Slieau Freoaghane and views of Glen Dhoo

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.

Lunch stop overlooking Glen Dhoo

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

Glen Wyllin, Glen Mooar and Cooildarry

This short walk is spectacular, especially if you do it after rains as I did today. The walk starts at the Glen Wyllin campsite, or if you prefer you can park in Kirk Michael village. There is a path right behind the cafe with steps that take you to the old railway line. This path has not been dug up and widened as has happened to the railways tracks in other parts of the island and it still retains its natural charm. Incidentally, if you do park in KM you will have to descend into the valley and ascend the other side as the stone platform of the viaduct has been removed and only the pillars remain. The path is mainly enclosed but every now and again you catch a glimpse of the sea to the west and the hills to the east.

We follow the railway line until it meets a small lane after about a mile just before Glen Mooar. Prior to this, you will go under a couple of bridges. At the lane, the footpath sign tells you to cross over the road and continue through a gate. The path continues for only a short distance, as guess what, the viaduct has been removed at Glen Mooar and again just the supports remain standing, bringing you to a firm standstill. A path downhill has been created. This is a fairly steep descent, but only for about 60ft or so. As you descend you enter another world, away from the farmland and distant vistas of hills and sea. Now we have a tree-lined river with steep banks on either side. The lower path is closed so unfortunately this necessitates more undulating ascents with minor descents and more steps. The gains are great though, as the woods are so very pretty and there are some very large beech trees guarding over the valley. It will look lovely when the spring flowers come out. The cover photo shows the view through the trees to the hills.

At one point you will reach a high grassy area where there are the clearly visible remains of a 10th century keeill (Patrick’s Chapel), priest’s cell and graveyard. It is a very peaceful area for contemplation, meditation or prayer while you listen to the birds singing in the trees.

A little further on and the sound of running water becomes louder and louder, although it isn’t easy to see anything. The path takes you to the top of the waterfall called Spooyt Vane (White Spout), where all you can see is where a small stream begins to gurgle down the rocks. Take the permissive footpath left, down more steps (sorry), and you find yourself in a dell with the wonderful waterfall at its head, with water gushing down into the pool below in a sequence of stages. To the right the area is hollowed out, which probably suggests the waterfall has changed direction over the millennia. I have rarely seen the waterfall so full and it was captivating.

Crossing the bridge, we follow the track along the top of the valley to join the road. There is a small parking place for those making single journeys and Glen Mooar is worth a visit on its own. At the road junction you will see an old chapel which was constructed in the 1860s as a Sunday School and Mission Room for children who couldn’t make the heady journey to Kirk Michael for schooling.

The route continues along the lane uphill past a few houses and farms. As you ascend notice the soft green hills on the left. The other side of these hills is where the recent archaeological dig has been going on for the last few years, unearthing remnants of people and posessions from the Bronze Age (over 3000 years ago). You can find out more about this here:

At the top of the lane, there are panoramic views of the hills: Sartfell (454m) to the right, Slieau Freoaghane (488m) in the middle, Slieau Dhoo (420m) just behind this and Slieua Curn (351m) on the far left. They look so inviting on a sunny day like this and they make a fine ridge walk. These will be the subject of another walk at some point. Someone has thoughtfully placed some picnic benches along this section of the road so you can stop and enjoy the views as long as you like. You can even see Scotland from here if you look very closely – it was very clear in reality!

For now, we continue with our descent back to Kirk Michael following a track that becomes a footpath and leads to Cooildarry Nature Reserve (owned by Manx Wildlife Trust). It is possible to include an optional extra mile or two walking along the railway line north and then dropping down to the sea, for those who want a slightly longer walk.

There is such variety and interest in this walk, and as long as you don’t mind steps, you will find it a very rewarding experience. Altogether it is about 4 miles including the visit to the Nature Reserve and 545ft of ascent and descent., with an optional extra of 1-2 miles depending on the tides.

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.

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!