Santon Circular Coast Walk (U3A)- 2nd Nov 2021

You could be forgiven for thinking this walk might not have gone ahead given the torrential rain we had had over the previous weekend. Indeed, by the time I actually led this walk I had created and mostly walked four different routes to give my walkers the most pleasant and least muddy walk.

Even on the day the plan in my head changed as unbeknown to me and anyone else for that matter the railway staff were doing some major works at the railway station and were expecting heaving machinery to be delivered to the station car park where we were to meet. This scuppered plan 3, which had been to get the bus to the start as everyone then had to find a suitable spot to park on the very narrow lane at the other end of the station road.

So back to plan 1 ++. I was really disappointed as the route I had finally selected is by far the most scenic route, as the views to the north along the coast are more spectacular than the views to the south and we would also end up on an elevated route giving fine views of the sea towards England as well the inland countryside. And, we now had to walk the mile on a road down to Port Grenaugh as well, never my favourite terrain.

No-one minded. I could have done anything and they would all have politely followed me. Thankfully, this day was fine and even sunny, a vivid contrast to Sunday when I walked my preferred route with howling gales and sharp downpours all the way! Having said that, I was blessed with the most beautiful rainbow as I hiked away from the coastpath. I have some photos to show you, and I shall make them into a slideshow for you at the end. Fortunately, the weather on Monday was breezy and dry in the south and I cannot get over how much difference one day had made to the levels of water on Tuesday to Santon burn and the sodden tracks. Apart from a few sections it was fine, but then this new route did avoid the muddiest sections.

So, my small group of 10 set off down to Port Grenaugh and along the windy coastpath, via Port Soldrick to Santon Gorge. There are no surprises on this part of the coast path and as long as you can cope with uneven paths and sometimes walking on the side of a slope it is accessible for most people. It’s only about 3 and a bit miles from Santon itself to the Gorge and there are plenty of stopping points for a rest. The path does need some maintenance. Most of the boardwalks are a bit dodgy, and there are a lot of them as there are numerous springs falling off the cliff on this section of the coastpath which have been boarded to make it easier for everyone to walk over. There were quite a few mushrooms and toadstools and lots of shags drying their feathers on the rocks. Port Soldrick is an attractive bay and was actually a harbour in times gone by and as you reach the southern end of the cliff you can see the Smugglers Cave, very well placed for unloading contraband.

Not too far from here we reach Santon Gorge itself, which is beautiful. It is part of an ancient woodland of oak, ash and alder mainly and we spotted some good specimens as we made our way down to the bridge. On another occasion, and a different walk, it is possible to hop down to sea level, straddle the burn and hop up the other side and come out by the fort. We may do this another time as apparently there is an igneous dyke that I would be quite interested in finding. We were standing on the northern side of the Gorge which is Manx slate, and the fort is on the southern side which is Castletown carboniferous limestone, and the gorge marks the fault between the two. There is a very small steep section on this walk where care is needed and most of my walkers decide to slide down on their bum, but you don’t have to. It is a very short section and then you follow the trail through the tree-lined gorge to the burn, crossing through some wetlands that have wonderful species of insects and butterflies in the summer.

From the bridge, we followed a green track up out of the gorge to join a very minor road (this was the new section). I had done my research and discovered the lovely ancient church of St. Sanctain which is about a mile away from the bridge. There is no way of avoiding the uphill section but there is no rush and we all get there in our own time. Once you reach the top there are fine views in all directions and from hereon it is downhill or mostly level. Just as we reached the church it started to rain. We all went inside and I gave the sermon on the mount (choirstall in my case), told them all about the origins of the church and some of the artefacts contained therein, including two stone crosses and a roman slab, yes roman, a rarity on the Isle of Man, which was found during excavations and is believed to be part of an ancient grave. It is a really really interesting church, and much loved, judging by the number of donations over the centuries and the ambiance in the church. You can find out more by reading this document. It is fascinating and I can only thank the people who put it together: http://www.santon.org.uk/history.html

The churchyard would have been interesting to visit, and it is large, but time was against us and we needed to continue our walk. It is only a short distance to the Old Castletown road. We followed this south west for about a third of a mile, before turning onto a farmer’s track that follows the stream again, but higher up this time. It was a little muddy in places, but what’s a bit of mud between friends. This path ends up by the motorcyle museum on the new Castletown road right next to Santon railway station. This is where we parted company, the walkers to get their cars and me to get the bus back to Port Erin.

It was a really delightful walk with excellent company. If you are interested in walking with the U3A, they usually walk once a month on a Tuesday. You can find out more information here https://u3asites.org.uk/isle-of-man/page/19385 At the moment it refers to this walk, but this will be updated with details of the December walk shortly.

This walk was about 6.5 miles, with a total ascent of 643ft and 604 ft descent.

The slideshow below is the ‘wet walk’, though it looks quite nice here!

I would like to thank Ian of the U3A for inviting me to lead this walk. I have a couple more in mind that I think the group will enjoy and I shall start planning them for outings in the spring 🙂