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.
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