Snaefell to Laxey over the hills

A free day, and one planned to do a recce before the madness of TT starts, with practice week next Saturday. I was up early, too early for the first train from Laxey to the summit of Snaefell. It wasn’t a great day, overcast and a little gloomy but it was possible to see the top of Snaefell, so it could have been worse.

As I entered Laxey station I immediately saw a walking colleague, Ken. He is a great leader and was taking a walking group from Orpington up Snaefell and on to Ramsey. The one-carriage train was almost full as we headed off up the valley, with the female voice-over telling us all the important points to look at on the way, such as the Laxey Wheel and the mines. Once at the top, the passengers spilled off the train onto the viewing platform. It certainly was hazy, and there was no question of seeing the Mountains of Mourne today, but it was calm and warm, and considering how often blows a hoolie up here, I settled for that.

I tried to let Ken’s party lead off ahead of me, but my delaying tactics didn’t seem to work, so eventually I found myself at the tail end of his party, enjoying idle gossip as we went downhill to Black Hut. There, we parted company as their route would take them to the left and mine to the right. I only saw them briefly again as they reached their first summit of Clagh Ouyr. My route was a gentle climb up the flank of the hill, across heathery moorland and occasional shallow bogs until I reached a plateau that I walked on for about a mile. On a good day, the views would be fantastic on this section, and even today, they were still very good. The path is easy to follow and at the saddle between two hills there is a signpost where you can turn left and follow a track in a north-easterly direction to Glen Mona. That would be for another day. My path went around the southern side of the hill, turning into a stony track. This was all right for a while, but it gradually got wider and stonier and although relatively easy to walk on it did become a little tedious. I looked for a path, even a sheep path to take me to the top of the hill, but there seemed no easy way amongst the heather, so I refrained for the moment. Crossing a small bridge, it seemed as if there should be a path up between two hills, Slieay Lhean to the left and Slieau Ouyr to the right, but I couldn’t make one out from the track. I could see some grassy areas on a steeper section, so I made my way towards those on Slieau Ouyr and blazed my own trail up to the top of the hill. In reality this was only an ascent 322 ft but it felt more as it was straight up for 1/4 mile max!

I was pleased I had chosen this route as it was far more pleasant higher up and I could see in all directions: North Barrule and eventually the coast up to the Ayres and all the hills around Snaefell. Not having done this route before I was surprised how much of an arc these hills make. From Laxey, they look as if they are in a straight line, but they are not. Having reached the final summit of Slieau Ruy, it was all downhill towards The Dreem, across sometimes difficult moorland. The path is narrow, barely visible sometimes, and you have to be careful where you put your feet as there can be sudden drops invisible because of the heather. It eventually joins the boring track I had been on before. The boring track is absolutely fine really and you still get good views of the southern part of the island, but of course, being lower, you can’t see over the mounds immediately adjacent to the path, so you cannot see the northern hills.

Once off the green track there is a choice of routes. Continue straight on and before long you join a minor road that you can follow back to the top of Laxey. I turned right. This next section was lovely; you are still reasonably high, so there are good views, and there were very green paths in between farmed land. The colours had changed from being purple and brown wherever you looked to being bright green wherever you looked. There is a great direction-finder for the next path, as there is a tall, fairly small wood, that you can see for miles, so you can just head for that, as the next path starts here and goes immediately south down into Laxey, or Minorca to be more accurate. As I neared habitation, the colours became even more dynamic and the trees looked magnificent and seemed to own the place. I wasn’t expecting a ford on this walk, but there it was, but with no water overlapping the road today. There must be deluges from time to time, as someone has constructed quite a strong footbridge for those very occasions.

It is now just a few more paces until you join the minor road where you will find King Orry’s Graves. I didn’t visit them on this occasion as I have done so many other times before. Instead, I continued to the main road and followed it along the top road into Laxey before dropping down a delightful path into Laxey village itself. It was then just another short climb up the road back to the station, and Laxey Glen where I had parked the car.

Distance 6.9miles; 614ft of ascent; and a whopping 2,516ft of descent. You won’t notice the descent. It is very gradual, and if you have good weather, this walk deserves the full day treatment. And of course, once you arrive in Laxey, you can spend time walking around the village or have an afternoon tea in a local cafe, or mooch along the beach. It is a lovely village, and you should allow yourself some time to enjoy it.

West coast walk near Niarbyl

What a way to refresh your soul. I have been working flat-out for a few weeks now and had set aside today for a complete day to myself, without any students, without looking at emails or marking work. I had not anticipated such as treat as I started off through Kerroodhoo Plantation, having parked off the road at Dalby Mountain Nature Reserve.

The sun was shining and it was a warm day as I ventured into the eastern edge of the forest. It is always a delightful walk, no matter what time of year, but as the sun glinted through the trees, it was very pretty; even more so when, rather like Wordsworth daffodils, I came across a sudden drift of bluebells, that went on in all directions. I took photo after photo but show you just two here. Although the path is only partly marked out on the map, in practice it continues all the way to Barrane. In places it is a little muddy and in other places slightly steep. If you are slightly infirm of foot I would definitely use a pole to help you down safely, but these are very short sections and nothing to worry about. Not only was there an abundance of bluebells, but throughout this walk there were many, many different wild flowers and it was pure joy to be amongst them. I shall include a slideshow of these at the end.

Barrane appears after a mile of walking downhill, then the route joins the road leading to Dalby but go south instead of north, and this becomes a stony track uphill. After crossing the ford, or avoiding it by following the signs for the coastal footpath, take the footpath that leads to the edge of the coast. Most people turn right to go to Niarbyl, but our route goes south at this junction and the cliff path is delightful along here. There is a little uphill walking at this stage but there is a nice resting place where I stopped for some time watching the tortoiseshell butterflies doing a merry dance and listening to the linnets singing in the bushes. The view was sensational and there were different flowers in every direction that I looked. It was so restful and just what I needed.

From here, there is a little more uphill and then you join the standard coastal path which begins on a fairly level grassy path before zigzagging downhill for a short distance. Having crossed the ladder stile, the path becomes narrower and closer to the cliff edge. It is never dangerous, but I know some people get nervous on such paths so I have included some photos to show you how close it is. As I say, it is perfectly safe. After a little more downhill, where you are fairly close to the bottom of the cliff at 153ft above sea level, we cross a stream called Glion Mooar and then start the rather more cumbersome 500 ft / 3/4 mile climb up to Eary Cushlin house, of which the first part is the steepest. This can only be avoided by not taking the coastal footpath earlier, but it is a good, grassy path and you can rest whenever you like.

I plan to lead this walk in August, but from here I shall probably take a slightly different route to avoid walking on tracks. Today, I followed the main track up to the edge of the plantation then turned south. This goes very gently uphill to the highest point of day at 998ft. The route then turns off into the Dalby Nature Reserve owned by Manx Wildlife Trust and we walk through this back to the cars. This is likely to be boggy in places as it was today, so if you do follow this route I would recommend wearing long trousers and gaiters. Gaiters for the boggy bits and being a nature reserve the heather and gorse do not take account of walkers and sometimes the path is very narrow if existing at all.

I am feeling so much better these last few weeks and I hoping to get out in the countryside once a week from now on, so you can look forward to a few more posts over the coming months than I have been able to write in recent months.

Distance 5.25 miles; Total Ascent 1,184ft