Author – Ian Nickson

Peel to Point of Ayre – Distance 31km – Duration – Approximately 6.5 Hours

The detailed route of each of our five walks can be accessed and downloaded by clicking on the image below – It can then be shared or exported as a gpx file as required

Whereas much of the previous couple of days had been spent traversing the clifftop, where the ancient necromancer and Sea King, Manannan Mac Lir, had felt fit to throw a curtain of mist over the island as is his occasional custom, today’s clear skies offered an altogether  more pleasant, yet no less atmospheric aspect.

The first part of the walk, followed an old railway line and being level and straight was a welcome change to our scrambling, shuttering and shunting  of the day before, as we had climbed through knee-high gorse over the Coastal path.  The steep-sided cuttings offering shelter and tranquillity to the well established shrubs and trees that walled our walking corridor for a number of miles. Fuchsia with its crimson droplets is especially prolific and has been wholeheartedly adopted by the island. To Manxmen it is Jeirnyn Yee, translated as ‘God’s tears’ though in the Isle of Man on a day like today , I am struggling to see what he has to cry about. 

Our knowledgeable companion Joe kept our interest piqued with a keen ear and eye that never failed to spot the darting pass of a Goldfinch or the sharp tap-tap of a Stonechat. 

Leaving the track behind us, we wound our way through hedged fields that were dotted with various sheep breeds. These included the austere native Loaghtan, who, with rust coloured wool and arching horns,  lend an ancient tone to the rural scene. 

The ruins of an old limekiln marked the end of this section at the obviously named Limekiln Junction and we made the steady descent to the coast along the old trunk road. Then setting our bearings to north/northeast we began our 25km yomp up the coastline. 

We  had been blessed with the weather so far on our walk, and the blessings continued as we entered the beach on an ebbing tide. Without the ebbing tide, our journey would have reached an abrupt halt as it is relatively narrow beach and a high tide washes up right to the cliff face.  

Coming from the Fylde coast, it is odd to see a completely deserted beach but there it was, horizon long and we pressed on in silence, across the stamped prints of a hundred shore birds and the mini ridges left by the tide. For tired feet, it wasn’t easy going as sand-dusted pebbles slip away underfoot and wet sand sucks the soles from your boots making the calves ache. There was however plenty to distract us. 

First up was a mogul pavement of metamorphic rock pushing up through the sand. Gneiss, banded and ribbed with quartz, stretching away under foot like a conveyor of rolled candy,  leaving rock pools of clear water adorned by small thickets of seaweed. 

The cliffs to our right, of soft mudstone peppered with layers of pebbles and sand, hung ominously. The many land slips gave it a quarry, bomb-blast appearance,  threatening those of us below and those in the houses above, that now teeter on the edge. A few hopeful souls (Canute-like) had invested in sea defences and in some instances a thousand tonnes of rock have been strategically dumped on the beach. This may at best win them a stay of execution but as we stopped to re-fuel on some pork pies and brownies, we looked out over the vastness of the sea and all agreed, with a sense of foreboding,  that it will all in the end be for nothing.  

A couple of seals reared up off-shore and with heads like silky Labradors,  eyed us with much amusement. These two were to become our sea-bound companions for the next 13 miles, slipping along as if on extendable leads. 

Joe directed our ears to the haunting call of a Curlew and then directed our gaze above the cliffs as some Ravens mobbed an intruding Buzzard and further on a kestrel hung stiff,  as if painted on the breeze. Next he pointed down the beach where a gothic looking cormorant sat with wings hung out drying. Its’ long  bill and black cloak drawing comparisons to the grim reaper. Next up were the enigmatic and aerially acrobatic Choughs – their ‘Chee-ow’ call reminiscent of their Jackdaw cousins but louder and clearer as they tumbled along the cliffs with jet black plumage with post-box red bill and legs that made them look like they’ve been dipped red pint. Further along the beach, the wisps of smoke across the shoreline turned out to be Sanderlings, dipping as one above the waves, and all along the miles gulls bobbed up and down on a gently lapping sea like rubber ducks in a bath tub.  

It was an hypnotic scene and on a day like this, it is easy to be fooled, but as we came across the rusting remains of an old steamer deep-set in the sand,  ancient and vast, it reminded us of the overwhelming power of nature. The coastline is littered with ship wrecks. Our destination, the Point of Ayre Lighthouse, is testament to this.  It is at the end of the beach at the most northerly point of the island and its red and white hooped paintwork can be seen some 5 kilometres down the beach . 

It was built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Grandfather no less and has been warning Seamen of the terrors of the coast since 1818. It came too late, however  for the Schooner Hooten, which was sunk in 1805. The loss of the ship,  in a strange way, was nature’s win. Amongst a passenger’s luggage was a box of hedgehogs. The rescued animals were distributed as gifts and bred so well they are established all over the island; this is in contrast to foxes and moles, where you will find not a single one.  

The last few miles were hard won with the lighthouse turning out to be rather flirtatious as it dipped in and out of our sight and never seems to get any nearer. We had to  steel ourselves as the light began to fail, and the last section became a mix of shingle, dune, heathland and raised beach.  This area / habitat, now taken over by the Manx Nature Conservation Trust, is well positioned and the information boards point to Curlews, Ringed Plovers and Little Terns that nest on the shingle and in the dunes.

On reaching the Point of Ayre, we looked back at our route and with the cliff line curtseying gracefully down to meet the beach and the light beginning to fade, we bid a fond farewell to our two aquatic friends and looked forward to our night under canvas and for further discoveries , but there is always time enough for that; Traa dy liooar (time enough).

Whilst we have your attention, this 100 Mile Trek had a purpose and that was to raise funds for two charities that have very personal meaning for members of the My Left Foot Team – SANDS and Streetlife – If you would like to donate something to these very worthwhile charities then please follow this link – ISLE OF MAN JUST GIVING PAGE

My Left Foot – IoM 100 Mile Hike – Day 3 – Guest Article

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