Every year for the final week of May and the first week of June the world’s finest road racers assemble to take on the Isle of Man TT course which graces 37 and three quarter miles of mountain (albeit a baby mountain, at 621 metres above sea level), lush rolling fields, plantations, suburbs and quaint narrow stretches of village. No other race course in the world spans such a variety of locations.
The official Isle of Man TT website even states: “Average lap speeds of 130mph-plus. On a motorcycle. Between dry-stone walls and postcard-pretty cottages. Just go.”
So, when it comes to spectating, there’s a lot of choice…
But it’s okay, because we’ve selected a mixed bag of a Top 10 spots for you:
GRANDSTAND (0 / 37.7 miles): This is where the action is. If you’re lucky enough to have a pass for the grid, then there is nowhere else on earth to be to soak up the atmosphere around the paddock, assembly area, startline, race, pitlane action, finish line, parc ferme and podium for each race…in that order.
AMENITIES: toilets, chips and burgers aplenty, lots of hustle and bustle.
VIEWING: Tiered seating in the grandstand where tickets are a must, you’re in the heart of the action with the iconic Scout-managed scoreboard directly in front making it easy to keep up with every development during the racing.
BRAY HILL (0.75m): It’s an obvious choice but Bray Hill is good. And for those who’ve never watched a TT race live this is a must. Nothing beats the sensation of watching a superbike fly down this suburban hill at 180 mph. This is goosebump-inducing material.
AMENITIES: There are some lovely locals who open their houses for spectators so toilets are a possibility but there are only a couple of Portaloo at the bottom of the road.
VIEWING: Spectacular from the bottom third of the hill downwards is incredible but get there earlier to grab your spot. And if you’re quick on your feet you and dash back up to the Grandstand and catch them coming in from the race.
BRADDAN (2m): This is a quaint, slow section corner, dominated by an eerie church yard in which row upon row of benches provide seating for 600 spectators. Braddan is a slow S-bend, which makes it easy to distinguish the more experienced TT riders from the novices.
AMENITIES: Tea, coffee, toilets. Braddan church - like many across the Isle of Man – serve homemade refreshments.
VIEWING: Pleasant, cerebral and easily accessible from the Grandstand.
UNION MILLS (3m): Union Mills is a complex fast section with a subtle bump, a left-hander and off to a straight. While it’s home to possibly the best lemon drizzle cake on the island, available at the local church, it’s The Railway Inn on the outside of the course on the right-hander with its elevated beer garden that gets our vote.
AMENITIES: Clean toilets, a wonderful selection of dangerously delicious cakes, tea served in industrial tea pots and a Post Office-cum-shop, which was once home to the Bee Gees.
VIEWING: Interesting, pretty fast. Less visceral than Bray Hill but great for the hardcore enthusiast who likes to analyse racing lines.
GORSE LEA (7.5m): Gorse Lea is a spectacularly fast right-hander with a late apex between the 7th and 8th milestones where riders are picking up serious speed through one of the trickier sections of the course. It is quite simply one of the best places to watch.
AMENITIES: Not a lot unless you have access to a residents’ garden, such as that of Harold Leece - a nonagenarian market gardener. Harold Leece’s garden is a haven for serious TT fans, glorious cakes, beautiful flowers, toilets and a grass-banked stone wall. This is one of the premier places to watch but only for those serious about racing.
If you have to make a quick escape to the airport then this is your premier spot…VIEWING: Very fast, very exciting and really close - as in one or two feet - from the action.
RHENCULLEN (15.5m): Kirk Michael is a delightful village located about 15 miles from the start of the TT course. The narrowness of the road is amplified by the Manx cottages lining the street. It was through here in the mid 60s that the sheer speed of Giacomo Agostini’s MV Augusta - amplified by a tunnel of terraces - caused a lady’s budgie to have a heart attack and drop dead. But that’s the TT!
Rhencullen is immediately after Kirk Michael as the roads open up where the view looking back down to Kirk Michael is cracking.
AMENITIES: Public toilets, the Women’s Institute’s cakes, deck chairs on hire and even a viewing platform. There’s also the Mitre pub to the right, which offers everything from beer to a great grass area from which to view the racing. At Rhencullen there’s a grandstand, fields and portaloos
VIEWING: Fast, narrow, exciting.
CONKER TREES / CHURCHTOWN (22m): This is a fast, bumpy section with a kink in the road that’s marked by the famous ‘K’ tree. It’s also one of the prettiest parts of the course, with a backdrop of rolling hills and a lush plantation. You can park here and watch from a field to the right of the course, though this means you’re there all day once the roads are closed. However, on a nice day, this makes for a perfect picnic spot.
AMENITIES: Grandstand and Portaloos and there are also toilets in the church. Parking is on the Churchtown Road, near the church field. There’s also a van selling tea and coffee.
VIEWING: First class. This is a fast, narrow section with such rough terrain that the front wheel often lifts at this spot.
TOWER BENDS - THE GOOSENECK (24.5m): After the Ramsay hairpin is WaterWorks and then, Tower Bends, which marks the start of the Mountain climb. This is a top spot recommended by local man and ’94 Supersport TT winner, Milky Quayle who looks after all the newcomers each year. Either walk down from The Gooseneck or up from an access road out the back of Ramsay near the resevoir, bring your radio and your flask and prepare for some very close racing action.
The aptly-named Gooseneck is a tight right-hander after the steep climb from Waterworks. The Gooseneck provides great views of riders approaching the section, as well as stunning views of the north of the Isle of Man.
AMENITIES: None at Tower Bends but there are Portaloos and a catering van, providing cold refreshments and hot dogs etc at The Gooseneck where you’ll also find parking.VIEWING: A stunning scene of mountain, coast and fair chunk of race track. The Gooseneck is a slow corner but intricate and interesting.
THE BUNGALOW (31m): Ideal on a fine day but don’t bother if the weather looks iffy. Grab the tram from Laxy and you can even carry on up to the top of Snaefell. There’s a bridge to cross the track and you can even walk up to Brandywell – the highest part of the course. There’s some seriously impressive views back from the Verrandah and over the tram tracks. Watching the racing from the mountain is a completely different experience from that of the rest of the course.
AMENITIES: There is a catering van up at Brandywell but it’s advisable to take everything with you, including a nappy. And lots of layers. There is parking on the B10.VIEWING: An open fast 3rd gear left-hander section with great views.
HILLBERRY (36m): This is one of the fastest corners on the TT course and became even faster after Brandish was widened in 2007. Indeed, commenting on the widening of Brandish former 500cc Worls Champion and 10-times TT winner Giacomo Agostini said Hillberry's approach was ‘too fast’. So it’s not surprising this is a popular spot. It’s also a challenging section for riders - even 26-time TT winner Joey Dunlop described it as ‘dangerous’ - so it’s technical section as much as a fast one.
AMENITIES: Grandstand (£30 charge for Senior and Superbike race days), road-side parking and road access to Onchan while the roads are closed. There is also a catering van and a Portaloo.
VIEWING: Good clear views of the right-hander with the grandstand situation pretty close to the track. As far as exciting goes, Hillberry is definitely in the top five.
...and there's more:
There are so many exhilarating places to watch the TT racing from and we could have easily made a Top 20 or even Top 30. Top and Bottom of Bagarrah, Ballacraine, Glen Helen, Ballaugh, Sulby Bridge, Ginger Hall, Windy Corner and of course the famous Creg-ny-Baa to name but a few. But like the website says, just go.