Le Grand Depart

From Douglas to the Calf of Man – Distance – 38km Duration – Approximately 9 Hours

The full route of each of our five days 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.

After a good nights sleep in quite possibly the darkest rooms on the planet, we rose from our beds, said few last minute prayers and nervously applied balms, tinctures, salves and dressings to our feet. We then made our way downstairs and assembled at the Premier Inn reception to check out and to walk ever so slowly to our start point which was to be on the swing bridge over the harbour and on the appropriately named ‘Parade Street’.

A quick couple of photos later and we said goodbye to Elite Performance Director (EPD) Eric, who was also our Chef de Mission and we wished him well on his own journey – No sooner had we waved a teary goodbye, we were met by our first ‘climb’ up the 80 or so steps from Parade Street to Fort Anne Road which then led us on a steady climb up to Douglas Head, giving great views of Douglas and of sights we’d not see again for another week (if spared). Once at Douglas Head, we swung right and onto Marine Drive, through the fabulous Marine Drive ‘Triumphal Arch’, for the start of the Raad ny Foillan proper and we effectively left ‘civilisation’ behind.

Bearing in mind that our ferry crossing had almost been cancelled due to stormy conditions, the weather had been set to ‘My Left Foot Challenge’ and was mild (16 Degrees) and relatively calm. It was shorts and tee’s all-round and we were off.

Our first ‘checkpoint’ was to be Port Soderick which was initially a mere 4 Miles / 6.4km away and the entire length was on a metalled road and there was the odd car parked along its length – every corner was greeted with a new vista that somehow seemed to be even more beautiful than the one we’d left behind and this was to be repeated over the next 100 miles.

We met our fist locals who were out walking their dog and they’d been doing the same walk for decades and were obviously expecting sunshine! As is My Left Foot custom, we stop and talk to everyone and this was no different – it doesn’t make for speedy progress but it’s only in engaging with the locals that you find out all the interesting bits that us ‘tourists’ would ordinarily never find out. We told them we were walking the coastal path and planned to complete the 100 miles in five or six days – this caused much sucking of teeth and raised eyebrows and a bit of nervous laughter; they then came out with ‘you do know the path to Port Soderick has been washed away and you can’t follow the coast’ (and it had all started so well 😉 ) – A bit more interrogation and we discovered that it was only a small collapse and we could divert onto the road and back onto the path after the detour – that detour would add (another) 1.5 miles / 2.5kms to our walk…just what was needed and added around 40 minutes to this section.

Whilst we were walking this section, several of the group had noticed a very slight clicking noise that sounded not unlike a Stonechat Saxicola rubicola (of which we’d already seen many). It was only when we came together as more tightly formed group that we identified the noise was actually coming from Knockers hip! Not one to complain, Knocker confirmed that it was indeed his hip that doing the clicking, confirmed it was quite sore, shrugged his shoulders and got one with the walk. It would eventually become apparent that walking on firm level ground was the problem and as soon as we went ‘off road’ the pain, and the clicking went away – it’s certainly a good job that it wasn’t the other way around as he’d have been in a whole heap of trouble.

The gallery above are photos all taken on the road to Port Soderick and when we arrived at the beach / cove it was indeed a thing of beauty. We also passed a couple of ‘Dark Sky’ information boards on this first section and this is not something we’d thought about – however, later in the trip we had a clear night sky and what you can see with no light pollution is simply breath-taking – I’d go as far as saying that it is worth travelling to the Isle of Man just to witness a clear night sky – it’s THAT good. Also at Port Soderick you’ll find the Manx National Glen, Port Soderick Steam Railway Station and there was also a sightly more poignant sight of what we discovered was ‘Heroes on the Water’ whose motto you can see in the photo is ‘Paddle, Fish, Heal’. This organisation provides wounded servicemen or members of the public injured ‘doing public good’ a place where they can get treatments and therapy and also have a go at Kayak Angling – The building has a lovely memorial garden and it is as you’d expect, immaculate maintained.

Once we’d left Port Soderick, and navigated the detour mentioned earlier, we really were onto the cliffs proper and were fighting our way through more gorse than we thought there was in the world! Shorts and t-shirts are definitely not the correct clothing and we were learning this the hard way! This section also gave us what I think was our only ‘scary’ part of the whole walk – the ground under our feet was mainly made up of boulder clay and the patch had worn this bare in places – as there had been quite a bit of rain in the preceding few days, these bare patches of clay were wet and wet clay is slippy – very slippy! The path at this point is best described as vertiginous and vary narrow – I was in the front position and to say my butt cheeks were clenched is an understatement – a 150m fall onto rocks is not the way I’d planned to end my trip and I had to stop in my tracks and borrow walking pole from Chris – just having that extra point of contact gave me that little bit of extra reassurance and at a much slower pace, i picked my way through this horrible section. I have no idea what the views were like as I was only concentrating on a section of path one to two metres in front of me until such time as the patch widened and the cliffs gave way to, in my mind, much safer terrain. I’ve only ever had that feeling of fear once before and it was also on a My Left Foot challenge as we were descending Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) on our first ever Charity walk (National 3 peaks in 24 Hours). On that occasion the ‘fear’ lasted a much longer and seemingly never-ending 1000m or so as we walked along what felt like a knife edge down the Rhyd Ddu (Beddlegert) path…never again I thought at the time.

However, all bad things come to and end and whilst it felt much further than it was – this section was likely on 2/300m in length and was thankfully soon behind us – after this, the entire walk was effectively plain sailing and we could enjoy the views, the fresh air, the inane chat and the counting down of miles and kilometres as we made our way inexorably to the days finishing line.

Along this section we met the only other two walkers we saw on the entire trip – they were on the island for 9 days and were doing sections of the Coastal path but also some East to West cross island routes as well – the best piece of information we got from them was that the walks along the beach from Point Ayre both were tide dependent and likely impassable / dangerous at high tide – Again the My Left Foot Gods were on our side and on both days where beach walking would be required, High tides were at 10:00 and 09:30 – this gave us just over 11 hours to complete thee sections which was more than enough!

All the while we were swanning around the coastal path, our EPD/Chef de Mission was attempting to locate a suitable site for us to make camp on our first night. Contact between us had been limited over the course of the day and whenever we did make contact, we were never close enough to a road so that we could meet without us making a lengthy detour – we’d had enough of them for the day!
In the ate afternoon, we finally made contact and word reached us that Eric had happened on what he suggested could be the perfect place – it wasn’t as remote as we’d usually choose but it was remote enough and was well worth an inspection.
Location details were shared and we all made our way towards the proposed site and what would become our home for the week. Just on the seaward side of Ronaldsway airport is a café called TwoSix and Jim, our resident aviation expert (we have one for almost everything 😉 ) advised us this name / number related to the ‘bearing’ of the Western approach to the runway at ‘260degrees’ and the other, Eastern approach would be 8 or ’80Degrees’. Every day’s a school day!
On arrival at the café, we discovered it was closed for a couple of weeks as the owners travelled to watch the Isle of Man netball team – Undeterred we made contact with the owners by Facebook and asked if we could pitch our tent at the back of their café – the response came back almost immediately, tacit approval had been given and out came the tent!

45 Minutes later, the tent was up, our bags were all safely inside, beds erected or inflated (and in Simon’s case slowly deflating!) and we could now concentrate on locating the nearest health bar 😉 for urgent electrolyte replenishment and hopefully a warm meal.

Cafe 26 is located in Derbyhaven and is just 2miles / 3.4km from Castletown; the support vehicle transported us all into town in around 5 minutes. We made enquiries at the local Co-op as to where we’d find food and with it being a Sunday, most establishments sopped serving at 6pm – however The George Hotel was still serving and in we went. we were not to be disappointed – Manx pale Ale on draught and an extensive menu where the only thing not on was the liver.

I’m not certain exactly where it was first mooted, but as the café was closed, as the island was only 30 Miles / 50km from end to end, discussion had turned to leaving the tent at the café all week and ‘commuting’ to our start points and from our finish points each day…it didn’t take long for this be the new plan and drinks and food were enjoyed by all. Once we’d finished the food, we popped for a nightcap to the next pub along, The Garrison, and met another bunch of friendly locals who’d been on the sauce all day – it’s not often we enter a pub and we’re the ones talking most sense 🙂 Just the one drink and we headed back to camp and were all tucked up safely in bed and the night time madness of middle aged men and their bladders could commence.

Some expeditions have a bugler to sound the “Retreat” at the end of the day, but due to our proximity to the airport, EasyJet Flight U26552 21:05 from IoM to London Gatwick was our chosen daily ‘tune’ and lights out was a very rock and roll 21:10.

We are of course doing this walk to raise money for two Charities, SANDS and Streetlife and if you would like to make a donation, please follow this link to our JustGiving page:- https://www.justgiving.com/team/myleftfoot-isleofman

My Left Foot – IoM 100 Mile Hike – Day 1

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