This is a delightful short walk providing extensive views to the north of the island. On a good day you will see Scotland, the Lake District and Wales, and all just a stone’s throw from Ramsey.
The walk began at the Gooseneck car park on the Mountain Road. There is a grassy footpath leading upwards beside the main road but away from it, so it is safe to walk the short distance to the bend in the road, when we turned left onto the Hibernian road. At this junction a new bench has been placed to commemorate a couple who both died of covid within weeks of each other – a very sad memorial. The bench is beautifully made and the views towards Ramsey are unsurpassable. This is a viewing point for the TT, being between the 25th and 26th milestone and is 550ft above sea level.
We passed by the top end of the Ballure plantation before turning into it to follow a delightful track, made even better by the dappled sunlight sparkling on the trees. There has been a lot of rain lately and we had a small flurry of light rain for a short time, just to give some variety. As you walk through the plantation you can hear the stream rumbling away in the distance. One and a half miles into the walk and we find ourselves at the Ballure Reservoir. This was originally created by Ramsey Waterworks in 1884, collecting water from Druidale to Ballure for the merry folks of Ramsey. There were in fact two reservoirs slightly lower than the existing one. The current Water Treatment works was constructed in the 1950’s and the new dam created over a valley of glacial deposits on top of the bedrock. The embankment is 17 metres high. The reservoir itself is is 11.5m at its deepest point, contains 18 million gallons of water, providing 3.5 acres of fishing, mostly rainbow trout and the occasional incomer of brown trout. In summer you are allowed to catch 4 fish in summer, and 2 in winter, all by licence of course.
The actual Ballure (Place of the Yew) plantation is relatively new and was constructed in the 1960s and covers 30 hectares. There were people on our walk today who could remember there being few trees, just a few old gnarled ones. In the mid 1990’s it was completely restocked with broadleaf trees, which we are all benefiting from today. It is a delightful walk through the lower part of the glen. Taking the upper path close to the road you can imagine that this would have been the original Moutain Road before the super-route was developed sometime after 1866. Prior to this the mountain road barely existed, just feeding small, isolated farmsteads. Then the government got involved to decide whether this was private land or ‘crown’ land. Various parts were sold off and £25,000 (a fortune in those days) was raised to develop the road across the mountain.
We reach the Hairpin bend and cross over the road. There was a lot of water in the small waterfall at the corner, something I have never noticed before, and our leader said that often there is very little water there, but of course it has done nothing but rain for several weeks on and off. We continued through the Claughbane plantation, which was originally a commercial plantation but has more variety now and a range of activities go on here, courtesy of The Manx Wildlife Trust. They are currently developing some natural playgrounds for children there. At the bottom end the beech trees looked wonderful in their autumn glory, but they do deplete the vegetation on their leafstrewn banks.
It is just a hop and a skip then into Elfin Glen, so named to incite the imagination of tourists. It’s original name was Ballacowle Glen. While I remember, for those who participated in this walk and wanted to know the translation of ‘Cooil”, it means ‘winding nook’. Elfin Glen does not contain a wide variety of trees, being mostly, oak ash and hazel. There is also evidence of pedunculate oaks. This Glen was purchased in 1963 by the Forestry Board for £3625. It is a steep sided glen and you can wander freely through it and it does have quite an eerie feel to it. It is very quiet and unspoilt with a very small stream running through it deep below the path. At its furthest point, you cross over a bridge where there is a small waterfall. Crossing over to the other side, we come out of the glen to reach our final viewpoint of the day – the Albert Tower, visible for some distance as your traverse the Mountain Road or descend North Barrule.
This is located at the top of Lhergy Frissel – don’t we have wonderful names? Lhergy means a hill slope or a high wasteland, both of which apply here. This folly was created to commemorate a visit of Prince Albert, who surprised everyone by rowing from his boat into Ballure rather than Ramsey and taking a walk up to this place on 20th September 1847. Who knows what inspired him, but if this story interests you, you can read more about it here:
The tower is built of granite and marble blue slate. It is an impressive construction, 45 ft high (14 m) on top of a hillside (Albert Mount) 430ft above sea level. It cost £300 to build. It became a registered building in 2003. You cannot go inside as I believe the staircase is in a state of disrepair. It was used in WW2 as a look-out by the Home Guard. The old photo above is courtesy of the i-museum.
From here, it is a short trip across fields back to the car park. If you just want to visit this, it takes no more than 5 -10 mins to walk to it. The total walk is just over 4 miles with a maximum of 800 ft of ascent; there are few steep areas, just a lot of ups and downs adding to the total ascent. Thank you for Dulcie for leading it for the IOM U3A. It was most delightful and so nice to visit hidden spots and see the sights at a different time of year too.