Slieau Freoaghane and views of Glen Dhoo

I have a new favourite walk, at least for the extensive views it provides in all directions. This is a ridge walk on the eastern side of Kirk Michael, and it is relatively short at just about 5 miles. You can choose how much ascent you do as well, so this walk caters for different kinds of walker.

It starts at the Sartfell car park on the Kirk Michael to Snaefell road just before the cattle grid. Today, the mountain road was closed, and I was up early, so I had the hills all to myself, something to be strongly recommended. My only companion was a very blustery wind, which I would have preferred to leave me alone, but it persisted for the whole walk. At least it was warm -ish, but it was also hazy, so this walk will be even better on a really clear day.

The walk follows a stony track gently and very gradually uphill contouring round the eastern side of Sartfell. There’s a deep plantation to the right to begin with prohibiting any distant views, but as you get a little higher, the trees become a little sparser and you get glimpses of a far distant land. Being so windy, the trees were making a heck of noise, sounding like gushing water or labourers felling trees, but no such thing was going on; it was just very windy.

Once you leave the trees behind you are granted a full vista of the northern hills, with Sulby reservoir in the dip. It is still not possible to see over the hills to the east at this point. The stony track continues and becomes flatter. In the distance you can make out an old tumble-down wall on the right and that was where I was heading for. The map showed a foothpath up Slieau Freoaghane. It is a gentle hill climb from this starting point, on a well trodden path over mostly peat and heather. It is only when you reach the grassy top that you get the amazing views in all directions. At the trig point, there is a bell which I was very tempted to ring, but I managed to control myself, fearing that I might otherwise summon all the emergency services for no good reason. Reading someone else’s blog, this bell has not always been on the summit, but may have been linked to worker’s cottages lower down the hillside, and the bell was rung to signal the beginning and end of shifts – day and night. My walk was not going in this direction.

The path off Freoaghane is steeper than the climb up, but very friendly. It is a wide, grassy slope and a very enjoyable descent. As you walk down you can map out where you want to go next slightly off the beaten track, which is exactly what I did, as I wanted to avoid more stony tracks as much as possible. Eventually, it is necessary to meet the track again but only as far as the point where the path divides into two, one going to Kirk Michael, the other to Ballaugh.

There is a very strange grid to walk over, which is semicircular with horizontal bars. Here there is a tremendous view of Glen Dhoo above Ballaugh. I then took a track leading up the delightful valley with Slieau Dhoo immediately opposite. This is a great lunch spot, with lots of grass and even a makeshift natural bench if everyone wants to sit in a row 🙂 There is small amount of ascent on this pleasant footpath which leads to over the brow of the hill and down to the yet another stony track. Don’t be put off by this path saying “road closed’ at either end. I am sure walkers are welcome, but the bikers are not. On some maps, there is a right of way immediately opposite leading down to Druidale, and another one a short distance to the right. In reality, these are in a bad state of repair and give the impression of being purposely neglected. About half a mile away, there is a new signpost, but it is not in the place shown on the map, although it does join up with another footpath that is in a slightly better state of repair.

Lunch stop overlooking Glen Dhoo

There is a choice at this point. This new track adjoins the former track we began walking on, so it is quite possible to simply walk along this back to the car. The views are stunning, so why not? Alternatively, you can take the track to the left which is about the 4 mile marker on my map, and follow the stream, again walking on heather and peat down to the Druidale Road. There is no alternative but to walk along the lane up the hill to the car, but it is a very quiet road and a pleasant walk. It does mean you do not have to retrace your steps for the last 3/4 mile. It will add on some uphill and probably another half mile.

The hill walks on this island are just beautiful, but they have to compete with our splendid coastline. Last week my son came over for the Good Friday 10km run in Port Erin. On the Saturday, we went to one of my other favourite places – the rocky outcrops at Langness. We were really spoiled, as not only were the seals in abundance, but we also saw a pod of Risso Dolphins in Castletown Bay, a I guess sheltering to some extent from the blustery seas – yes, it was windy then too.

I am leading the Freoaghane walk for the U3A on June 14th, so if you are a member or would like to become a member, get in touch and I will send you details of where and when to meet us. There is no charge for walks; you are entitled to two try-outs but after that you have to become a member of the U3A to participate in any further activities. They are a great bunch of people, and there many different kinds of groups, so if you have time on your hands and you like meeting people and sharing ideas, it’s a good organisation to become a part of.

Distance: 5 miles; total ascent /descent 1010ft/ 974ft

Crosby to West Baldwin Circular

This was a route I have never walked and I didn’t know quite what to expect. I was planning a walk for the U3A and if this one wasn’t quite what I wanted I had another up my sleeve. However, the contingency plan was not required as this is a beautiful walk with extensive views in all directions. The paths are good to reasonable, if a bit muddy in places, and the route is easy to follow.

I started at the centre of Crosby parking by the Bowling Green. I haven’t been there since they build the new houses and Coop and the old-fashioned toilets that were so useful have now disappeared, although the gate remains! Crossing the main road requires care and then there is uphill section for some distance. The first part is the most arduous but it’s not too bad and with every step up you get a better view from where you have just come. A path beside the road has been created for a short distance and by the time we do this walk in May, it should be festooned with wild garlic.

We follow the Millenium Way all the way to West Baldwin, up hill and down dale. The maps show direct routes across fields but it is clear from sign markings that the farmers would prefer us to walk around the field, so please be considerate when you are walking across countryside. Some of these fields were very muddy today but I am hopeful that by May they will have dried out a bit. The views, especially to the west and north, make up for the terrain.

As you get close to West Baldwin, the route follows the river along a high track. This was a lovely section and I enjoyed listening to the water tumbling down into the valley below. West Baldwin is lovely and unspoilt, with some interesting and quaint houses and has a much-loved feel to it. The bridge is attractive in itself and a good place for a lunch stop. This is the half way point in this walk, at about 3 miles.

From here, we follow the road south through the village for a very short distance before taking a minor road uphill and going round a few corners before we drop onto what looks like an ancient track going down to a ford, with a tiny foot bridge for walkers. The track is stony but not difficult to traverse and as it goes uphill after the ford it becomes a grassy track leading to a small lane, which is wide and airy. From here you can retrace your footsteps in your mind’s eye as the vista unfolds in front of you.

This is our downwards stretch which takes us eventually to Glen Vine via tracks, a small amount of road and more fields. The stiles in the field section just beside Glen Vine need some attention. They are surmountable but you do need to take care. A couple of them can be avoided by going through gates, but not all of them. Arriving at the main Peel to Douglas Road, we turn right towards Glen Vine for a very short distance, before crossing over the road and following yet another stream (we have followed a lot of streams on this walk) through an old wood down to the old railway line. In all my years of walking I can’t believe I have walked down this path. It is clearly very popular as people have made higher and lower paths through it and created a swing over the stream for children to play.

The walk along the old railway track is very easy walking, and also interesting. There is a new nature reserve and I always enjoy looking at the wetlands just to the side of the track and thinking what life they have and how they developed over the years. The path was modernised in recent years to make it accessible for bikes, pushchairs and wheelchairs. It is settling in well now and doesn’t look quite so much like a road any more. The section from Glen Vine to Crosby is actually narrower and more appealing to me.

This is a walk I would definitely do again. It is not too demanding, with a total of 741 feet of ascent/descent and nothing too steep. Most of the uphill is in the section before West Baldwin. The distance is about 6.75 miles, which I confess was really too much me only 6 weeks after my operation but I am still glad I did it, and I shall look forward to taking our members around the route in May. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos. I obviously have some settings wrong on my camera, but they do give you a flavour of what to expect.