As some of you may have noticed, I am a long-time resident of the evil tax dodging empire otherwise known as the Isle of Man. Apart from the beer guzzling, rubber burning hedonistic frenzy of the TT racing fortnight, it’s a sedate and quiet place, ideal for old man activities, like river and sea fishing, pickling, dogging, shed-time, rambling (I know, this is already going on a bit) and a bit of bee fiddling.
One of the joys of bringing up the nippers here has been easy access to the great outdoors; fresh clean air and bloody great hills everywhere. Only about 20% of the Island is built up, which means you are never more than 5 minutes away from mud, and over the years we have found out where most of the mud is.
There’s a 100-mile coastal pathway around the whole of the Island known as the Raad Ny Foilan – or Way of the Gull, obviously not to be confused with the less lengthy and much less fragrant Bayr Ny Skeddan, or Herring Road.
Today my family and I went for a walk around one of my favourite bits of the coastal path – a fairly small loop from Port Grenaugh, round the coast for a mile or so then a cut back inland to get back where you started. It’s become a bit of a family tradition to make this journey on Mother’s Day or Easter Sunday to build up an appetite.
As my family often remark, I am something of a suave and witty cross between Mary Beard and David Attenborough, so I will describe this walk with a dazzling mix of history, zoology and global warming.
After parking on the narrow road at Port Grenaugh, it’s a brief jaunt up a steep 45 degree slope to get on the coastal path. Just cock your leg over that sty, then up the narrow gorse and ivy lined footpath and onto the first point of interest: Cronk ny Merriu, the remains of a small Iron Age hillfort, later inhabited by the Vikings in the10th and 11th centuries. Maybe the great Magnus Barelegs got his legs out here, or equally likely, maybe this is where Olaf the Black first got his tan? Global warming, eh?
Anyway, along the coast we go, past cliffs with pairs of nesting fulmars and ancient dry stone walls. A good indicator of how clean the air is here, is the abundance of lichen on the stonework in a green, grey and white mosaic – I’m a big fan of lichen, one could almost say I’m a liking the lichen. But maybe it’s just me.
If you look closely you might be lucky and see common lizards sunning themselves on the exposed stones, and overhead you can hear the call of the swooping choughs (pronounced chuff), big black crow like birds with striking red feet and beaks, as they frolic and glide on the coastal updrafts. Choughs are fairly common here, but less so in the colonies, I understand, so perhaps I am blessed to have not only to seen a gnat’s chuff, but also a chough’s chuff too.
Onwards, and there are some magnificent views of the cliffs formed from the ancient Ordovician Manx Group slates and mudstones, twisted and tilted by the great Caledonian mountain building event 460 million years ago. Some lucky buggers see dolphins, harbour porpoises and minke whales in these waters, but not us, and not this time.
Before you know it, it’s time to get your leg over another sty and head inland past fields of sheep with newly born lambs, down into the little village that surrounds the rather lovely Aragon House. Peacocks roam about, as they do. The footpath here is bordered on each side by swathes of daffodils with the first hints of pink and red blossom dotting the trees.
On the drop back down to the road we walk through a mini Manx Glen, with a bubbling stream, more daffodils and the waft of wild garlic.
And we are back where we started. Maybe I’ll write about my second favourite Manx walk? Maybe I’ll stick to the day job. Only time will tell…
© text and images Putin Itaboutabit 2018