This short walk is spectacular, especially if you do it after rains as I did today. The walk starts at the Glen Wyllin campsite, or if you prefer you can park in Kirk Michael village. There is a path right behind the cafe with steps that take you to the old railway line. This path has not been dug up and widened as has happened to the railways tracks in other parts of the island and it still retains its natural charm. Incidentally, if you do park in KM you will have to descend into the valley and ascend the other side as the stone platform of the viaduct has been removed and only the pillars remain. The path is mainly enclosed but every now and again you catch a glimpse of the sea to the west and the hills to the east.
We follow the railway line until it meets a small lane after about a mile just before Glen Mooar. Prior to this, you will go under a couple of bridges. At the lane, the footpath sign tells you to cross over the road and continue through a gate. The path continues for only a short distance, as guess what, the viaduct has been removed at Glen Mooar and again just the supports remain standing, bringing you to a firm standstill. A path downhill has been created. This is a fairly steep descent, but only for about 60ft or so. As you descend you enter another world, away from the farmland and distant vistas of hills and sea. Now we have a tree-lined river with steep banks on either side. The lower path is closed so unfortunately this necessitates more undulating ascents with minor descents and more steps. The gains are great though, as the woods are so very pretty and there are some very large beech trees guarding over the valley. It will look lovely when the spring flowers come out. The cover photo shows the view through the trees to the hills.
At one point you will reach a high grassy area where there are the clearly visible remains of a 10th century keeill (Patrick’s Chapel), priest’s cell and graveyard. It is a very peaceful area for contemplation, meditation or prayer while you listen to the birds singing in the trees.
A little further on and the sound of running water becomes louder and louder, although it isn’t easy to see anything. The path takes you to the top of the waterfall called Spooyt Vane (White Spout), where all you can see is where a small stream begins to gurgle down the rocks. Take the permissive footpath left, down more steps (sorry), and you find yourself in a dell with the wonderful waterfall at its head, with water gushing down into the pool below in a sequence of stages. To the right the area is hollowed out, which probably suggests the waterfall has changed direction over the millennia. I have rarely seen the waterfall so full and it was captivating.
Crossing the bridge, we follow the track along the top of the valley to join the road. There is a small parking place for those making single journeys and Glen Mooar is worth a visit on its own. At the road junction you will see an old chapel which was constructed in the 1860s as a Sunday School and Mission Room for children who couldn’t make the heady journey to Kirk Michael for schooling.
The route continues along the lane uphill past a few houses and farms. As you ascend notice the soft green hills on the left. The other side of these hills is where the recent archaeological dig has been going on for the last few years, unearthing remnants of people and posessions from the Bronze Age (over 3000 years ago). You can find out more about this here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-48806185
At the top of the lane, there are panoramic views of the hills: Sartfell (454m) to the right, Slieau Freoaghane (488m) in the middle, Slieau Dhoo (420m) just behind this and Slieua Curn (351m) on the far left. They look so inviting on a sunny day like this and they make a fine ridge walk. These will be the subject of another walk at some point. Someone has thoughtfully placed some picnic benches along this section of the road so you can stop and enjoy the views as long as you like. You can even see Scotland from here if you look very closely – it was very clear in reality!
For now, we continue with our descent back to Kirk Michael following a track that becomes a footpath and leads to Cooildarry Nature Reserve (owned by Manx Wildlife Trust). It is possible to include an optional extra mile or two walking along the railway line north and then dropping down to the sea, for those who want a slightly longer walk.
There is such variety and interest in this walk, and as long as you don’t mind steps, you will find it a very rewarding experience. Altogether it is about 4 miles including the visit to the Nature Reserve and 545ft of ascent and descent., with an optional extra of 1-2 miles depending on the tides.