Port St Mary and The Chasms

This delightful walk starts beside the dramatic coastline of Port St Mary, close to the lime kilns. Walking along the coastpath in a southwesterly direction we pass Strathallan Castle on a small promontory, with its long history, hidden by time and now looking quite unassuming. It is a shame this former hotel is now abandoned. The latest owner is/ was Mary Aldrich, the wife of Ronnie Aldrich, the musical director of the Benny Hill series (for those old enough to remember you he was!). The coast path undulates around the golf course for a short distance and then we take the wide grassy path down to Perwick beach. There is no sand here, just pebbles and seaweed and the occasional indication of a former dwelling. It has a calm air, away from the bustle of everyday life, but I have stories to tell you about life here that may destroy this peaceful image. 🙂

We cross the stream and head up Glenn Chass to the road. This is only a short section of uphill and even so, a kind person has placed a bench so that you can enjoy a short break while you make the ascent.

Meeting the road, we turn left, with the remainder of the short uphill section to re-join the coastal footpath which contours along the hill, providing splendid views of Port St Mary and on a good day, Wales and Anglesey. This is an easy path, going through meadows and sheep fields. There are more benches to stop and rest. This is an excellent path for watching butterflies at the right time of year and you may well see several common blues darting around the hedgerows.

We reach a point where we can go now further, although you can continue around the bend and sit and admire the views toward Spanish Head and Black Head and watch the many birds on the Sugar Loaf. Today there was a climber scaling the cliffs – very exciting. I could have been tempted to have a go!! The designated footpath takes you up the hill towards the Chasms and the abandoned cafe, now a shelter, often most welcome in bad weather. I have been here in howling gales and torrential rain and been glad of its succour, but today was perfect weather for walking. This is the perfect lunch stop. You can venture into the walled area and view the chasms for yourself, taking care. There are some steep drops into the gulleys but there are many clear man-made and sheep paths to follow. It is worth having a look at least once.

You can of course continue along the coast path all the way to the Sound, and this is one of the best walks on the island, if not the best. The scenery is stunning and the distant views amazing. But that is another walk. So, today, I took the higher track back towards Port St Mary, deviating after the first gate to reach the highest point of the day where there is the radar beacon, still in use, for navigating air traffic. This mighty technological wonder was once a more tame building used for the radio navigation of ships and used to keep in touch with the Chicken Rock Lighthouse of the Calf of Man. The Keeper’s cottages were sold off in 1956 and are now in private ownership. I hadn’t expected the surprise view of Bradda Head and the Carnanes and Niarbyl in the distance.

From here, it is an easy, gentle walk down the hillside amongst the grass, gorse and heather to rejoin the path and take the higher road around Glen Chass. We then enter the glen itself, this time from its western end. A few years ago, a kind entrepreneur renovated this glen and what an improvement he made. You can now walk on good paths beside the stream and enjoy the wildness of this short glen. In spring there will be an abundance of flowers. It looks rather more bleak in the autumn as the leaves fall and leave it looking rather bare.

The walk continues through Fistard, a small hamlet on the outskirts of Port St Mary. There are several interesting and old houses, which are a pleasure to see given the small number remaining in the south. One proudly displays the Manx emblem and the date of construction of 1789.

It is just a short walk back to Port St Mary via the top of the golf course, to rejoin the cliff path.

Distance 4.25 miles; 715 ft of ascent. You can easily avoid the beach if you so choose, as the coast path continues on the top of the cliffstowards the houses at Fistard, going through the relatively new tiny development to bring you out at the road and bridge after the first section of the glen. I shall be leading this walk for the IOM U3A on 13th December, so if you are on the island have a think about joining us. If you are completely new to the U3A I will tell you about it if you send me an email. I am also doing a guided tour of PSM on 15th December, where you can learn about the interesting people, places and activities that have taken place here over the years.