The Tuesday U3A Walk – Eary Cushlin, Round Table, Cronk Ny Arrey Laa

What a wonderful day we had. Superb views, superb company and wall-to-wall sunshine. I have described this walk in detail on a number of occasions so today, I shall simply tell you some interesting facts that I related to the walkers en route.

The day started out not quite as planned as the Midweek Muckers (Manx Wildlife Trust’s sturdy volunteers) had taken up all the car parking spaces. This meant that we had to park at the far end of the track, but in reality this turned out to be an asset not an inconvenience, as we got all the track walking out of the way at the start. We were only 7 in number. A couple of people didn’t turn up, but I know that some of the regulars felt this particular jaunt would be a challenging step too many for them.

We set off down the Glen Rushen valley, stopping at the first tholtan (Thallaquaine, Claughbane). This is where I delivered my first interesting tale. But first, what a stunning location. It is set high up on the northerly slopes of Glen Rushen and has panoramic views of South Barrule and the moorland plateau. There is another tholtan in full view of Claughane, and the story involves both homesteads in the year 1906. Claugbane farmer and butcher, Robert Clarke, agreed to keep a light shining in his farmhouse all night and every day in case marauders came and he needed help. The light shone brightly for many a day, until one day, William Carran looked up from his farm across the Glen and noticed the light had gone out. Donning his overcoat and boots, he trudged off down the ‘main road’, crossed the river and climbed up the slopes on the other side until he reached the cottage. He knocked on the door – “Anyone there?”……. No answer. He tentatively pushed open the door to see everything exactly as it should be. Dishes on the side, clothes in the cupboard, furniture where it should be, but no people, not one. As he turned to leave, he spotted on the sideboard a slip of paper. Taking it to the light, he read “Gone to America”. The intrigue continues as a report I read states that not only Robert Clarke emigrated but also “Mrs. Christian, her son and daughter from Peel, gone to Ohio, Cleveland”. Do you think they eloped?

This set the scene nicely for the next stage of our walk to the other Tholtan on the other side of the river. This large farmstead has a rich history, but few details until 1820, when it is cited that the owner was Joseph Faulder. It is now called Carran’s Farm, but it is thought it had previously been called Glen Rushen Farm. In 1871 he put it (and Thallaquaine) up for sale and William and Anne Carran eventually bought the 350 acres for £230. They had 8 children all living here! It is reported that only one remained in the area, Thomas Carran, and indeed he inherited it and farmed it until 1932. At this point it was sold to the Peel Water Company, who promptly put all the assets up for auction, including cattle, poultry, horses, sheep and all the farm machinery, including a turnip drill, rabbit lamp and double barrel gun. Why did the Water Board buy the property? That’s odd you might think? Not at all once you know that this area had been designated to be dammed and the Glen Maye river and valley would have been swallowed up by a reservoir. Thankfully, this never occurred and we are able to enjoy all the benefits of rambling freely in this beautiful area.

Carran’s Farm contains the house, with an extension of a scullery and parlour, several outbuildings, a toilet (I wouldn’t recommend trying it), a theshing wheel and gardens, now all overgrown or in a state of disrepair. With such a rich history you do feel this farm warrants renovation by Manx National Heritage. There are many many similar tholtans on this section of the walk, as this was the ‘main road’ at the time leading from Colby down to Glen Maye and would therefore have been a thriving thoroughfare 150 years ago. There was no route contouring South Barrule as there is today, and the windy coast road to Dalby did not exist either. As we trundled up the track, we realised what a tough life these people had. Yet the valley had a large population whereas today people living in these hills are sparse.

Reaching Round Table we stopped for lunch before enjoying a most beautiful amble across the moorland. The heather had sprung into life since I last came, and the sheep were keen to see us. Reaching the corner at the foot of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa, two walkers decided they had walked far enough and made their way downhill back to their cars. The rest of us continued to the top of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa, also called Cronk Ny Irree Lhaa. The first term means Hill of the Day Watch, associated with Viking Times; the other term means “Hill of the Rising Day” associated with the herring fishermen. We discussed whether we could see Anglesey in the distance. We could certainly see Black Combe on the outskirts of the Lake District, and the mountains of Snowdonia further south. To the west, the Irish Mountains of Mourne loomed large, along with more northerly parts of the Irish coastline. To the north, Scotland was just visible. We spent a relaxing few minutes chatting away and enjoying the views before descending down the precipitous coast path to Eary Cushlin, where we stopped again for another chat and we all lamented the fact that we wished it were a pub or a cafe rather than rental accommodation.

So that was our day. This is a fairly tiring walk, especially in hot weather, but worth every tired limb and sunkissed arms and face to be treated to such delights. The full walk was just under 7 miles with about 1200ft of ascent and a similar amount of descent.

Apologies for the lack of photos. I only took 2 today, the two sunny ones! 🙂

Teaser for Tuesday

On Tuesday I am leading a walk for the U3A down the Rushen Valley up to the Round Table and on to Cronk Ny Arrey Laa and Eary Cushlin. I had offered an extension to view Lag Ny Keeilley, so the purpose of today’s walk was to check whether the coast path from the top of hill to this historic site was suitable for my walkers.

I must admit I wasn’t really in the mood for walking – horror of horrors I hear you say, but my apathy was soon dispelled once I started moving. It was a lovely day and there seemed to be no-one about so I had all this wonderful countryside all to myself. Maybe everyone is watching the Commonweath games or gone away…

The route to the top of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa is well travelled and easy. It is about 300ft from the road and takes about 15 mins to reach the top, from where the views are unsurpassed anywhere on the island, with the exception perhaps of Snaefell. The route down to Eary Cushlin is not so easy. It is narrow and steep and the footings are tricky in places where the ground has been eaten away over time, leaving fairly high steps on the banks. Having said that, it is easily passable with care. It looks no distance from the top but in reality takes between 20-30 mins to walk down and across the moor to where the path meets the lower path at Eary Cushlin.

On Tuesday, we shall continue straight on past Eary Cushlin house and back to the cars. I haven’t described the earlier part of the walk as I have covered this before. When I write it up on Tuesday I shall tell you all about the Tholtans in the area. However, for those wanting to visit Lag Ny Keeilley, turn left and continue mostly downhill on a rough path for about 3/4 mile. This was originally a packhorse route which would have run all the way around the steep western slopes of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa to the Sloc. I decided this path was not suitable for a group. Not only is it narrow and overgrown with bracken the ground has broken away in places on the slopes making the path very difficult to negotiate. It really needs some maintenance, but I guess this is not a very frequented path so won’t be high on the list of things to do over here.

If you do continue, the views are beautiful on this dramatic coastline, and it is extremely peaceful. There were several little birds hovering and chatting as I walked along and a very big bird kept circling overhead – possibly a harrier. When I eventually reached Lag Ny Keeilley, over 1000 years old, you will initally see two modern cairns at the entrance. The whole area is surrounded by a circular wall, though this is difficult to see, indicating a burial ground. Indeed several burials have been found, including a lady who lived at Eary Cushlin who was buried there in 1800. The keeill itself is fairly substantial and significant finds were found here, including the original altar and quartz pebbles, often found in these settings as a mark of respect for the dead. The remains of the priest’s cell is also visible. If you would like to know more about this site, take a look at Andrew Johnson’s explanation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkxEbGS6Sos. Although his video was made only a few years ago, the site seems in better condition then than it does now, which is a shame.

Overall, the distance of this walk was about 4 .5 miles, and 1070ft of ascent and roughly the same amount of descent.

Ambling and Rambling Around the Sound Coastpath

It was one of those days that was just right for walking, if a little breezy. At least it wasn’t boiling hot! It is a while since I have walked this route west to east (or roughly that) and I was really looking forward to it. I wasn’t disappointed. There are a few noticeable changes – well noticeable to me – such as quite a lot of erosion in places, some caused by weather, some caused my man, and some very definitely caused by rabbits. The heather, whilst still beautiful, was not quite as abundant as it has appeared in the past, and the bracken seems to be getting a stronghold in some areas and crowding out the heather. The gorse was variable with several areas without flowers. On the plus side, there were a lot of choughs, all busy arguing with themselves as only they know how to do.

I started out from home and walked along Athol Park to the top road overlooking Port Erin. This is one of my favourite views of the bay. It always looks so inviting, no matter what the weather. I followed the road to where the coastpath starts behind the delapidated Marine Biological Station, noticing that the stream that generally gushes out from the top of the cliff was completely silent today, testament to the very dry summer we are having. The seagulls seem to have already abandoned the cliff face here, where they used to nest in abundance. They must be anticipating their home being ravaged by builders and machinery once the development of the apartments begins. Today, there were only a couple of beleaguered herring gulls scattered on the site.

The path soon starts to climb uphill and this was the first point where I noticed that more rocks were exposed than I remember. Again, areas that are usually a bit muddy were dry and the wild flowers even seemed to be begging for rain. Otherwise, I didn’t see anything unusual on my walk round to the Sound. I was as delighted as ever when I reached the Valley of the Rocks with all its contorted shapes. A few minutes later I arrived at the Sound in time for a bowl of soup, which was accompanied with a roll, but the greedy seagulls took it when I wasn’t watching. I had been debating whether I wanted the bread anyway, so they did my a favour, and boy did they enjoy it and make a fuss! I am on a keep fit campaign, not much of a campaign really. I just want to lose a little weight and cutting out or down on bread and cheese are high on my list.

After lunch I spent a little time sitting on the rocks watching the seals. Several were lounging close by and others were peering at the visitors peering at them. This is such a beautiful spot to stand and stare, and you know how good I am at that. After that it was the steep climb up on to the top of Cronk Mooar and then on to Spanish Head. On the way, I met a couple watching some sheep who were having an argument. I was to see them later on in my walk – the couple that is, not the sheep, and we spent a very pleasant few minutes talking about our respective experiences of the island and comparing it with Germany, where they live. This section of path usually has the best gorse and heather, and add in the sage and the grasses, it makes for wonderful variation in colour. There are also interesting rock formations on this section of Spanish and Black Head, rather like limestone pavements, but I’m not sure they are made of limestone. If anyone knows what type of rock these are please let me know.

The last bit of uphill takes you to the Chasms and the Sugarloaf. Here I met another couple, also visitors, wanting to know where to go next. I think their decision was made by telling them there were toilets at Cregneash as they then headed up in that direction. I took the lower grassy path and made friends with a number of sheep, and picked up feathers for my granddaughter to paint. The vista on this side of the Sound is very different. On the north western side all you can see are hills, but from here you can see not only the hills but the terrain also gently rolling down to the sea and the flat areas of Castletown and Langness.

By the time I reached Glen Chass I had had enough. If you are doing this walk, you might want to continue down to Port St Mary and take one of the roads back to Port Erin. There are a number of different options, depending on how far you want to walk. You can go over the hill at Fistard, taking the path upwards from the golf course, follow the coastal path or as I did follow the road at Glen Chass to the Howe Road. I then followed the farmer’s track down to Truggan Road and then I was about home. However, if you turn left at the Howe road junction, you can take a footpath behind some houses on the right, going over fields and retaining the height and the wonderful views until you finally have to drop down on one of three footpaths leading to the Port Erin end of Truggan Road.

This walk was just under 8 miles, with a total ascent of 1463′ and a total descent of 1503ft. I took it slowly, to enjoy looking at all the wildflowers and other wildlife. I would allow 3.5 – 4 hrs of walking time for this beautiful coastal walk.

Eary Cushlin Round 23rd Nov 2021

If you only ever do one walk on this island, this is the one to do. There is nothing more beautiful and I never tire of it. There is no walk that offers such variety, with a valley walk, a moorland walk and a coastpath, with fine views to all aspects of the island. Yes, you can see the four nations from Snaefell but on a good day you can see all these from the top of Cronk ny Array Laa as well.

This is a very accessible walk with no steep climbs. The coastal footpath is very worn in places and therefore there are some claggy steps down that require careful attention, but it is all passable and if this does deter you, there is an alternative route back to the car park at Eary Cushlin.

The walk starts at the picturesque car park of Eary Cushlin, half a mile down the track from the main road. There is room for about 8 cars here, and if full, you can revert to the car park beside the road at Dalby Mountain. It really doesn’t matter as you either walk the track at the start or end of the walk. Crossing over the main Peel road we take the designated footpath that contours around the side of Dalby Mountain and through the forest before descending to the bridge over the Glen Rushen river. It is two miles from Eary Cushlin to the bridge. All along this route there are tremendous views of the valley, and at this time of year the colours are magnificent, especially the rust coloured bracken and the green spruces. Notice the lone erratic rock left in the valley from the ice age. In the distance South Barrule stands magnificent and there are views of the mines to the north and looking over Dalby Mountain site of special scientific interest (the largest peat bog on the island) Cronk Ny Array Laa competes for our attention. The footpath is straightforward, mostly grassy or soil. Towards the bridge it becomes a little steeper downhill but is easily manageable.

There wasn’t much water in the river today. Crossing over the bridge I followed the wide farmer’s track that ascends steadily but surely up to Round Table, passing a large tholtan which has the most spectacular views in each direction. I have been here many times but never taken the time to look around the tholtan. It has many interesting features and it also gives an opportunity for a coffee stop after the climb up the hill.

Continuing on the same track we go through the South Barrule plantation to meet the road junction from Peel / South Barrule / Colby. This makes a good lunch stop as there is a nice flat grassy area with views of both South Barrule and Cronk Ny Array Laa and the moorland in between. After lunch, we continue across the moor in a south westerly direction, which is mostly flat and is a good path. I am always surprised how long it takes to walk this as the destination looks so close. It is a minimum of 20 mins walk across the moor only to be thoroughly enjoyed. Every now and again you come across small clumps of quartz shining brightly against the black peat. The picture below shows the easy path over the moor.

Reaching the corner, the walk continues up to Cronk Ny Array Laa at 1567ft. Most of the uphill has now been completed, but if you are unsure of foot and don’t wish to do the craggy sods of downhill footpath on the coast path to Eary Cushlin you can take the track (it starts as a road) that has a smooth descent and takes you back to Eary Cushlin car park. You can see this track on the map just to the east of the 5 mile marker. However, if you do this you miss some of the finest views you can have on the island, so if it is a good day when you do this walk, I would strongly recommend this last section. It only adds on another half mile and a few hundred feet of ascent. It was cool, dull and slightly windy day when I did this walk, so gloves, hat and scarf were in order when I got to the top, but I have done this on warm days in bright sunlight and spent many moments scampering happily around the top of this peak and exploring…

As it was, I quickly followed the coast path down the hillside, at all times admiring the extensive views to the north and west. The descent is a little steep in places and worn as I have said, and poles are very useful on this section for balancing as the steps down can sometimes be a good foot down, or more. It is possible to walk on the heather in places, but not recommended as you can’t see the dips and hollows very easily. It is a relatively short descent taking about 20 mins and once you reach the wall the path is more amenable going over the grassy terrain, where we treated to a surprise view of the Carnanes and the Calf in the distance. We join the footpath that leads to Lag Ny Keilly, a hermit’s ancient stronghold about half a mile down the path at the foot of Cronk Ny Array Laa. However, this walk does not visit this and I turned right and took the path to Eary Cushlin house, now self-catering accommodation. From here it is a very short walk back to the carpark. I can’t emphasies enough how beautiful are the views on this descent.

This is not a walk to be hurried. You do need to pay attention to where you are putting your feet and there are a couple of tholtans to visit, as well as spend time simply being and immersing yourself in this wonderful countryside. This 6.4 mile walk with 1293 ft ascent and 1227ft descent took me over 3 hours on my own, so I would recommend you treat this as a day walk and take your time. It is sensible to start fairly early to be assured of a space in the car park, but if you are unfortunate, there are other starting points, such as the lunch stop, or the track by Cronk Ny Array Laa. Enjoy 🙂

Heather Walk on the Western Cliffs 18/08/21

I make no apologies for there being a surfeit of photos mostly of purple heather and yellow gorse, as this was today’s mission. The Isle of Man boasts a kaleidoscope of spectacular colours at this time of year but you will see none better than on the walk from Cronk Ny Array Laa to Port Erin. I can see many of these from my house and can watch the terrain change from green to purple and yellow from my bedroom window.

However, it was one of those days starting in sunshine, quickly fading into soft clouds. Then the clouds would part, leaving you tantalised by a glimmer of sunshine, only to have it taken away just as quickly and be replaced by the thick veils of Mananan’s cloak, meaning that a large part of this walk was undertaken in fog, not great for photos. As you watch the slideshow below, it does eventually brighten up and offer up some views. 🙂

I had grabbed a lift to my starting point with my friend Janet, who was travelling to Peel to do her stint at the Wildlife Trust shop. She dropped me on the corner in thick fog. Undaunted, I made my way to the top of Cronk Ny Array Laa. I wondered if I might be a little late in the season for my photographs as a lot of the heather on the eastern side of the hill was going over from what I could see.

From here, it is a steady descent to The Slock. There are usually fine views of the south, but given the weather, imagination was necessary. I hadn’t gone far when I met a lady carrying a very large rucksack up the hill. It turns out she is Portuguese and was hiking around the island. We had a very interesting half an hour talking about her journey, bus times and tide timetables before we each continued on our respective ways.

Just before The Slock, I found myself below the cloud line and I was able to enjoy the magnificent colours all around me. It was then a short climb up to Gob Ny Beinn. The cairn is slightly further along the ridge. I stopped here for a late late lunch in the… fog… before continuing down to Fleshwick. This is usually the most stunning section for colour but the mist had the better of it for most of the walk. Even so, it was beautiful and moody and so very quiet. All I could hear was the wind under my ear muffs. Yes, it is August, but it was cold enough to wear a t-shirt, thin jumper, light fleece and waterproof at times!

Mission accomplished and numerous photos in the bag, once at Fleshwick I debated with myself whether to bother with the climb up Bradda Hill. I wasn’t feeling great and I knew really my body had had enough, but if I am presented with a challenge that is achievable I am likely to do it. There was an alternative, low route home from Fleshwick, but it is less interesting, so the more challenging route won.

The route up to Bradda Hill is known as a fairly ferocious climb, though not difficult as long as you take your time. It is 500-600ft, but it is only the first 450ft that is quite steep. And there are plenty of stopping places. It is then an undulating walk along the cliffs to Port Erin. The scenery changes a lot. There are still significant patches of heather and gorse but not the unbroken expanses of the Carnanes or Cronk any Array Laa. It is easier to see the effect of farming too, as where there might be moorland is grassland. At this point, the clouds decided to relieve themselves of their moisture, so I packed away my phone and stepped out to make my way home.

It was a most enjoyable afternoon, but it took its toll on me. I had to go to bed and rest when I got in, and I haven’t been a lot better today. But ask me anytime, I’ll just keep going until I no longer can.

I will leave the photos to do the rest of the talking. If you can get out in the next few days you won’t be disappointed. The hills all around the island look spectacular.

Distance on the hills 6 miles + 1 mile into Port Erin; Ascent 1200 ft

26 Peaks Challenge Day 2- 4 peaks and 10 miles

This was Day 2 with a difference, hence calling it ‘2 minus’ – the difference being I was unable to go with the group yesterday and decided that I would make up for it by doing two circular walks involving the same peaks over the next week. The bonus is that I had never walked from the starting point I chose, or been up Beary Mountain, or made my way up the skirt of Slieau Ruy, so lots of new things.

The weather was glorious warm sunshine, only the sun was not strong enough to push through the haze in the distance, so my photos are somewhat lacking. The atmosphere was wonderful and being on my own I could choose when and where to stop and I shall long remember my extended stop on the slopes of Slieau Ruy taking in the vistas, brushed by a gentle breeze.

I parked at Tynwald Mills car park (St. Johns) and started my ascent immediately on crossing the main road from St Johns to Kirk Michael. There are two options here. Either follow the signpost for horses or take the left turn through the woods, which theoretically at least was the actual path. It was a delightful walk through the woods until it petered out at the stream, which meant I had a mini adventure making my way through the undergrowth in the trees to get to the top path (the horse path). It was fun anyway.

This path is clearly a very old path and once you reach a certain point it contours around the midriff of Beary Park (the hill with the mast that you can see for miles). This path is very accessible but stony. The path on the map shows it continuing to join the lane from Greeba, but there is a very pleasant path left which takes you to the southern edge of the Beary Park plantation and eventually joins at the crossroads to Beary Mountain. I then went into the plantation to bag my first peak over 1000ft, being Beary Park itself. Last time I was here, a year ago, it was completely shrouded in mist so it was nice to have views this time. If you are new to the island, if you continue on this path it eventually takes you back down the hill to Glen Helen, a very pretty stream and waterfall.

I retraced my steps to the crossroads. I could see a clear path ahead leading onto Beary Mountain. Bear in mind that the paths on the ground do not necessarily match those on the map, so you need to keep an idea of where you are eventually heading. In my case, I hadn’t actually decided and I was quite happy mooching around on Beary Mountain enjoying the countryside. The plantations too do not look like their designated areas on the map either and they are a little misleading. I never did find the Cairn (not that I was actually looking for it) but I am certain I went over the highest point of Beary Mountain, so that is Peak No 2 for today. Not that it seemed like any kind of peak being largely flat, and as I looked back, Beary Park peak seemed clearly higher. Of course, it must be an illusion, but you can see for yourself what I mean.

I followed a path that lead southeastwards skirting the forest, which I presume is the Glion Gill plantation, climbed over a gate and followed a non-descript path to the lower saddle of Slieay Ruy. It is on this slope, which I took steadily as it was relatively steep for my legs at the moment, that I stopped to admire the view. It was so peaceful. I hadn’t seen a soul all day, and I watched the pippits hopping from heather to heather and the clouds skimming across the sky. Pure joy.

Once I met the official path I veered left to the trig point and cairn of Slieau Roy (479m). I thought about continuing but I decided Lhargee Yuy could be attained on my 2nd trip out from a different direction. I then retraced my steps and continued on to Greeba Mountain. This is typical peat moorland with little else to comment on, except the extensive views in all directions; but still it was hazy and unfortunately there would be no great views for me today. There is no footpath directly down the ridge here, so it is necessary to follow the very stoney trail to the edge of the forest to make the descent.

I was struck by the immediate change in colour, from the dull greens and browns of the moorland, to the vivid bright greens of the vegetation and trees. This is an easy walk down a well trodden path, although longer than I remembered it, it being more than a mile from Greeba Mountain to the bottom. As you descend you can appreciate the soft colours of the farmland and the undulations of the middle valley, separating the north and south of the island.

I had a choice at this point, whether to walk along the road or cross over and walk along the heritage trail. I opted for the former and was pleasantly surprised by the number of wild flowers growing on the wayside, which made up for the constant noise of the traffic! Another time, I would probably take the heritage trail, but as my route was northwards at Ballacraine, it seemed sensible to keep things simple. However, it was over 2 miles on road. It’s worth keeping in mind that there are buses along this route so if you have had enough of walking, you can wait for a bus instead of taking either route.

I really enjoyed the peace and quiet of this walk, and of course the miles and miles of views in all directions. I only saw a few pedal bikers in the distance and one family just before I hit the main road. For four hours I had seen no-one at all. Bliss. I finish this blog with some photos of the wildflowers I came across, and a final look back at one of the hills:

26, 1000ft + Peaks Challenge – Day 1; 22nd May 2021

I imagine the title will make some of you feel exhausted, turn over and go back to bed, but if I can do it as an OAP, so can you. Not that I’m sure I can do it yet. Having various infuriatingly only partially diagnosed metabolic problems makes hill-climbing often painful and extremely tiring to the extent I have to rest for several days afterwards. But this is who I am and what I have done all my life, though without so many encumbrances. I adore being out in the hills, wind, rain, snow, sun, I don’t care. If I stop now I will lose a lot of my identity and what gives me purpose in life.

These 26 peaks take in the majority of the Manx Slate hills, which run diagonally north east to south west. We didn’t start with Bradda Head or the Carnanes the furthest points south as these are just under 1000′.

Cronk Ny Array Laa (437 metres): We started out gently at the car park on the Sloc road towards the top of Cronk Ny Array Laa. I don’t usually have a problem with this, but the group started out fast (as groups always do) and I found it difficult to lift my legs or breathe. Not a promising start. When we reached the trig point of this our first peak I advised the leader that I may discontinue and that I would take it at my own pace. Cronk ny Array Laa means Hill of the Day Watch. The cairn above it is a burial plot dating to the late Neolithics. Just beyond this you will see a stone memorial citing the Manx Fisherman’s Evening Hymn, written by W.H.Gill.

Round Table: The next section was downhill, flat and slightly wet as we crossed the moorland to the Round Table and the crossroads taking you either around South Barrule, towards Niarbyl in the west, Colby /Ballasalla in the south or Port Erin in the south west. This looks such a short section and yet it always take quite a while to walk through the peaty moorland.This is the meeting point of 3 parishes and also denotes the separation of the Northern and Southern divisions of the land. Just over the road is a kissing gate, and to the right of this is a flat mound or tumulus, an ancient monument barely visible and never excavated. It would originally have been square, but the story goes that the soldiers used to argue as to who should sit at the head of the table, so they made it round. It is strategically located, given its tiny size. It is the highest point in the dip between South Barrule and Cronk Ny Array Laa, and from here you can see the sea in all directions, so it must certainly have been some kind of lookout, perhaps like a keep. If you want to go and look for this yourself, on the Colby/Ballasalla road there is large white stone on top the wall, and immediately behind it should be the tip of the hillock. You are looking for a raised area of just a few metres diameter with an indentation in the centre and the hint of a surrounding ditch.

The walk across the moor from Cronk Ny Array Laa

South Barrule (483 metres) : onwards and upwards, on a well defined track and then a stony path for about 180 metres. Now you start to feel the wind, but it was really quite a pleasant day, though hats and gloves were much in evidence. The path starts gently with some sections rising, a little like terraces. There are a few outcrops where you can stop to admire the view or have a coffee break. On both ascent and descent, you go through a stone rampart encircling the top of South Barrule. This was an enclosure of 5-6 acres, and within this have been found 85 round huts, the remnants of many of which can quite clearly be seen. The rampart itself is made of turf and faced with stones, most of which have tumbled away and lie strewn across the ground. This was an Iron Age fort. Radiocarbon dating of a hearth in one of the huts showed it to have existed since 524BC. It doesn’t take much imagination to wonder why they picked here. It is one of the few places where (on a good day) you can see the Seven Kingdoms of Man, but it is also inhospitable, and is thought to have been inhabited partly due to climate change affecting the lower levels – plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose.

2nd Peak – yours truly in bobble hat and purple cagoule. Photo courtesy of Ken.

From here we made our way down through the gorse and heather in a northerly direction until we joined the Sloc Road and the Cross Vein mine workings (now defunct). Notice how barren the land is, almost like volcanic ash. The next section was road walking, but this is not an issue as there is hardly any traffic, until we took a detour for lunch in the Arrasey plantation. This was first planted between 1935 and 1967, and is continually being felled and restocked with Sitka Spruce, Pine, Larch and more recently Corsican Pine. After lunch we got our first view of the western coast and Peel, with field after field of soft green farmland, such a contrast to the higher moorland.

Slieau Whallian (383 metres): We walked around the edge of the plantation and rejoined the lane downhill until we reached a bend in the road at 210 metres where we turned uphill along a stony track. Under normal circumstances this would be the way to St John’s, but our leader had negotiated an extension with a landowner who kindly agreed to allow us to go onto his property so that we could reach our final top of Slieau Whallian. He had even put up ladders for us. Thank you so much, Mr. Farmer (not his name!); we appreciate your permission and your thoughtfulness. It was a very straightforward walk to the top and afforded us a wonderful view all the way back to our starting point and we could see all our stopping points in between. And of course we could see all the way to Douglas and beyond and Peel and the north in the opposite direction, with big hills right in front of us.

Then came perhaps my favourite part of the day. The hills are soft and gentle underfoot, but in places surprisingly steep, creating amazing vistas that somehow you don’t expect to see on this island. It’s not altogether obvious as there are few erratics scattered around compared with say Yorkshire or the Lake District, but the topography of the southern and northern uplands (over 200 metres) has been created by glacial drift, giving it its distinct undulating shallow upland basins and deeply incised streams/ glens. These round topped hills could be seen everywhere as we made our way down.

Our final descent was through the Slieau Whallian plantation. You have probably heard the story that it is called the Witches Hill – how they were put in a barrel with spikes inside and their body weight rolled it down the hill. I don’t imagine that would have been a pretty picture when they opened the barrel at the bottom! Our descent through the trees was far longer than I was expecting, but not difficult. The sun was glinting through the forest lighting our way, and eventually we made our way down to the back lane into St. John’s. Apparently my watch slightly undercooks distance and it was just about 10 miles; 1631 ft of ascent and 2769 ft of descent. My body battery was 79/100 when I started and 7 when I finished, and it has taken 2 days to get it anywhere near that level. I shall attempt Day 2 next Saturday and take it at my speed and hopefully make it through. I don’t give in easily.

Thank you to Ken for a great day, and to the group for being excellent company.

Glen Mooar to Jurby, Beach Walk 10.5 miles

I have so missed seeing this long expanse of beach during our several lockdowns. Being a respectful citizen I did not venture out very far during this time, but now with our new-found freedom I could once again visit this mega landscape.

I had intended to park at Glen Wyllin, but my mind was miles away and I turned off the main road early into Glen Mooar, so stopped there instead. It was a cool day but just right for walking. The tide was on its way out (absolutely vital for this walk) but was still not far enough out to avoid walking on the pebbles. The cliffs are quite steep, and at one time there was a cliff walk from here to Glen Wyllin, but you would be taking your life in your hands if you were to do this today, due to the various landslides. Nearing Glen Wyllin there is a significant evidence of this, as a fence lies stranded in the air atop the cliff and you can see where the path once went.

Indeed, when you get to Glen Wyllin, you can see the Canute attempts to hold back the tide by the many defence boulders positioned at its entrance, and on the other side of the stream there are further attempts to sure up the foundations of the nearby property. New houses built not that long ago that will be counting the days to when they fall into the sea. It won’t be for a while, but I think it will eventually happen!

At Glen Wyllin, which is one of the closest points to Kirk Michael, the cliffs become sandier and larger until you reach Orrisdale Head. the cliffs make interesting shapes and patterns and are fascinating to me. I think it is in this section that an ancient elk was discovered as the cliffs receded, allowing the animal body parts to tumble onto the ground below. This has been recreated and is in the Manx museum in Douglas. If the tide is in, it is still necessary to walk on pebbles, which is surprisingly tiring and amazingly not flat (!), and even as the tide goes out there are more substantial boulders to negotiate before you reach the fine sand, which really is fine to look at and walk on. My feet were tired of pebbles by the time I reached my lunch spot.

There are a couple of other entry points to the beach, so if you want a short walk along the beach back to Kirk Michael, there are many options, and if you prefer a mix of terrain you can walk one way along the beach and back along the old railway line, which is a very pleasant walk.

You have to be determined if you decide to carry on, as the pebbles continue and there appears to be no end in sight. As you round Orrisdale Head, you get fine views to the northwest of Jurby in the distance, with its church on the promontory guiding you in. This is as far as any sane person would want to walk if you are doing a return route. It was 5.5 miles to this point. There is a road access at this point, so, if you can find one, you can always get a bus back to Kirk Michael. It is, I’m afraid, mostly road walking otherwise for some distance.

I had timed my walk so that I reached just south of Jurby at Ballateare when the tide would be at its lowest, which would mean I would be able to walk back further out on the soft sand. Every now and again as I went past the cliffs I would hear the sounds or see the sight of pebbles and sand falling off the cliffs. It is wise to keep your eyes and ears open and not to walk entirely at the foot of the cliffs. Even a poor sheep had fallen off the cliff to its end, so we all need to be careful.

If you are walking way out along the sand, also beware of the incoming tide as it has a tendency to surge rapidly along channels and form pools which could mean you get cut off and have to wade through them to get closer to the shore.

If you need a breath of air, a sense of peace and to connect with nature, you can’t do much better than this. I saw quite a few birds: plovers, shags, oystercatchers, gulls, wagtails and some slimy animals embedded in the sand. Not sure what these are – I shall have to ask my expert friends. And the boulders and pebbles are all shapes, sizes, colours and type of rock. But above all, it is the sense of space, the sea and the sky that makes you feel glad to be alive on this walk.

Around the Carnanes and Lhiatee ny Beinnee – 8.5 miles

I can see this group of hills from the back of my house and they are very inviting on bright sunny day. There are many options to start this walk from a number of different places and a number of different ways of reaching the tops. However, today, or actually yesterday as I write this, I chose to walk from home. I didn’t have a specific plan other than to reach the highest point on these delightful mounds of hummocks, which is Lhiatee ny Beinnee (White Hill, due to the quartz I imagine) at just under 1000ft. Of course, there are undulations along the way so your total climb will be more than this, and in places it is steep, especially if you start at Fleshwick.

My route took me along the outskirts of Port Erin to Ballabeg and up the quiet lane to Surby. I noticed what appears to be a well just to the side of the road on someone’s forecourt. From here, it is a green lane following a stream which is full of wildflowers in the spring and summer. Some traditional cottages can be seen on this path and as you climb out of the valley you are rewarded by tremendous views to the south. The lane eventually peters out into a footpath, which today, or yesterday, was looking a little sad as the gorse has been severely pruned leaving a mini wasteland compared to previously. This is only a short section and a stile and gate inform you that you are now on the lower edge of the moorland of the Carnanes.

As you glance northwards it is impossible to avoid seeing the many cairns on top of the hillocks, many of which I have clambered up in the past, and some never until today. There is a good reason to stick to the paths between the cairns as I shall explain later, but for now take a look at the undergrowth in the photo to the right above and you may guess what’s coming. For now, I followed the northerly path which gradually veers to the west and gives you tremendous views of the Irish Sea and on a day with good visibility Ireland. Adjusting your eyes to the right it is possible to sea Scotland too, and Black Combe in the distance across the water to England in the opposite direction. Now you know why we have our three legs of man.

Can you spot Anglesey and Snowdonia in this photo?

I stopped for lunch (a sandwich of chicken, chutney, fresh sage and thyme – yummy) at a small cairn overlooking Bradda Hill towards Fleshwick Bay, Port Erin and Port St Mary. I could also see out way beyond Port St Mary and in the very far distance I could see Anglesey and Snowdonia. It was one of those days that provides exciting views on all directions. I had thought of heading south at this point, but instead I went as I had promised myself to the top of the big hill so that I could see Cronk Ny Array Laa looming out of the sea and a bit further along the shoreline, Niarbyl peeking out from under its cliffs and even Peel Hill in the far distance. This ‘detour’ meant that I had to return along the same path back to my lunch cairn. By an incredible stroke of coincidence I bumped into someone I met last summer on this very same part of the hill, so we had a socially-distanced chat for a few minutes. He was walking back to PSM via Port Erin if, as he said, his legs were up to it (i.e. the steep climb up to Bradda Hill).

I had already decided my route. The Bradda Hill circular is a regular walk for me, so this time, I decided to give that part of the coastal footpath a miss, and instead went craghopping from cairn to cairn around the Carnanes. Sounds great until you try to find a different path off it. I could see the main path only 50 metres away, only between me and it was thick gorse and heather. Any sane person would have retraced their steps, but this is me, and I waded through scratchy gorse sometimes 3ft deep. I did think at one point I had taken on more than I could chew, but I persevered and finally met the path. There were other walkers on this bit of path and I think they wondered what on earth I was doing!

From here it was only about half a mile to the eastern edge of the moorland, still up high but grassy now rather than gorse and heather. I crossed the Sloc road that leads slightly downhill to a car park and picnic site with unbelievable views then carried on a hundred metres or so to take a path left into the farmed countryside. This was something of an obstacle course. The first stiled wall is about 5-6ft tall, with just two stones to clamber up with an equally deep drop on the other side, followed immediately another rickety wooden stile(!). At the end of the next field is a kissing gate which is about all you can do if you are wearing a ruckscack unless you are very skinny. Then after traversing a muddy field there is a high ladder stile to cross. Anyone would think they didn’t like walkers. At least the bikers won’t take this route. If you don’t like stiles or are quite short (!) consider the path the same distance in the other direction from the picnic site, which takes you pretty much in the same direction but starting further north.

On reaching the farm at Scholaby, it is then an easy walk down the lane for about a mile to The Level, passing cows posing for their photo and the old chimney that I can see from my house signifying mining from days long past, or if you fancy a longer route, you can turn left just after the farm and visit Colby Glen (worth a visit if you haven’t ever been) and get a bus back. I followed the main back road to the roundabout and had a rest at Ballachurry Nature Reserve before finishing my walk by crossing the fields behind the Ballahane Estate.

A great day out and I felt a sense of achievement when I got home, having successfully avoided TV and the incessant coverage of the very sad death of Prince Philip (RIP) for a number of hours.

If you use the data above for any reason, the time includes rest times and meal times. Actual walking time was 2hr 50mins.

Incidentally, you may or may not know that I started painting for the first time in lockdown. I have updated the recent Cregneash / Chasms post so that you can see my latest effort (no.5). Bit of a curate’s egg, but I’ll use the correct type of paper next time…

Pre Christmas Walk – Druidale 22nd Dec 2020

I was itching to get out in the hills. It is so long since I have walked anywhere but in the south, and this time I could leave my measuring stick behind me, ignore the peat and sphagnum moss and just appreciate our wonders scenery. Instead of including photos as I go along there is a slideshow at the bottom instead today.

I picked the day when the weather would be best ( both Monday and today being rainy days) and invited my friend Janet to join me on a walk I have never done, but have often looked at from afar. We took the road up from just outside Kirk Michael and parked on the grass at the start of the walk, just before the road to the right leading to Injebreck and the cattle grid leading onto the main Snaefell uplands. You can find this easily by looking for a triangular piece of woodland, called Sartfell plantation.

It was bright and sunny initially, though a little chilly. We followed the green lane gently upwards. Sartfell at 454 m is immediately to the left but there is no direct footpath to the top and there are signs discouraging people from going off the track, though I suspect this is mainly for the benefit of the bikers and possibly horse-riders who are allowed to use these green lanes. We continued north on the path skirting Slieau Freoaghane (488m). There is a choice of paths at this point and I wanted to go slightly westward so that we would get a view of the western slopes of the island, so we took the left fork temporarily to the saddle between the said previous hill and Slieau Dhoo (424m). We were not disappointed. The views down the valley to Kirk Michael were lovely and the hills around had satisfyingly geometric green slopes.

We retraced our steps a little to continue on the eastern side of the hills up to where the green road meets the ‘main’ Druidale Road that leads down to Ballaugh. Along the whole of this path we had had wonderful views of Snaefell and its neighbouring hills, with North Barrule tipping its head up so we could see it in the distance. The green road is not particularly pleasant to walk on being heavily rutted by the motorbikes, but there is room to walk on grassy ledges most of the time. There were quite a few puddles to negotiate as well.

This was our midpoint at the head of the Tholt -e- Will plantation and there were excellent views down to the Sulby reservoir and at one point we could see the Ayers lighthouse far away in the north. We now turned south to walk along the road all the way back to the car. Usually I don’t like road walking but at this time of year when it has been so very wet it’s a good idea and in any case cars were few and far between and it is a most attractive road to walk along.

As we walked back and looked across to our left, we reflected on the fact that are no footpaths across most of the land we could see. A few sheep would venture over on to the moorland, and there are very very few buildings, so the area is quite unspoilt.

This walk was just under 7 miles, with about 810ft of ascent. However, it is easy walking with no really steep gradients and if you need to take a break at any point you can simply say you are admiring the view.

The slideshow starts with a view the hills of South Barrule and Cronk ny Array from the car park then a mix of locations on the walk itself.

My next planned walk in a very early morning (7am) walk to herald the New Year on January 1st!