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.