Rewards for a reluctant departure22nd December 2018
It took until July 2009 for me to make a first visit to the Isle of Man and that was a rain-drenched day sailing. May 2010 saw me spend a bank holiday weekend on the island when I took in sections of its coastal walk Raad ny Foillan or the Way of the Gull. That also was the pervading theme for a subsequent trip in July 2011. Since then though, I ended up leaving the island alone until April 2017 when I was lured there early in a springtime sabbatical from work. It is that which I am recalling here.
The first week of my sabbatical was somewhat relished as I spent it on sorting out Irish affairs together with a series of computer upgrades. It was during these that I plotted a Manx revisitation. As I approached the weekend, a certain reduction in enthusiasm came upon me and I opted for a Friday evening sailing once I cleared my arrival time with my hotel. That was just as well given that more Irish business emerged before I departed for Liverpool.
Once in Liverpool, there was a dash on foot from Lime Street train station to Albert Dock in around twenty minutes. As I did so, I passed those in the city for the weekend of the Grand National horse race at Aintree. Others intending to travel on the day itself would have to contend with train staff being on strike.
Having got on the boat on time, I enjoyed the evening light as the ship plied the Mersey on its way from Liverpool with only my luggage as an encumbrance; in hindsight, I should have checked in some of it into the hold, a lesson that I learned for the return sailing. Everything looked enhanced so it almost took the fall of darkness itself to get me inside to get some food in advance of arriving in Douglas. Once there, it was a direct walk to my lodgings for the weekend, made without further ado.
An Improving Day
It must not have taken much to organise myself for I was in Laxey soon enough after getting there by bus. Some food was acquired in advance of my hike and I took the chance of pottering as far as the local train station, served by electric trams from Ramsey, Douglas and the top of Snaefell itself. Any temptation posed by a ride top the top of my objective was dispelled and I set off there on foot.
My course took me along Glen Mooar towards Agneash with Laxey Wheel to be seen across the valley. The skies were laden with clouds at this point, so one might have wondered at my resolve. From Agneash, I went east for a while to pick up a track that would take me past such hilltops as Slieau Ruy, Slieau Ouyr and Slieau Lhean.
Those tops were partly obscured by low cloud, but this started to break up as I continued west until there scarcely was any trace of it at all. The only photographic problem then was the flat light that can be got on a day early in April and haze that seemed as if coming from drying out hills. Even so, my surroundings continued to delight me and that was to endure for the rest of the day.
Passing Cragh Ouyr, dropped me down to the A18. The track disintegrated on the ever more boggy terrain but you can expect such things on a springtime stroll like the one that I was undertaking. A rest stop was taken by the roadside before I took advantage of ramblage rights (think right to roam, Manx style) to make a direct ascent of Snaefell’s steep north-eastern slopes.
Nearer the top, the gradients relented and I was to potter about a flat-topped summit littered with two masts, a train station and a restaurant. The bitter breeze was not so welcoming, yet any temptation posed by the restaurant was resisted and I began my way down with views over Sulby Reservoir and other such sights. The Manx island top had been visited.
My descent returned me to the A18 and the road was quiet so I walked along it in preference to the nearby ramblage or open access land because of tiring limbs. Apparently, the lack of traffic was caused by a road closure for repairs as an enquiry from a passing cyclist demonstrated to me.
At Windy Corner, I left the A18 to take the track down to Glen Roy with Slieau Lhoist to the immediate south of me. My recollections of the track have stretched it beyond what appears on a map but I arrived at a narrow lane being used by some motorised traffic. Nevertheless, I headed north along the road to brave up and down crossings of various streams before I was being led east again. A path through Axnfell Plantation was rejected in favour of the more direct way to Laxey that I was following.
Having overlooked it earlier in the day, I decided to pay a visit to the iconic Laxey Wheel. This old mine water pump looked better in the evening sunshine than in the morning dullness so I tarried a while before returning to Laxey for some food and the bus back to Douglas.
Better than Predicted
The forecast suggested otherwise but Sunday brought some decent weather before rain finally arrived in the evening. By then, I was back in Douglas so it was far from being an irritation. After the previous day’s exertions, some lighter activity was in order and matters were needing attention before I headed off for an excursion in any case. This was not going to be a day that brought disappointment.
Inspired by it being cloudy by the time that I reached the place on a walk from Port Erin in July 2011, I decided that a longer visit to Castletown was in order. Handily, it remained sunny for much of the time that I was so some photography was allowed before the arrival of cloudier skies put a stop to such endeavours. Thus, I made up for any shortfall from my previous encounter with the place.
Having pottered about Castletown while making some photos of what was there, I decided to go further afield and retraced more of my steps from July 2011. Though without a map because of low expectations, my memory more than compensated, and useful footpath signs filled in any gaps as I wandered along a circuit that took in Scarlett Point with views of Castletown Bay and Bay ny Carrickey to be savoured in addition to those of the coastline along which I passed.
On arriving back in Castleton, I was tempted to see the inside of the castle at its heart before returning to Douglas. If I recall correctly, this was late in the working day for Manx Heritage but I go my fill before returning to Douglas for the evening. The arrival of rain did not intrude for I was indoors by then and it passed quickly enough for a saunter alongside Douglas Bay until I came to the end of the promenade near Onchan. There, I retraced my steps and saw no sign of the Mormon missionaries that I had passed on the outbound stretch of my stroll. On reaching my hotel, I retired for one more night on the Isle of Man.
Some More Strolling
July 2011 had not finished with inspiring me and there was time for more exploration before my afternoon sailing to Liverpool. The midday deadline for booking out from the hotel allowed for some unladen sauntering with my camera. To start, I retraced some steps from the evening before and then pottered around by Onchan Pleasure Park before spending some time in Summerhill Glen. All that wiled away the time until my baggage needed retrieval for further travel.
Having to pull a trolley case after me did nothing to stop further wanderings before my time of departure. These led me to another vantage point that I last explored on a rainy evening in July 2011. Thus, I ended up around Douglas Head and the start of the Marine Drive, another stretch of Raad ny Foillan that I had surveyed on that evening in 2011. Better weather made for more photography and hopefully will mean better memories as well.
In summary, my 2017 sojourn on Manx shores was drier than its 2011 forbear. It also meant that when I returned to the ferry terminal and boarded the ferry, I could stay outside to sample more sunlit views could be savoured with the weather remaining pleasant all the way to Liverpool.
Much like Hamish McInnes in a recent film, I find that photos rekindle recollections. It means that vague recollections of rain showers on that Monday morning in April 2017 are just that. Much was gained and that was just as well with where life went next.
Return train journey between Macclesfield and Liverpool. Return ferry crossing between Liverpool and Douglas. Return bus journeys between Douglas and Laxey and between Douglas and Castletown.
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