Trip up north to Point of Ayre

This trip was planned to allow me to test out my feet, both for driving and for walking. As it turns out I did more of the former than the latter, and I guess my left foot in particular will not be too keen on long walks right now. Driving was better, my main injury being my left ankle so not too much required on this foot except for gear changes. Even so, the 2 hrs in the car, and the 1.5 mile walk was quite enough for one day. As I have to drive in England before too long, I was testing the water.

It was a dull and cloudy day, promising to rain. Believe it or not, I have never walked around the Point of Ayre towards Cranstal & The Dog Mills down to Ramsey, only walking along the most ‘northerly’ part of the island previously towards the Visitor Centre. It isn’t really due north, as the island lies on an angle, but technically this is the most northerly point on the island. I took this photo off my tv having recorded a programme about Earth from Space, and it conveniently gave this interesting view showing the true location of the Isle of Man.

Starting at the large lighthouse, I walked around the headland, much to the consternation of the terns and oystercatchers who were nesting there. They kept track of me until I was out of their danger zone. Key areas on the beach are fenced of to prevent the public from inadvertently or advertently intruding onto nest sites. There were several stonechats too keeping watch from their vantage points on the gorse and shrubs inland, alerting their pals to my presence. The beach is mainly pebbles of assorted sizes and the solid land too is a mix of pebbles and sand dunes with a bit of soil and grass on the top in places. It is very unstable and is constantly being unearthed by the winds, rains and seas. The vegetation grows low around the periphery of the beach but when you move even a few metres inland, it has a chance to grow taller and dominate more. The flowers that grow abundantly around the seashore all around the island are miniscule here, holding on for dear life, but hold on they do, and in the 40 minutes I was out and about, I took 30 photographs of different species, a few of which I have put in the slideshow at the end for you.

Photo courtesy of lighthouseaccommodation.co.uk showing the foghorn and Winkie

The main lighthouse in the top photo was completed in 1818 , with 124 steps and a 105ft tower. Winkie, in the middle was completed in 1890 and designed to avoid high water tides being 33ft above sea level. I suspect the difference in height has grown now with the shingle build up in this area. I didn’t walk on the pebbles but tried to walk on the grassy tops, which have eroded away in many places. Indeed, even though not a deep drop from the ‘cliff’ to the beach, it would not pay to walk too close to the edge as there are many overhanging edges. Unfortunately, this scatty terrain meant I had to curtail my walk as the path that had been gradually climbing came to an abrupt and unexpected end at a ‘precipice’ with no means of continuing unless I retraced my steps and walked along the beach towards Ramsey which would have been a good few miles circular walk. I didn’t take a photo of this, but you get the idea from this one, taken a little earlier, slightly further north:

The coastal footpath is signposted to walk along the beach and when the tide is further out this would be possible; but not today, so I turned slightly inwards and back to the car. The area adjacent to this section of coastline is being reclaimed so there really are only two choices – walk along the beach or walk along the road around this area. A word of warning. It is important to check the tide times if you intend to do the beach from Cranstal to The Dog Mills, otherwise you may find yourself running out of beach at high tide!

I had planned to walk along Marine Drive in Douglas on Wednesday but it may be a step (or many steps) too far for my ankles/feet, but we’ll see. I hope to be fit enough to lead my U3A walk on July 14th as this had to be postponed this month.

The slideshow starts with the 3 buildings in line with one another, the old lighthouse, the foghorn peeping out and the newest, Winkie, on the right, then the rest of the slideshow is of the wonderful spring flowers.

Ridge Walk Snaefell to Ramsey – 30th September 2019

This was a first, at least for me. For the last twenty years I have visited the Isle of Man and the last five years I have been living here, yet in all that time I had not done this spectacular ridge walk. We could have hoped for a sunny day, but this is the Isle of Man where we are more likely to encounter strong winds and rain or the dastardly Mananan’s cloak, but we could be lucky…

It all started out so promisingly as I drove to Laxey in bright sunshine, and the forecast promising not to disappoint until 4pm. The other walkers arrived at the station and it was still just about sunny as we hopped on the tram up to the top of Snaefell. As we reached Bungalow we realised the weather had other intentions as the top became swirled in mist. I could almost feel my fellow walkers psychologically putting on hats and wet-weather gear in anticipation. I did feel disappointed for the visitors to the island who might have hoped the see the seven kingdoms of Man, but it was not to be. However, you can see what a cheery lot we are as we set on down the mountain.

No view at the top

We reached the TT course and crossed over to start our ascent. Although classified as a strenuous route, this seemed a misnomer as we were starting at the highest point, with a few ups and downs but mostly downs until we reached the sea.

The ridge affords some wonderful views even in this semi-cloudy state. Every now and again clouds would swell up in the valleys and filter across the shoulders of the hills and engulf everything in their path; in between we had some fine glimpses into the distance and occasionally saw the Lake District and even less occasionally saw Scotland. I waved to my son, James, who is wild camping in Galloway though I couldn’t see Scotland at all at that moment, and instantly I received a video text from him waving to me and saying he couldn’t see the Isle of Man either. Talk about coincidences.

Our first hill was Clagh Ouyr  (551 m), followed by two unnamed hills. I did think we should have given these demoted tops some appropriate names to identify them given them as they are still good heights for the Isle of Man, the first at 550 metres and the second 533 metres. The superior-minded North Barrule, which is only a matter of 565 metres seems to think it literally rules the place, which I guess it does. The pointy peak reminded me of Thorpe Cloud in Derbyshire. It’s not a difficult climb, being mostly on peat. It was rather boggy in places but easy walking along the ridge.

The peak route

As lunch approached, so did the clouds and we sensed a change in the weather. Our guide, who for some reason I keep wanting to call Steven, but whose name is actually Ken, pointed out that the formation of clouds showed that the rain was just being held at bay, and we hoped long enough for us to make our descent.

Spirits were still high as you can see, though I did wonder who was challenging who to jump off first.

North Barrule itself is a lovely hill and its one of those where you feel you want to abandon your rucksack and run up it and be a child again for a moment, but this was not quite the day for such frivolities.

The route down is a little tedious as it is very uneven, wet and boggy and therefore a little slippery. Even so, we did have some splendid view of cloud formations over Ramsey Bay.

Ramsey 1

We eventually met a green road taking up to Ballure Reservoir and Glen. The reservoir was completely dry, which is ironic as at this point the heavens opened. It is only dry for maintenance and it was interesting to see it without any water. We proceeded down the glen amongst the trees and finished on the beach.

It was a really great walk and one that I can imagine I shall do many times in the future. Thanks to the Isle of Man Walks Festival for putting this on and many many other walks every day for a week. I look forward to seeing you again on Wednesday for Greeba Mountain if you will have me after I was telling what an unsociable walker I usually am!

Distance 7.39 miles; Elevation 854 ft; Descent 2734 ft

Snaefell