny-Mona in Douglas and then the A21 Johnny Waterson Lane, then onto the A22 Ballanard Road, A2 Bray Hill and the finish back at Quarter Bridge.

There was so much interest in motor cycling at the event the organisers decided to run a trial for motorcycles with a team to represent Great Britain in the International Motor-Cycle Cup Races.

In 1905 however the inability of the motorcycle competitors to climb the steep A18 Snaefell Mountain section of the course forced the organisers to use a shorter 25-mile, 2 furlongs and sixty yards section of the Gordon Bennett Trial course known as the Short Highroads Course.


Short Highroads Course

This took a route on the A5 from Douglas to Castletown on the Port Erin Road and from Castletown to Ballacraine on the A3 Castletown to Ramsey Road. The riders then returned to the start at Quarterbridge in Douglas via Crosby and Glen Vine along the current Snaefell Mountain Course in the reverse direction using the A1 Douglas to Peel road.

The 1906 International Cup for Motor Cycles was held in Austria. The Secretary of the Auto-Cycle Club, Freddie Straight, Charlie Collier and Harry Collier of Matchless Motor Cycles and the Marquis de Mouzilly St. Mars together suggested a race the following year for road touring motorcycles based on the car races held in the Isle of Man on closed public roads.

For the 1906 Tourist Trophy Race the Highroad course was amended to a distance of 40.38 miles to prevent disruption to railway services. The start was moved from Quarterbridge to the road junction of the A2 Quarterbridge Road/Alexander Drive adjacent to the property called 'Woodlands' in the town of Douglas. Again, the course was based on a number of public roads closed for racing:

A new race was proposed in 1907 by the Editor of ‘The Motor Cycle’ magazine at the annual dinner of the Auto-Cycle Club held in London.

It was proposed that the races would be run in two classes, with single-cylinder machines to average 90 mpg and twin-cylinder machines to average 75 mpg fuel consumption.


St Johns Short Course

By 1907 Isle of Man motorcycle Tourist Trophy Race as it became known used a shorter course again. Known as the St. John's Short Course it measured 15 miles, 1,470 yards long and was used until 1910

The races were run in a time-trial format on public roads closed for racing by an Act of Tynwald (the parliament of the Isle of Man) around a circuit starting from the village of St John's, proceeding through Ballacraine, Kirk Michael, Peel and back to St John's

The first motorcycle race was held on 28 May 1907 over 10 laps of the Short Course of 15 miles 1,470 yards and was for road-legal touring motorcycles with exhaust silencers, saddles, pedals and mudguards.


Four Inch Course

For the 1908 Tourist Trophy race for automobiles, the course was again reduced for cars to 37.5 miles (60.4 km) with the removal of the Peel and Sandygate loops from the short Highroads course. This was known as the Four Inch Course and it derived from the regulations for the 1908 Tourist Trophy adopted by the Royal Automobile Club which limited the engines of the competing automobiles to a cylinder diameter of four-inches.

The start-line was moved from the road junction of the A2 Quarterbridge Road/Alexander Drive to Hillberry Corner on the A18 Snaefell Mountain Road.

Riders then rode to the junction of the A21 Johnny Watterson's Lane and then to the C10 Scholag Road at Cronk-ny-Mona in the town of Douglas and on to the junction with the A22 Ballanard Road.

From there the riders travelled east to the St Ninians Crossroads and on to the A2 Bray Hill and onto Quarterbridge. From there they went to Ballacraine to the junction of the A3 Castletown to Ramsey road.

From to Parliament Square in Ramsey they went on to the A9 Albert Road including two small sections of private road with the northerly junction of the primary A18 Snaefell Mountain Road and on to  the finish-line at Hillberry Corner.

The Four-Inch Course was adopted by the Auto-Cycle Club for the 1911 races when the start-line was moved to a level section of Quarterbridge Road between Selborne Drive and the 1st Milestone/Alexander Drive.

It subsequently became known as the Isle of Man TT Snaefell Mountain Course or TT Course when used for motorcycle racing.


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Above: 1920 Isle of Man TT course map


1920/28 course changes

In 1920 changes were made to the mountain course and competitors had to turn left at Cronk-ny-Mona and follow through to Governors Bridge and on to the new start & finish line on Glencrutchery Road which lengthened the course from the pre-World War I length of 37.50 miles to 37.75 miles.

In 1922 the mountain course was widened at Sulby Bridge, from Port-e-Chee on the A1 Peel Road to Braddon Bridge and part of the main road through Crosby. The removal of the fence posts at Keppel Gate and modification were also made with a rounding off of the bend at Signpost Corner and widening of the road at Governor's Bridge and completing the link to the Glencrutchery Road.

The adoption of part of the private road on the Ballastowle Estate between Parliament Square and May Hill in Ramsey to the course, dispensing with the  previously used A2 Albert Road and Tower Road in Ramsey created a new and current course length at 37.739 miles.

From 1928 practice sessions for the both the TT races and Manx Grand Prix were held on closed roads.


1934/1939 course changes

Major alterations to the mountain course occurred in 1934 and included the removal of the East Snaefell Mountain sheep-gate and road  widening at the Highlander, Laurel BankGlen Helen, between the Old Quarry and Brew's Restaurant, and at Brandywell with the removal of the Beinn-y-Phott sheep-gate at Brandywell.

For the 1935 Isle of Man TT races, after Doug Pirie was involved in a fatal crash near the 33rd Milestone during the 1935 Lightweight TT race, two travelling Marshals were employed to search for missing riders in poor weather conditions on the Mountain section of the Course.

The first evening practice session was introduced for the 1937 TT races. Improvements for the 1938 TT were made at the 26th MilestoneGreeba Bridge and on the Sulby Straight  and in 1939 further road widening and landscaping was completed at the Waterworks and between the Gooseneck and the 26th Milestone , not forgetting the memorial to Jimmie Guthrie was built at ‘The Cutting’ at a cost of £1,500 .


1947 course changes

Major road widening occurred on the Mountain course at the 33rd Milestone, including the removal of fence posts at road level and the removal of a section of a grass bank before the start of the 1947 Isle of Man TT.


1953/63 course changes

Changes to the Mountain Course occurred for the 1953 races including road widening at Bedstead Corner, elevation works at Signpost Corner and Cronk-ny-Mona, and the widening of the corner at Gorse Lea.

The cottage at Appledene Corner was demolished between the 6th and 7th Milestone road-side marker for the 1953 Manx Grand Prix and further changes occurred to facilitate racing on the Clypse Course. During the winter of 1953/54 road widening occurred on the Mountain Road at Creg-ny-Baa, Signpost Corner, Cronk-ny-Mona, and at the approach to Governor's Bridge.

The approach to the Quarterbridge was widened and re-profiled for the 1954 TT as were the jumps at the Highlander and the area adjacent to Ballagarraghyn Cottages. Road widening at Appledene, Handley's Corner, Barregarrow, RhencullenBallaugh BridgeGinger Hall (Sulby), and Kerrowmoar also took place.

Further changes were made to the Mountain Course took place during the winter of 1953/54 as the result of fatalities that occurred to competitors during the TT races and Manx Grand Prix from 1951 to 1953. Changes were also made to facilitate the return of Sidecar TT on the new Clypse Course.

During the winter of 1957/58 the hotel at the Bungalow tram-crossing was removed on the Mountain Section of the course.

On safety grounds, the seeding of competitors occurred for the 1959 TT race. The Thursday afternoon practice session from 13:45–17:00 pm introduced in the late 1950s was discontinued for the Centenary 2007 Isle of Man TT races. Also during the late 1950s, Appledene Cottage was demolished on safety grounds along with Old Brew's Restaurant near Glen Helen during the early 1960s accompanied by a road widening programme at Ballig and Greeba Bridge.

In 1963 a roundabout was added to the road junction at the Quarterbridge



1970/79 course changes

Further road safety work during the winter of 1970/1971 road-widening occurred at the Verandah series of bends and also at the Bungalow Bridge by the Highway Board cutting into the hillside.

From 1973 onwards any weather conditions that would not allow a rescue helicopter to take-off or land would lead to the race start being delayed or postponed at any TT or Manx Grand Prix race.

During the winter of 1975/76 road-widening and landscaping occurred at Snugbrough at the 2nd Milestone.

Quarterbridge Road including the road junctions at Selborne Drive and Brunswick Drive and Bray Hill were subjected to major road repairs and re-profiling during the winter of 1978/79 by the Isle of Man Highway Board.

This followed a series of fatal accidents during the start of the 1978 Sidecar TT involving the Swiss sidecar competitor Ernst Trachsel on Quarterbridge Road and the sidecar crew of Mac Hobson & Kenny Birch on nearby Bray Hill.


1986/92 course changes

The winter of 1986 further re-profiling occurred at the Quarterbridge road junction with a new road traffic system including two new mini-roundabouts, the removal of a traffic island, and trees. Road re-profiling and widening also occurred at Quarry Bends during the winter of 1987.

During the winter months of 1991/1992 the Mountain Road was closed for repair work to the road foundation between the 26th Milestone and the Mountain Box and also between the Windy Corner and Keppel Gate.


2003/present course changes

From 2003 road repair work was carried-out from Barregarrow to Cronk-y-Voddy, including Handley's Corner and the 11th Milestone. In 2004 the western-side embankment was removed from Guthrie's Memorial on the Mountain Road. Also, during the winter of 2004/2005 road widening occurred at Windy Corner followed by Brandish Corner including a slightly banked section and a constant radius curve as a safety improvement for general road traffic.

In October 2007 road widening began at Braddan Bridge on the Mountain Course with the creation of a new roundabout incorporating the 'Jubilee Oak' Tree on the A1 Douglas to Peel Road.

After a series of safety reviews, a number of measures were introduced after the 2007 Isle of Man TT races including introduction of restricted areas, safety fencing and the continued introduction of air-fencing to corners.

A new section of road and roundabout for the Mountain Course with a link road from Signpost Corner to Governor's Bridge using the existing Bemahague Road was proposed starting with  the removal of trees on the Bemahague Estate including Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor, a storm drain and the creation of a small mini-roundabout.

The TT races and Manx Grand Prix both continued to use the original Bemahague Road that runs parallel to the new link road and the Governor's Dip for motorcycle racing.

In July 2008, the Department of Transport announced a £4 Million road safety scheme for the Quarterbridge road junction, including the building of a new roundabout and the demolition of the Quarterbridge Hotel.

In August 2009, for the 2009 Manx Grand Prix a section of grass bank was removed from the southern side of Keppel Gate. This was to provide a run-off area after a practice crash by the Australian TT competitor Cameron Donald and a further more serious incident involving Travelling Marshal John McBride at Keppel Gate during the 2009 Isle of Man TT races.

In 2010 road construction and repair work was carried out between Cronk Urleigh and the 13th Milestone and the road junction at Signpost Corner was modified including improved drainage, elevation changes, and repairs to the road surface .Also major road resurfacing work between the 13th Milestone and Westwood Corner near Kirk Michael, Barregarrow Hill, and Sulby Straight from Kella Crossroads to Sulby Bridge during the spring of 2011 and road resurfacing was repeated for the Quarter Bridge road junction in February 2011.

During the winter of 2011/2012 the roadside fenceposts from Brandywell to the 32nd Milestone and from Windy Corner to the 33rd Milestone were removed and re-positioned.

During the winter of 2012/2013 the stone TT Marshal shelter at Guthrie's Memorial was demolished.

In the spring of 2014 the roadway at Hillberry Corner  was resurfaced and re-profiled and landscaping at Keppel Gate including the removal of a small grass bank on the north-eastern side of the corner, road re-profiling and re-surfacing work took place.


The Clypse Course

In 1954 the TT organisers decided to re-introduce the Ultra-Lightweight TT and Sidecar TT Race. They elected to create a secondary shorter course on which full racing could be held, rather than the time trial format of the main TT.

Known as the Clypse Course, the start and finish remained in Glencrutchery Road, headed along Bray Hill but then turned sharp right through Parkfield Corner and on up to Willaston Corner. A tricky section of corners led through to Cronk-ny-Mona where the Mountain Course was re-joined, albeit now running in the opposite direction to normal to Creg-ny-Baa, after which it turned right and headed back down through Ballacarrooin.

Riders then joined the Onchan-Laxey road and on to the Manx Arms, where it turned right through the Nursery Curves to Signpost Corner, where it continued along the Mountain Circuit route to the finish. The total course length was 10.79 miles.

In 1955, the Lightweight (250cc) race was also transferred to the Clypse Course for a nine-lap race.

The Lightweight, Ultra-Lightweight and Sidecar classes continued to use the Clypse Course through to 1959, after which racing was switched back to the Mountain Course. Parts of the course have been used in subsequent years for cycle racing and also during the Manx Rally.


The Willaston Circuit

The Willaston Circuit is a 3.5-mile road racing course on the Isle of Man nowadays used for cycle racing and classic car racing.

The first race was in 1936 and whilst the course was used for some motorcycle racing it was last used in 2000 by the Manx Motor Racing Club just before the foot & mouth outbreak in the British Isles halted all motor racing on the Isle of Man in 2001.

The Willaston Circuit  route passes the TT Grandstand on the Mountain Course and turns right at Parkfield Corner, right at Willaston Corner, and then runs through Cronk-y-Berry and Edge's Corner before re-joining the mountain course at Cronk-ny-Mona and turning right again at Signpost Corner to The Nook and Governor's Bridge.


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ABOVE: 27/08/2017: VMCC Festival of Jurby, part of the Bennetts Classic TT Festival. PICTURE BY DAVE KNEEN\PACEMAKER PRESS


The Jurby Circuit

Jurby was originally a WW2 airfield and is still retained today as an emergency landing strip. The various Jurby tracks are a combination of surfaces employing the old runway in places, perimeter roadway and new tarmac, thereby providing variable grip. The new section in front of the hangers is 7m wide and its addition now provides three permutations offering sections from high speed swervery to technical.

It is the only short circuit in the Isle of Man and is situated in the North of the Island and accessed via the TT course at Sulby Hotel and turning left. Jurby is just a couple of miles up the road, entered from the Coast Road Gate.

It is only 4.25 miles long whilst the GP track runs both clockwise and anticlockwise and is 1.7 miles long.


The Mannin Beg and Mannin Moar circuit

When the R.A.C. wanted to organise a race on a street circuit, because of the popular Monaco Grand Prix, they found that it was illegal to close public roads for racing in the British mainland. However, the Isle of Man had its own laws, so a racing circuit was designed on the streets of Douglas.

Two races were organised, Mannin Beg (English: Small Man) for non-supercharged voiturettes with engines smaller than 1500cc on 12 July 1933  and Mannin Moar (English: Great Man) for cars with engines over 1500cc and supercharged voiturettes on 14 July 1933.

Riding mechanics were mandatory for all cars. This was possibly the last time this rule was used in Grand Prix motor racing.

The Douglas street circuit used for the 1933 race was 4.6 miles long, shortened in 1934 to 3.659 miles and lengthened again in 1935 to a length of 4.035 miles.

The start line of the original track was near the Villa Marina on the Douglas Promenade. The first series of corners included Greensills Corner, a sharp right hander that led onto Church Road, followed by an equally sharp left hander that led into Finch Road. The course then turned right around the House of Keys onto a fast section over Prospect Hill, Bucks Road and Lauriston Road.

Next, six sharp bends followed a zigzag pattern over Ballaquale Road, St. Ninians Road, Dukes Road and Falcon Terrace before ending up on Victoria Road that led to Governor's Bridge in a fast left hander. A right hand turn onto Governor's Road and Onchan was the most Northern corner of the circuit.

From there the course followed a fast steep downwards section on Summer Hill Road between a wall on one side and houses on the other before coming back onto the promenade and ending up via Castle Mona Road at Villa Marina.


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Above: Michael Dunlop (Street Sweep Kawasaki) gets close to the wall at Church Corner in the Superbike race at the Southern 100, July 2011. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON


The Billown circuit (Southern 100)

The Billown circuit better known as the Southern 100 course started in 1955 is now one of five FIM-sanctioned International meetings in the British Isles.

It has become a pre-TT classic held on public roads closed for racing near Castletown in the south of the island.

The course is 4.25 miles long and the start-line is on the A5 New Castletown Road. Riders head on the A5 towards Ballakeighan and then on the A28 Castletown to Ballabeg Road through Iron Gates, Ballanorris on to Ballabeg Hairpin. 

The course then takes riders on the A7 Ballasalla to Port Erin Road through Ballawhetstone and Williams’s corner to cross four ways and on to the A3 Castletown to Ramsey Road passing the Billown Dip, Church Bends Great Meadow, Stadium Bends Castletown Corner and on to the A5 finish line.

The 2022 Southern 100 event will take place between the 11th and 14th July '22.