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.