Around the Carnanes and Lhiatee ny Beinnee – 8.5 miles

I can see this group of hills from the back of my house and they are very inviting on bright sunny day. There are many options to start this walk from a number of different places and a number of different ways of reaching the tops. However, today, or actually yesterday as I write this, I chose to walk from home. I didn’t have a specific plan other than to reach the highest point on these delightful mounds of hummocks, which is Lhiatee ny Beinnee (White Hill, due to the quartz I imagine) at just under 1000ft. Of course, there are undulations along the way so your total climb will be more than this, and in places it is steep, especially if you start at Fleshwick.

My route took me along the outskirts of Port Erin to Ballabeg and up the quiet lane to Surby. I noticed what appears to be a well just to the side of the road on someone’s forecourt. From here, it is a green lane following a stream which is full of wildflowers in the spring and summer. Some traditional cottages can be seen on this path and as you climb out of the valley you are rewarded by tremendous views to the south. The lane eventually peters out into a footpath, which today, or yesterday, was looking a little sad as the gorse has been severely pruned leaving a mini wasteland compared to previously. This is only a short section and a stile and gate inform you that you are now on the lower edge of the moorland of the Carnanes.

As you glance northwards it is impossible to avoid seeing the many cairns on top of the hillocks, many of which I have clambered up in the past, and some never until today. There is a good reason to stick to the paths between the cairns as I shall explain later, but for now take a look at the undergrowth in the photo to the right above and you may guess what’s coming. For now, I followed the northerly path which gradually veers to the west and gives you tremendous views of the Irish Sea and on a day with good visibility Ireland. Adjusting your eyes to the right it is possible to sea Scotland too, and Black Combe in the distance across the water to England in the opposite direction. Now you know why we have our three legs of man.

Can you spot Anglesey and Snowdonia in this photo?

I stopped for lunch (a sandwich of chicken, chutney, fresh sage and thyme – yummy) at a small cairn overlooking Bradda Hill towards Fleshwick Bay, Port Erin and Port St Mary. I could also see out way beyond Port St Mary and in the very far distance I could see Anglesey and Snowdonia. It was one of those days that provides exciting views on all directions. I had thought of heading south at this point, but instead I went as I had promised myself to the top of the big hill so that I could see Cronk Ny Array Laa looming out of the sea and a bit further along the shoreline, Niarbyl peeking out from under its cliffs and even Peel Hill in the far distance. This ‘detour’ meant that I had to return along the same path back to my lunch cairn. By an incredible stroke of coincidence I bumped into someone I met last summer on this very same part of the hill, so we had a socially-distanced chat for a few minutes. He was walking back to PSM via Port Erin if, as he said, his legs were up to it (i.e. the steep climb up to Bradda Hill).

I had already decided my route. The Bradda Hill circular is a regular walk for me, so this time, I decided to give that part of the coastal footpath a miss, and instead went craghopping from cairn to cairn around the Carnanes. Sounds great until you try to find a different path off it. I could see the main path only 50 metres away, only between me and it was thick gorse and heather. Any sane person would have retraced their steps, but this is me, and I waded through scratchy gorse sometimes 3ft deep. I did think at one point I had taken on more than I could chew, but I persevered and finally met the path. There were other walkers on this bit of path and I think they wondered what on earth I was doing!

From here it was only about half a mile to the eastern edge of the moorland, still up high but grassy now rather than gorse and heather. I crossed the Sloc road that leads slightly downhill to a car park and picnic site with unbelievable views then carried on a hundred metres or so to take a path left into the farmed countryside. This was something of an obstacle course. The first stiled wall is about 5-6ft tall, with just two stones to clamber up with an equally deep drop on the other side, followed immediately another rickety wooden stile(!). At the end of the next field is a kissing gate which is about all you can do if you are wearing a ruckscack unless you are very skinny. Then after traversing a muddy field there is a high ladder stile to cross. Anyone would think they didn’t like walkers. At least the bikers won’t take this route. If you don’t like stiles or are quite short (!) consider the path the same distance in the other direction from the picnic site, which takes you pretty much in the same direction but starting further north.

On reaching the farm at Scholaby, it is then an easy walk down the lane for about a mile to The Level, passing cows posing for their photo and the old chimney that I can see from my house signifying mining from days long past, or if you fancy a longer route, you can turn left just after the farm and visit Colby Glen (worth a visit if you haven’t ever been) and get a bus back. I followed the main back road to the roundabout and had a rest at Ballachurry Nature Reserve before finishing my walk by crossing the fields behind the Ballahane Estate.

A great day out and I felt a sense of achievement when I got home, having successfully avoided TV and the incessant coverage of the very sad death of Prince Philip (RIP) for a number of hours.

If you use the data above for any reason, the time includes rest times and meal times. Actual walking time was 2hr 50mins.

Incidentally, you may or may not know that I started painting for the first time in lockdown. I have updated the recent Cregneash / Chasms post so that you can see my latest effort (no.5). Bit of a curate’s egg, but I’ll use the correct type of paper next time…

Chibbanagh Plantation – 2.5 miles

I had a renewed sense of freedom today as our rules were relaxed a little so that garden centres opened to the public, so I grabbed my car keys and set off for Douglas. As I was nearing Douglas on the wonderfully picturesque Foxdale to Douglas Road I passed the Chibbanagh Plantation on my right and promised myself a walk around this forest on the way home should time permit.

A couple of hours later I parked up and perused the view. I could see for miles towards the backbone off our island and way out to sea. It was a beautifully clear day with a strong wind. We had had sleet and snow overnight and the day was distinctly chilly. In the far distance the Lake District hills loomed out of the sea and in the near distance a boat was proudly moored in Douglas harbour. I say boat (right photo), but actually this is the largest sail-assisted motor yacht in the world, worth $400 million, owned by the Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko. The yacht is 142 metres in length and its tallest mast is 91 metres (higher than Big Ben!), and it can have up to 54 crew members. some ‘boat’!

It is an uphill start to the walk along a well-made regular track, but of course, I spotted a lesser track to the left following the eastern boundary of the plantation. This looked a lot more fun, being narrow and slightly undulating, or even massively undulating in places.

At a corner I was forced to turn right to join the main path and follow it again slightly uphill in a southerly direction. I soon spied another path through the undergrowth leading off to the right, so I headed downhill in a westerly direction, where every now and again South Barrule could be seen peeking out above the trees.

Meeting the western edge of the plantation gave me a dilemma. Do I turn right or left? Right would presumably take me back to the car (eventually) or left would take me where?? Who knows, but as I wanted to see if there were any views of the south of the island this is the direction I chose. This necessitated a muddy tread uphill and an even muddier trip downhill, and there was I wearing totally inappropriate footwear as I hadn’t been planning a walk. So, you can guess what happened next. Yep, a nice slippery and ungainly splat on all fours into the undergrowth. At least I had a soft landing (rather better than when I tripped on the stairs and crashed into the front door a month ago, providing me with a luscious black eye and affecting my upper jaw!).

A little further along, this makeshift path contoured around to the south along what I suspect was a former field boundary in the days before the plantation. It was like walking along a derelict wall (am I asking for more trouble you ask?) with sloping sides and narrow footholds. It was a lot of fun. There was more jeapardy than you can appreciate in this photo. It seems I need fun at the moment. Eventually it joined the main path where I did finally catch a glimpse of the sea to the south, but it wasn’t much of a view.

From there, it was another uphill climb on a more recognised path that leads to the highest point. This was very pleasant walking, and indeed the real, intended path is a mixture of grass and soil, or chippings, and it reminded me of a path in Northamptonshire I would regularly use for training for 10km runs. I followed this same path all the way back to the car. It was a truly delightful walk and all the better for being unplanned. It is a dog walker’s paradise and a great place to take a walk if you only have a short amount of time.