It’s always good to do different things. This walk takes you mostly over farmland and you get a totally different impression of the island compared with walking the well-trodden coastal footpaths or the popular glens. You begin to appreciate that people work on this land rather than work in this land. The feature photograph is typical of the extensive views that this walk affords for most of its length. It’s not a high walk, the total ascent was only just over 800 ft and is within the capabilities of most reasonably fit people, though you may prefer to take a full day to absorb all the wonderful views rather than the half day I was out.
I got to bus to Ballabeg and walked up the back road beside the lovely Arbory church before turning off onto a path I had never walked before. This was an attractive, narrow path leading gradually uphill towards Ronague, bordered on either side by a wide range of vegetation. I remember being told that you can tell the age of a path by the number of varieties of shrubs in the hedgerows. The blackberries are out in abundance and during the whole walk I regularly stopped to pick and eat the plump berries.
As other days, there were lots of butterflies, mainly speckled woods. The path widens out as you ascend to allow tractors to reach the fields from Ronague. This was very muddy after last night’s heavy rain, so I was glad I wore my walking boots. At Ronague a black hen came out to greet me. The map says there is a chapel, but this seems to have been converted to a house, as is so often the case.
There is some road walking on a small B road before turning to the right to follow farm tracks. It was here that the official route departs from the actual route on the ground. The official path is supposed to go north behind the farm at Ballaglashan over the ford and on to another dwelling and up to the remains of the medieval chapel. In reality these paths no longer exist. At Ballaglashan I had to climb over a fence and struggled with another gate, aided and abetted by a horse who wanted to see what was in my rucksack and kept nuzzling against the gate latch so I couldn’t see what I was doing – and at the next dwelling, the footpath has been removed (though it looks as if they may be redesigning the footpath access as there was one new stile) and there is no direct access to the remains of the old chapel, so I had to do a detour up to the road. The other footpath delineated on the map from the road doesn’t exist either, but you can see the remains clearly, as in the main photo.
Photo: Map showing the two dwellings where the official footpath does not exist
I continued to my lunch stop at Cringle Reservoir and watched a Cormorant swimming along and occasionally stopping to flap its wings. Considering the lack of summer rain and the hosepipe ban the reservoir was surprisingly full. South Barrule looked so inviting, but as I didn’t start my walk until 2pm, there was no time to visit. Another time…
The early part of the afternoon was taken walking down the Bayr ny Skeddan – the old herring path that leads from Peel to Castletown. I really enjoyed this, and it was along this route that I felt closest to nature and the integrity of the island. Unfortunately, it is necessary to walk half a mile along the Ballamodha straight, though had I had longer I might have taken the footpath to Grenaby and walked back the full length of the Silverburn. I had hoped there might be a path that would take me to the Grenaby road from one of the farms/houses but although it was apparent it was so overgrown and clearly unused this was not possible. There are one or two gates that are difficult to open and I gave up trying on the one beside Moaney Moar and climbed over.
The Silverburn Glen never disappoints and is always a delight. I stopped at the Mill and had a break before continuing down to Ballasalla, passing by the 13th century Monk’s bridge and the beautiful ford by Rushen Abbey, then over the fields to Castletown. You could finish the walk at Ballasalla and get the train or bus back, which would reduce the walk by about 2.5 miles. The walk from Ballsalla to Castletown is flat and easy though not suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs. It follows the Silverburn all the way to the coast, and as the tide was in, Castletown looked rather nice in the early evening light.
I walked a little around Castletown before getting the bus back and wondering whether I was going to be able to move when I got off the bus at Port Erin!