Glen Helen

The one time I forgot my camera and my mobile phone is the one day I would really have liked it. Although I know it has done little else but rain on and off for weeks, I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that the waterfall would be quite spectacular. But not only the main waterfall, there were waterfalls in places we don’t usually see them, and water permeating through the rocks and dripping onto the paths in spectacular ways.

So, no photos today I’m afraid. Instead, I will try and describe the walk using old-fashioned words. I was doing a recce of a part of the walk I am leading a week on Tuesday, and I wanted to check out the various routes through the Eairy Beg plantation. Taking note of the weather forecast I had left it until late morning to avoid the rain. I parked at Swiss Cottage, donned my walking boots and set off over the river. Already I could see there was a fair amount of water in the river, and as I reached the children’s playground there was an impromptu waterfall gushing onto the surface and finding a hidden way to reach the main body of the river. I continued on the far side of the river, gradually making my way uphill, over the wooden bridges where the water was tumbling underneath with great agility, and up the steps to the top of the glen where the forest meets the farmland. The principal waterfall is left at this point but I was only intending to visit the plantation so I turned right and joined the track and higher entrance into the plantation. This track was a little muddy but was quite passable. It is initially a wide track, as it would have been the main path to the ruined tholtan, now standing a little precariously in the middle of the plantation. Just past this point is a junction, where I turned left to make the climb to the top of Beary Park. This narrow path was muddy in places and it is quite steep for about 30 minutes. The colours and shapes in the plantation are interesting at this time of year – the bright green mosses growing in the mud and stone walls contrasting with the grey angular shapes of the denuded trees, which looking higher up sport splashes of dark green foliage. Occasionally, I would come across single Christmas trees looking odd in the landscape.

If you are walking this on your own, the path keeps left of a mossy wall. It is wide and soft to walk on, the only detour necessary being a slight dip around a fallen tree. In the distance were glimpses of light through the trees, heralding a change of terrain. Suddenly, you find yourself out of the plantation with moorland in front of you. To the left is a slight schism in the moorland, a hollow from which all the water on the moor gathers to make its steady flow downhill through the plantation to create the waterfalls. At this point, there are good views to Sartfell and the ridge of Greeba Mountain. Being moorland, this section was boggy, but there is plenty of grass to the side of the path making it much easier and drier to walk on.

Once you reach the saddle, the path continues down to Greeba, our path turns right into the plantation again, and after a gentle ascent you find yourself at the top of the hill, and now you can see right over the top of the trees, through the gaps in the mountains to Snaefell. Continuing on this path (I went over the moor here, pointlessly) you are on the road to the transmitter pylon, keeping the edge of the plantation on the right. From here, it is all downhill and as it is on the edge of farmland there were great views towards Peel and the south, that had not been visible from the top. This is a slightly steep, grassy path, which can be a little slippery, but there a wire fence with some wooden staves to help with support if needed, but I would recommend using walking poles on this section.

The path rejoins the forest and there is much less mud on this side and fewer streams and waterfalls. It is a really pleasant forest walk, mostly level or gradually descending, back to Swiss Cottage. At this point, I couldn’t resist going to see the main Glen Helen waterfall, so I contoured through the forest and rejoined the top path. This was very easy walking; however, do take care of the wooden boards and bridges which were quite slippery today to the extent that I preferred to walk through the bogs in some places. The boardwalks are perfectly passable with care, and again, be careful on the steps down to the waterfall for the same reason.

Despite the promise of better weather in the afternoon it rained the whole time from when I re-entered the plantation, and it continued whilst I sat on the bench eating my lunch by the waterfall, admiring the sheer force of the water plummeting through the narrow gap. All along the river, streams and the force of the roaring water was creating foamy waves billowing over the rocks. How I wished I had a camera, but really memories are more enjoyable than photos and last longer.

It is just under a mile to the waterfall from the car park, a mile of very easy walking and wonderful sights. I saw chaffinches, great tits and robins today flitting about between the trees, and there were geese in the meadows by the river.

I hope to see you on my U3A walk but if you can’t make it on 17th Jan, and you live on the island, can I encourage you to at least walk down Glen Helen and see the waterfall in its full fury. It looks very dramatic, and the Glen itself is particularly nice when it is not shrouded in a leaf canopy. You don’t have to do the mountain walk. Indeed, even on our walk, we will only do this extra section if the weather is suitable, but I will still take you to the tholtan if the weather is unsuitable to go higher.

Total distance 5.25 miles. Ascent about 1000ft, mostly all Beary Mountain.

New Year’s Day – and What a Day

I forgive the many of you who decided to abandon thoughts of a walk this New Year’s Day. The weather forecast was not great – we could expect at least a few short, sharp showers, but some clear spells too, and given there is nowhere to take shelter on this walk I imagine this might have put a few people off, especially as it was hailing cats and dogs in some parts of the island I gather.

Even I was wondering whether this was a sensible route to undertake today, and in my head I had prepared a few other options with more cover or escape routes, if required: Glen Maye, Port Soderick, Marine Drive or total abandonment of the walk. One of my trusty walkers who is usually game for anything rang up to sorrowfully back out at the last minute – you know who you are – which left just three hardy fellows including me to climb South Barrule.

We met at Round Table as planned and the weather was already dull. I could see rainclouds bubbling up in the distance and I knew this was the calm before the storm. I did offer my alternatives but the group would not be discouraged and we began our ascent of South Barrule. There was no snow today, but in its place was water – everywhere, and it was hard to avoid placing one’s foot in one puddle or another. Even so, it was easy walking and a pleasant climb.

No sooner had we started when I got a call from my son, then another from my friend and a text from my daughter as my Garmin watch was under the impression that I had had an ‘incident’ and it promptly notified my emergency contacts, detailing exactly where I was (well, close..) and demanding that they contact me to see if I was all right. Quite what I had done to initiate this technical emergency response I don’t know as I had not had a fall, neither had I severely knocked my watch, but at least I know the system works!

We continued up South Barrule with Andy leading the way while Eve and I chatted. Then came the rain, and the mist – not quite enough to consider it to be ‘fog’ – engulfed us as we reached the trig point. To be fair, there was the tiniest glimmer of sunlight at this point for which we were thankful. It was a little breezy on the top, but for the first day of the new year, it was at least fairly mild, though a glance to the skies indicated it was not mild enough to stop for a coffee at this point.

From here, it was all downhill, trampling over the gorse and heather to avoid the slippery, stony and wet paths whenever possible. It may not sound great but I really was enjoying the walk and the company despite the rain, which would stop every now and again and afford us views into the distance, so I was able to point out the longer route we could take if the rain would cease. Um, yes, that was quite a big ‘if’.

On reaching the road, the decision whether to extend the walk was unsurprisingly made by the weather which turned really nasty for the rest of the walk back to the car. We had chosen to walk along the road rather than take the longer detour, but there was no shelter here at all, and the rain lashed relentlessly in our faces for 1.75 miles. I didn’t take any photos at this point – rain doesn’t show up on an iphone – but stepped up the pace a little and considered humming a merry song. We were drenched, thirsty and hungry, but still cheerful, as how else should you spend New Year’s Day but with a typical walk on the Isle of Man.

I have to say, it was nice to get home and change out of my wet gear (including underwear!), make a nice hot cup of tea and have a slice of cake. But would I do it again – you bet I would!

No map today, except for the road walk – I must have forgotten to switch it on! I have recreated one underneath, but it is approximate. Distance: about 4 miles; Ascent: about 650 ft.

A winter’s day on South Barrule

I woke up to an icy scene outside and was glad I was in no hurry to go out. I had already postponed the U3A Port St Mary walk that I had been due to lead today, but I did have to find some time to do a trial run of the walk I was proposing for New Year’s Day. The weather forecast for next week is worse than snow, ice and freezing temperatures, so Sherpa Gill set out about 11am to basecamp at South Barrule and risk the icy conditions.

I parked at South Barrule plantation car park, with the aim of contouring through South Barrule plantation, my thoughts being that the heavy canopy of trees would protect the paths from the worse of the ice and snow. I was both right and wrong! There were several icy parts and then I would unexpectedly come across a completely clear section for a short while until another skidfest appeared.

I have never walked through the plantation in daylight. The only other time I have done this walk was in Oct/Nov 21 when I did an exciting night hike, so I had no idea of the number of different paths that might try to entice me in other directions. Having said that, I only made one mistake and I spotted that almost immediately. The paths do go very slightly uphill, but you barely notice the ascent until you find you have an open space and can see for miles and miles. It was a particularly bright and sunny day and I enjoyed the panoramic views. In these conditions, you do need patience. In places, it was possible to walk on snow to the side of the path, but it was prudent to tread fairly gingerly as you never quite know what is under the snow. I did keep on paths leading upwards or to the right, and the last section through the Cringle plantation was a little hazardous as the path was very narrow, very icy, with a lot of furrows. I had walked this section before when I was doing the peat monitoring. Although it seemed tedious today and this path seemed to go on and on, I was glad I had stuck to it, as I was able to completely avoid the Whisky Run, which looked like a skating rink.

Coming out of the plantation, you wouldn’t have thought there was any snow on South Barrule, but you would be wrong. There was icy and crisp snow on the path all the way to the top and the way down the other side was an absolute joy. The snow was a few inches deep and lovely to walk on. I could have enjoyed a snowball fight had I had anyone to chuck a snowball at, but I didn’t see anyone at all in the 3 hours I was out. The walk downhill is a relief in these conditions. I was walking on a compass bearing over the snowy moorland as I wanted to finish my walk where I had started in the forest. Having taken my bearing, I saw a mound just above the quarry so headed to the right of that. There are benefits to frozen terrain, in that I was able to walk over ground that I am fairly certain is a bog(!). I soon found the tiny stile, which was the iciest thing I had seen all day and with a big of guesswork and imagination given that there is no genuinely obvious path, I found my way down through the forest back to the car park.

My only sadness is that I was unable to take photos at the top. I had enough battery but my phone flatly refused to take photographs, complaining that it was too cold to be out in those temperatures. I had actually felt warm all the way round so I was surprised my phone was picking a fight. It was only really chilly on the very top. The view at the top was stunning. The sunlight was glinting on the snow and picking out interesting shapes, and the hills of Beinn Y Phott, Snaefell and Colden were all topped with snow, whereas the valleys were green. It was pretty.

The upshot of my trial run is that I shall not offer this walk to the U3A walking group, and instead we will start our walk at Round Table and do a circular walk in a different direction. Walking 3 miles through a forest is probably not most people’s idea of fun, but then I am not most people! Everyone can enjoy South Barrule, it is such a special place, no matter what the weather.

Distance: About 5.5 miles (I had forgotten to charge my Garmin watch, so the ran out of battery just before the end) and 1096 ft of ascent.

Ramsey Glens and Albert Tower

This is a delightful short walk providing extensive views to the north of the island. On a good day you will see Scotland, the Lake District and Wales, and all just a stone’s throw from Ramsey.

The walk began at the Gooseneck car park on the Mountain Road. There is a grassy footpath leading upwards beside the main road but away from it, so it is safe to walk the short distance to the bend in the road, when we turned left onto the Hibernian road. At this junction a new bench has been placed to commemorate a couple who both died of covid within weeks of each other – a very sad memorial. The bench is beautifully made and the views towards Ramsey are unsurpassable. This is a viewing point for the TT, being between the 25th and 26th milestone and is 550ft above sea level.

We passed by the top end of the Ballure plantation before turning into it to follow a delightful track, made even better by the dappled sunlight sparkling on the trees. There has been a lot of rain lately and we had a small flurry of light rain for a short time, just to give some variety. As you walk through the plantation you can hear the stream rumbling away in the distance. One and a half miles into the walk and we find ourselves at the Ballure Reservoir. This was originally created by Ramsey Waterworks in 1884, collecting water from Druidale to Ballure for the merry folks of Ramsey. There were in fact two reservoirs slightly lower than the existing one. The current Water Treatment works was constructed in the 1950’s and the new dam created over a valley of glacial deposits on top of the bedrock. The embankment is 17 metres high. The reservoir itself is is 11.5m at its deepest point, contains 18 million gallons of water, providing 3.5 acres of fishing, mostly rainbow trout and the occasional incomer of brown trout. In summer you are allowed to catch 4 fish in summer, and 2 in winter, all by licence of course.

The actual Ballure (Place of the Yew) plantation is relatively new and was constructed in the 1960s and covers 30 hectares. There were people on our walk today who could remember there being few trees, just a few old gnarled ones. In the mid 1990’s it was completely restocked with broadleaf trees, which we are all benefiting from today. It is a delightful walk through the lower part of the glen. Taking the upper path close to the road you can imagine that this would have been the original Moutain Road before the super-route was developed sometime after 1866. Prior to this the mountain road barely existed, just feeding small, isolated farmsteads. Then the government got involved to decide whether this was private land or ‘crown’ land. Various parts were sold off and £25,000 (a fortune in those days) was raised to develop the road across the mountain.

We reach the Hairpin bend and cross over the road. There was a lot of water in the small waterfall at the corner, something I have never noticed before, and our leader said that often there is very little water there, but of course it has done nothing but rain for several weeks on and off. We continued through the Claughbane plantation, which was originally a commercial plantation but has more variety now and a range of activities go on here, courtesy of The Manx Wildlife Trust. They are currently developing some natural playgrounds for children there. At the bottom end the beech trees looked wonderful in their autumn glory, but they do deplete the vegetation on their leafstrewn banks.

It is just a hop and a skip then into Elfin Glen, so named to incite the imagination of tourists. It’s original name was Ballacowle Glen. While I remember, for those who participated in this walk and wanted to know the translation of ‘Cooil”, it means ‘winding nook’. Elfin Glen does not contain a wide variety of trees, being mostly, oak ash and hazel. There is also evidence of pedunculate oaks. This Glen was purchased in 1963 by the Forestry Board for £3625. It is a steep sided glen and you can wander freely through it and it does have quite an eerie feel to it. It is very quiet and unspoilt with a very small stream running through it deep below the path. At its furthest point, you cross over a bridge where there is a small waterfall. Crossing over to the other side, we come out of the glen to reach our final viewpoint of the day – the Albert Tower, visible for some distance as your traverse the Mountain Road or descend North Barrule.

This is located at the top of Lhergy Frissel – don’t we have wonderful names? Lhergy means a hill slope or a high wasteland, both of which apply here. This folly was created to commemorate a visit of Prince Albert, who surprised everyone by rowing from his boat into Ballure rather than Ramsey and taking a walk up to this place on 20th September 1847. Who knows what inspired him, but if this story interests you, you can read more about it here:

http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/wma/v1p102.htm

The tower is built of granite and marble blue slate. It is an impressive construction, 45 ft high (14 m) on top of a hillside (Albert Mount) 430ft above sea level. It cost £300 to build. It became a registered building in 2003. You cannot go inside as I believe the staircase is in a state of disrepair. It was used in WW2 as a look-out by the Home Guard. The old photo above is courtesy of the i-museum.

From here, it is a short trip across fields back to the car park. If you just want to visit this, it takes no more than 5 -10 mins to walk to it. The total walk is just over 4 miles with a maximum of 800 ft of ascent; there are few steep areas, just a lot of ups and downs adding to the total ascent. Thank you for Dulcie for leading it for the IOM U3A. It was most delightful and so nice to visit hidden spots and see the sights at a different time of year too.

Port St Mary and The Chasms

This delightful walk starts beside the dramatic coastline of Port St Mary, close to the lime kilns. Walking along the coastpath in a southwesterly direction we pass Strathallan Castle on a small promontory, with its long history, hidden by time and now looking quite unassuming. It is a shame this former hotel is now abandoned. The latest owner is/ was Mary Aldrich, the wife of Ronnie Aldrich, the musical director of the Benny Hill series (for those old enough to remember you he was!). The coast path undulates around the golf course for a short distance and then we take the wide grassy path down to Perwick beach. There is no sand here, just pebbles and seaweed and the occasional indication of a former dwelling. It has a calm air, away from the bustle of everyday life, but I have stories to tell you about life here that may destroy this peaceful image. 🙂

We cross the stream and head up Glenn Chass to the road. This is only a short section of uphill and even so, a kind person has placed a bench so that you can enjoy a short break while you make the ascent.

Meeting the road, we turn left, with the remainder of the short uphill section to re-join the coastal footpath which contours along the hill, providing splendid views of Port St Mary and on a good day, Wales and Anglesey. This is an easy path, going through meadows and sheep fields. There are more benches to stop and rest. This is an excellent path for watching butterflies at the right time of year and you may well see several common blues darting around the hedgerows.

We reach a point where we can go now further, although you can continue around the bend and sit and admire the views toward Spanish Head and Black Head and watch the many birds on the Sugar Loaf. Today there was a climber scaling the cliffs – very exciting. I could have been tempted to have a go!! The designated footpath takes you up the hill towards the Chasms and the abandoned cafe, now a shelter, often most welcome in bad weather. I have been here in howling gales and torrential rain and been glad of its succour, but today was perfect weather for walking. This is the perfect lunch stop. You can venture into the walled area and view the chasms for yourself, taking care. There are some steep drops into the gulleys but there are many clear man-made and sheep paths to follow. It is worth having a look at least once.

You can of course continue along the coast path all the way to the Sound, and this is one of the best walks on the island, if not the best. The scenery is stunning and the distant views amazing. But that is another walk. So, today, I took the higher track back towards Port St Mary, deviating after the first gate to reach the highest point of the day where there is the radar beacon, still in use, for navigating air traffic. This mighty technological wonder was once a more tame building used for the radio navigation of ships and used to keep in touch with the Chicken Rock Lighthouse of the Calf of Man. The Keeper’s cottages were sold off in 1956 and are now in private ownership. I hadn’t expected the surprise view of Bradda Head and the Carnanes and Niarbyl in the distance.

From here, it is an easy, gentle walk down the hillside amongst the grass, gorse and heather to rejoin the path and take the higher road around Glen Chass. We then enter the glen itself, this time from its western end. A few years ago, a kind entrepreneur renovated this glen and what an improvement he made. You can now walk on good paths beside the stream and enjoy the wildness of this short glen. In spring there will be an abundance of flowers. It looks rather more bleak in the autumn as the leaves fall and leave it looking rather bare.

The walk continues through Fistard, a small hamlet on the outskirts of Port St Mary. There are several interesting and old houses, which are a pleasure to see given the small number remaining in the south. One proudly displays the Manx emblem and the date of construction of 1789.

It is just a short walk back to Port St Mary via the top of the golf course, to rejoin the cliff path.

Distance 4.25 miles; 715 ft of ascent. You can easily avoid the beach if you so choose, as the coast path continues on the top of the cliffstowards the houses at Fistard, going through the relatively new tiny development to bring you out at the road and bridge after the first section of the glen. I shall be leading this walk for the IOM U3A on 13th December, so if you are on the island have a think about joining us. If you are completely new to the U3A I will tell you about it if you send me an email. I am also doing a guided tour of PSM on 15th December, where you can learn about the interesting people, places and activities that have taken place here over the years.

Glen Helen and Eairy Beg

This is a delightful walk of contrasts. It begins with a 2 mile walk along the wooded river valley. For a small river, it makes a lot of noise, with tiny cascades and small waterfalls along its route, culminating in the dramatic, if relatively small waterfall deep in its heart.

The path has recently been upgraded. It is wide, open and mostly flat, but this does not detract from its beauty. To the right, the scenery is wild and majestic as it has ever been. At this time of year, there are many different shades of green, and a mix of leafy and bare trees. You will find a good deal of fungus if you go looking for it too.

On reaching the end of the Glen, you can either retrace your steps or continue on, which necessitates a short climb to take you almost to the top of the tree line. This is still an easy walk, with well-made steps and boardwalks over boggy bits. You then return to Glen Helen on the opposite side of the river, which is just as beautiful. Looking at a map there is an ancient keeill in the fields immediately above the footpath, but sadly, no way to reach it.

On nearing the end (or start) of the Glen, I maintained the high path when the path starts to drop down into the valley, but if you prefer you can take the lower path back to the glen entrance. The higher path takes you into the plantation. The easiest way to describe the next part is to say to ‘keep left’ and ‘keep climbing’, as the paths are indistinct and there are many variations, so you can basically pick your own way. It is a moderately steep climb and takes about 30 mins from where we enter the plantation. My aim was to reach the top where it meets the moorland. Once you reach the wall, you can follow the track without deviation and you suddenly find yourself leaving heavily wooded plantation behind you with extensive moorland (and views) in front of you. It may be a little boggy here in places, but nothing extreme.

Walking along the edge of the plantation you will spot some tracks leading over Beary Mountain. You often see bikers of all descriptions and today was no exception, although they took a different route from me and didn’t bother me. There is a clear junction, where you can turn left to head through moorland to Lhargee Ruy, continue straight on, which takes you down to Greeba Bridge or turn right along a stoney track to our high point for the day of just over 300 metres (about 1000ft) called Beary Park or Eairy Beg, depending on which map you are reading. This commands fine views in all directions, though it is more enclosed than other high points on the island.

To return to Glen Helen, continue on the same path in a westerly direction. Where there is a track and gate leading to the pylon, there is a direct path going into the plantation. There is another path, continuing alongside the plantation which is the one mentioned in the Warden’s Walk No 5, but today this was quite overgrown so I took the path going into the plantation.

Whichever way you go, the descent is steep in places on grassy, peaty tracks that in places are worn down by cycles and motorcycles. It is perfectly passable but you should take care as there are a number of tree roots that can be slippery. Walking poles and very definitely walking boots are recommended for this section. The path through the plantation is not always clear with several paths criss-crossing each other; if in doubt, keep moving downhill and slightly to the right. Eventually, all paths will meet up. The path I took lead me to Eary Veg tholtan. This was in use as recently at 1946. At the turn of the 20th Century farmer Billy Quirk lived here, with his 10 children. It is worth a nose around to remind yourself of the local history and how the landscape changes. The farm house was sold to the forestry commision in the late 40’s, early 50’s and the plantation of Sitka Spruce was created in 1959.

From here, it is just a short walk back to the car park. Depending on which route you take downhill, the whole route is a very enjoyable walk of around 4.5 miles with 1000ft of ascent.

You may want to watch another Ray Kelly’s youtube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1c-iaAK68aA

Colden and The Creg

This upland walk starts at the newly-created Sartfell Carpark on the Kirk Michael to Snaefell road. I had arrived early and suprised no-one except the linnets and crows, who were singing (or squawking in the case of the crows), and flocking in abundance.

The route follows a well-made track around the side of Slieau Maggle, providing extensive views to the west towards Peel and the inner valley of Little London. You can just about see Glen Helen, hiding itself away to keep its glories all to itself.

Once around Slieau Maggle, there is a choice of footpaths through the gates. The one to the left takes you across the boggy moors towards Colden. The more recognised path, which is the one we took, continues as a stoney track for a short distance before turning onto a peaty path gently ascending along the western flank of Colden. Distances are deceptive here and it some two miles from the startof the walk to where we turn off to ascend Colden.

Before then, you will have views south ofthe lovely ridge walk towards Greeba Mountain, but that will be for another day. If you like relatively flat walks, where we start our ascent, you can easily continue on the ridge up to one or more of the cairns on Lhargee Ruy, have a picnic lunch and return via the same route.

Our path is not marked on the mark, but it is visible on the ground. It is a soft, heathery ascent basically on sheep paths. If you see what look like waymarkers, these are not actually on the path so best to avoid them. Keep following the sketchy paths uphill and onto the large hump of Colden and you will eventually reach the cairn marking the top. From here, you can see in all directions on a good day. Even better is the next section of the walk south, with lovely views of Carraghan, Beinnee Phott and Snaefell, and beyond if you are lucky. To the south, I could see Douglas, seemingly a stone’s throw away but in reality several miles, and even further south Langness, Snowdonia and Anglesey. It was a very clear and bright day.

This good path appears to go down to the car park at Injebreck, which was not on my plan for the day. I wanted to visit the Creg, a lower hill just above the Injebreck plantation, so I had to veer off the path across the heather. I knew there was an indistinct farmer’s track contouring around the southern edge of Colden, so I tried to find that.. and did so, but I needn’t have gone quite so far out of my way. Another time, I would head there more directly. It is necessary to leave the farmer’s track and continue across the wild countryside and this flat plateau seems to go on and on, but eventually you will reach a tiny cairn, on which someone had placed a flag (which may or may not be there another time). It is worth visiting.

Making my way back to the farmer’s track, it is then easy to follow it back to the junction with Lhargee Ruy. I stopped for lunch here and admired the manicured plantation in front of me. There are no real alternatives but to walk back along the track you first went along, but it is very pleasant, and the views are different looking north. If you wanted a longer day, you could go to the top of Lhargee Ruy and then follow a track down to Little London. From there, it would be quiet road walking back to the car.

Incidentally, if you choose to walk this route around Colden in reverse, it is difficult to find the start of the farmer’s track. You can see it in the distance but it is not obvious on the ground. The photo with my walking stick shows where the two paths divide.

I really enjoyed this walk. The only people I saw were two dog walkers, at the start and end of the walk. For a hill walk, this is effortless and there is a great sense of space and peace here. The distance is about 6.5 miles, with a total ascent of 827ft.

Triskelion Way Part 2

This walk did not quite go to plan. With all the uncertainty of road closures due to the Manx Grand Prix and not wanting a really, really long day of walking, I had decided to meet the pilgrims at their lunch spot at Sulby Reservoir at 1pm. I could get up at leisure, take my car to Laxey, as a permit holder have a free train ride up Snaefell, then casually make my way to Sulby Reservoir for lunchtime.

What could do wrong I hear you say. Well, nothing in theory. The first part worked a treat and I really enjoyed the train ride, only I was in a bit of a rush at the top if I were to meet them at 1pm. The queue in the Snaefell cafe was not long, but it was very slow as there was just one guy serving, and you know what coffee machines are like these days. Bring back the kettle and the instant coffee – instant is no longer a word associated with cafes. I decided to cut my losses and get the train back down to Bungalow. I had plenty of food and water anyway. This was another delightful journey, made even nicer by a very friendly and chatty conductor.

Reaching Bungalow I began the walk down the road. A family were walking in front and the dad stopped to walk with me and have a chat, which I thought was very nice of him. He had his wife, his daughter and his daughter’s boyfriend in tow. I did wonder if the young people knew what they were in for, as they definitely had an air of an afternoon stroll about them. Mr X rejoined his family and I messed about by the roadside, looking at little eddies of water and marvelling that there was a flowing stream at the top when we have had no significant rain of late (if you exclude the 4hr deluge last Monday). It just shows how good the peat is at retaining water. There was a fair amount of sphagnum moss clinging to the side of the road, which is good to see.

The family went off to Ramsey on the Millennium Way. I was a little early so decided to walk on a little and completed my descent at the Tholt-y-Will Iron Age Earthwork. This is a bank about 6ft wide, extending in both directions across the road for about 100 yards in each direction. It is thought to be a defensive rampart protecting the hill route between the two streams, but no-one really knows. At this point I had a call from Phil, the pilgrim, to say they were well behind and by the time they had had lunch it would be at least an hour. Big sigh, my end, but not surprised. I decided to start the walk without them, and if I walked slowly, they would eventually catch me up, so back up the road I went to join the Millenium Way. I was a little uncertain about doing this, as I have never been on this path, but hey ho, life is for living and having small challenges, so this was mine for the day.

The first two miles of the Millennium Way are absolutely glorious. As well as being able to see distances, you can see into valleys that you never even knew existed, and there was a complete sense of isolation. Mr X and co had long gone as I must have waited for the group at least 40 mins before embarking on my Millennium walk. Birds of prey were hovering overhead adding to the atmosphere. The path begins as a stony track, but soon becomes a narrow earth track, and then the track pretty much disappears and you have to find your way over the moorland. There are signposts, some more useful than others, but you need a map to know where the crossing point is over the stream. You will have to navigate several bogs, none of which were very deep on this occasion, but in winter I could imagine this being much more hazardous. There is a steep descent to the stream, but the climb out is less strenuous uphill and you soon find yourself back on the top, so here was I peering into the distance for my fellow pilgrims but not once catching sight of them.

At this point, I decided I may as well walk at a reasonable pace as they were clearly not going to catch me up. When you leave the river, the map suggests you take the soily path through the gorse, but in fact you need to go the other side of the wall to the top of the hill. I didn’t, so had to scramble over the wall higher up. There is then a helpful signpost telling you to go left. This is flat easy walk through heather with great views. The path here is well defined as long as you don’t believe it all the time. I realised pretty quickly that it was bending the wrong way after about half a mile, so I did some trail blazing (not as grand as it sounds; it was easy walking) to rejoin it further east. You need to curve to the right away from the trees, so if you find yourself heading towards them higher up so have gone wrong. Maybe I missed a sign, I don’t know. Anyway, it is neither here nor there. It is easy to correct.

Once back on the track, I followed it to where it joins the path from the Mountain Hut. There is a large section of boardwalk here across the bogs. I had to wait for some very slow bikers to come over it before I could go. Nearing the far end, one of the boards gave way, which was a little alarming. Going through a gate, you then join a stony track that goes on and on and on for miles, all the way to Ramsey. It is uneven and as a descent, although not steep, it is tedious. The early part is fine and has lovely views to the north. Scotland was visible today. I had just joined this section when I saw a very colourful lone walker dressed in yellow coming towards me. As we converged, I was delighted to realise it was Paul the Pilgrim from Friday’s walk. He is such an interesting person and it was a delight to spent a further few minutes in conversation with him. He was intending to meet up with the group and walk with them for a while, but I had serious doubts whether he would succeed.

There is little to say about the rest of the walk. By this time, the battery on my phone had given up the ghost, and I had lost my map. I only realised this when I wanted to see if there was a more interesting route into Ramsey. It was a brand new map so I was cross with my carelessness. Consequently, I had no choice but to walk down the never-ending stony track down Sky Hill (very disappointing), and then back along the road into Ramsey. As I was nearing the traffic lights, I spotted another person I knew – Mr X again, but without his family!! They had hoped to have afternoon tea at Milntown, but it was closed, and they had cadged a lift back to Douglas or wherever, but there wasn’t room for Mr. X in the car – or something like that – I didn’t quite understand how he had got separated from his family.

I had almost an hour’s wait for a bus but eventually caught the 18.10 bus back to Laxey with a million other people, all tourists. There had been no actual racing that day, but I believe there had been some event on in Ramsey to entertain the crowds.

I know you are wondering what happened to the pilgrims. Did they ever arrive? Yes, they did, but not until 19.20 or so, very hungry and I guess tired with sore feet. They had walked a long way. I walked 9.5 miles altogether, but they had done another 5 miles, of which about 3 miles was a steep ascent. I was very sorry not to see them at all – I had enjoyed their company a couple of days previously, but I was also relieved that I had decided to carry on alone, so that I got home in reasonable time. I had to work the next morning, Bank Holiday Monday!! I do admire those who did all 4 days, and if they do it again next year, I will try and do the full 4 days myself and stay at the Retreat with them to get the full benefit of the experience.

Here is a link to a website that describes the Triskelion Way : Triskelion Way. If anyone is interested in joining our pilgrimage next year, send me a message and I’ll send you a email address for the organiser.

The walk from Bungalow to Ramsey (via the Earthwork and the Millennium Way) is about 9 1/4 miles and just under 600ft of ascent. The full walk from Kirk Michael to Ramsey is closer to 14 miles and a good 2000ft of ascent. What an achievement! Well done, all of you.

The Triskelion Way Part 1

Not only do we have our gorgeous Raad Ny Foillan coastpath, but we also have an equally interesting pilgrimage route called The Triskelion Way, which covers 36 miles from Ballasalla in the south to Maughold in the north east. You can do this in 7 sections or combine some of them if you don’t have the legs or the time to do long stretches.

Today was the first of a 4 day pilgrimage, organised by Phil Craine. A group of about 15 people, of mixed ages, abilities, nations and religions assembled at Ballasalla and began walking along the lovely Silverdale Glen up to the Ballamodha Road, stopping at the Monk’s Bridge where fellow pilgrim Paul delivered a haiku poem he had written, setting us in the mood for the journey.

The walk along the river gave us all a chance to get to know each other and find out about each person’s extraordinary gifts and talents or to walk in silence if preferred. The next section across the road is still closed, so we walked up the road and across fields to Grenaby Bridge. From here, we followed the very quiet lane uphill, passing the Kerrowkeeill chapel on the way to the junction with the Ronague road. This provides expansive views to the south and Langness – if only it weren’t so misty. For those interested, you can hear a recording of the Manx Language Harvest service held there in 1969 here: Kerrowkeeill. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit as the building is now in private ownership but at least one of the pilgrims could remember attending services there.

We joined the Whisky Run, a stony track leading up to the main entrance to South Barrule at Round Table, one of our high points for the day. The midges were out in abundance at this point, but the bilberries tasted delicious as we had a short stop. By this point one or two of the pilgrims had gone their separate ways and another had joined us.

Next was the continuation of the track down to Glen Maye. It is only a few weeks since I wrote about (the tholtan on) this route, so I will simply show you some photos coming from the opposite direction. The cover photo is from this area. It is here that the route becomes most attractive and sitting by the bubbling river eating my homemade onion foccacia I had a blissful few moments amongst the purple heather and the yellow gorse. The rest of the group had stayed at the tholtan for lunch, but there were just too many midges for me – and couple of others who turned up shortly after I sat down. I am still feeling the presence of the midges three days later!

The path down by the Glen Maye waterfall has been upgraded in several sections. There was little water there today, but the greenery was magnificent. I never fail to be amazed by the vines tumbling from 100ft until they just touch the water. There have been two small landslides in the glen, one causing a minor encumbrance on the path, the other on the far side closer to the sea. The last section of the walk was along the wonderful coastline, a walk of about 4 miles. It is so different here from the south with its rugged cliffs. Here the cliffs gradually slide into the sea exposing the rocks below. You can see for miles, all the way to the Calf of Man.

We walked at our own pace and a small group of us led the way, which became a smaller group as we reached the end. I had a very interesting chat with the co-leader about health and illness and how the mind can influence the body, which continued all the way down the grassy Peel Hill and took my mind off my aching legs. From here, you can see all the way to Jurby, but there was heavy cloud on the hills spoiling the views along the way. No sight of the Mountains of Mourne on this occasion.

The group had become separated by quite a distance apart by the end, as the miles mounted up and the hills began to feel harder to walk. It was a good 12 miles from start to finish, with almost 2000ft of ascent, so a major achievement for all no matter what age or ability. A few of us met up again and compared notes at the Retreat in Peel where some of them were staying, and where we had a most welcome cup of tea.

Thank you to all who made this day so enjoyable, with a special mention to Val, who became a taxi driver for the day as well as a general dogsbody, helping out wherever needed – and her sister too. What stars they are ⭐

More pilgrimage blogs to come, or just one actually, another beautiful route across our big hills. To view any photos full size, just click on the individual photo; some of them are showing as portrait when they should be landscape, but when enlarged they show the full photograph. I will post details of a book that has been written about the Triskelion Way and contact details for anyone wanting to join a similar pilgrimage in the future, tomorrow.

West Baldwin and Abbeylands

I do like to try out new walks so I was delighted to see walking.im offering this walk today. I really don’t know the north of the island very well in comparison with the south. I showed my ignorance as to where the north starts as I was informed that St Lukes Church where we started this walk is actually in the middle of the island, and not ‘north’ at all. The position of the church affords amazing views in all directions. It is worth spending time there.

I had never even been along this section of road which leads from Injebreck to Abbeylands. The church stands proudly at the top. The only way to continue north is on foot or cycle along the Millenium Way which take you to the fine mountains of Beinn-Y-Pfott, with Carraghan in front of it and Snaefell in the distance.

Today, we were heading south towards the very outskirts of Douglas. This is a straightforward walk with nothing difficult; a few minor uphill and downhill stretches, no rocks to clamber over, just soft turf and some road walking. It is a very pleasant route that takes a couple of hours or so. We began with a fair bit of road walking, or ‘lane’ walking. These are very quiet, leafy lanes, mostly going nowhere in particular and sometimes it is nice to have the space to walk alongside a friend and chat about your experiences, rather than walking single file along a narrow track.

After about 3/4 mile we stopped outside a very attractive white house whose post was being delivered by a courier, before appearing to walk right through their garden on a recognised footpath that you would not know is there. This is short uphill section behind the house, leading onto very soft, green fields with superb views to the north. We carried on over more fields until we hit another lane, where we turned to the right. I have walked this section before after an archaeological trip. There is not a lot to see along this lane as it is heavily wooded, crossing over quaint streams that eventually become the River Douglas. It is therefore an attractive amble along the lane for about a mile.

At this point, you reach the road junction and turn left towards Abbeylands. Crossing yet another bridge, with the evocative name of Sir George’s Bridge (a statesman who contributed £100 towards the building of this bridge in 1836 – thank you very much, Sir George!), there is a delightful wooded walk along the valley bottom, with a stream gently meandering to the right. After this lovely gently ascending path, we were then followed another nice lane, until we were able to step over the stile on the left and walk across the most beautiful meadow, full of yellow flowers that were really eye-catching against the dark green trees in the valley (see photos above). This sloped gently at first and then a little more steeply into a short section of woodland, and guess what, another bridge, before finishing on the road at East Baldwin where we had passed earlier. We would continue on this road further than we had previously before our final ascent back to West Baldwin. I amused myself by looking upwards at the skeletons of trees with their interesting shapes, the products of which are found below:

At this point, some people made their way to the pub and a few of us continued up to look at the ancient monument, the site of Tynwald Hill (recreated by the Victorians), but clearly a meeting place for all the surrounding parishes. The hill is called Cronk y Keeill Abban, indicating a long heritage and no doubt giving us the name Abbeylands. The views of the heather strewn Slieau Ree were stunning.

Being in the middle of nowhere, any way would take me home eventually, so I ventured home via the hills. The heather was just beautiful and the sun had come out so I was really blessed on my journey home.

Distance 5.5 miles, with 856ft of ascent (lots of small ups and down, nothing much).