A Very Different A3!

previous    ⬆intro    next

Day 2 - Saturday 2 September

Today we're heading to the town of Laxey, back on the Eastern side of the island. We've got a pre-booked hill walking tour in the afternoon but it looks like there's enough of interest there for us to fill the morning too.

"Laxey Great Wheel" - an enormous waterwheel that powered the pump to keep nearby mine workings dry back in its operational day.

But hold on...

Some Internet research tells us,

"The triskelion [the three-legged symbol] on the front of the wheel is backwards. This happened by accident when transferring the image onto the wall; they forgot to reverse it, so it is actually a mirror image."

And indeed it is so. All the official representations of the symbol are running right to left, but this is left to right. How embarrassing.

But we digress. Now some of the reviews on TripAdvisor have suggested that the entrance fee is a bit high for what you get. We're not that fussed, but at the ticket window we learn that UK National Trust members get free admission. Oh, ah, what a pity, we didn't think to bring our cards and they're back at the cottage... Unfortunately, the relationship between Manx National Heritage and the NT is very arms-length, so they can't look us up and we will just have to buy tickets in the normal way. Ok, well, something to remember next time.

Just for clarity, I should point out that "Lady Isabella" in this context is a name given to the wheel itself, not a local maid sold into white slavery by the government. That said, I have no evidence that the latter didn't also happen, but I doubt it.

It's big! The people on the balcony are barely even visible in this picture.

We've reached the top and had to stop, but unlike King Louie, we're fine with that.

This is the drop that in essence powers the wheel. The structure at the top is a viaduct for a shaft that carried the rotational power of the wheel to the mine itself, although it's no longer in use.

The mine isn't far; the entrance is just a short walk away, and then we can follow the entrance tunnel for a hundred metres or so. Unlike some places, there isn't a big tourist visit to be had here.

Into the adit and mind your head! Helmets are de rigeur.

I'm definitely tall enough to have to bend down a bit. I do actually clip one of the crossbeams, but the helmet does its job and I manage to avoid concussing myself.

The end of the line for tourists.

Let's be honest: we've done more extensive mine tours! But still, it gives a definite hint of how the working environment for the miners must have been, and who knows, it might inspire new visitors to dig deeper, so to speak.

I have found another non-Manx Manx cat. Apparently he can turn a bit vicious when he's feeling that way inclined, but he's being a literal pussycat for now.

But look, he's got a little bib that says, "Diabetic Do Not Feed". First time I've heard of a diabetic cat, but like me he seems to be thriving regardless. Apparently he lives a fair trot away, but likes to spend time here.

Although we'll be walking to Snaefell Mine, we won't actually be going to the top of Snaefell itself. This tram goes there, though, and we have a plan to take it on another occasion. In the meantime, we carry on past the tram station to an old woollen mill which is now more of an artisan workshop and outlet.

An antique loom still in use. We must confess the local products aren't quite to our taste but it's really interesting to watch. As it happens, they also sell some other weavers' and knitters' wares, and Amanda is slightly frustrated that there are a few things she might buy if they had them in her size, or if they were just a touch less fussy.

So back to the station and we find Chris, the guide, and the rest of our group. Slightly to our surprise, most of them are IoM natives, not tourists like us, and at least a couple have done tours with him before.

So this tram is what will take us part of the way. Its route takes it all the way to Ramsey, but we're just going to take it partway to the start of our walking route.

Yeah, well there's no trolly dolly offering us a drink anyway. Pah!

A mixed herd, yes, but is that a Belted Galloway?! Our favourite cow! Ok, strictly speaking they are first equal with Highland cattle, but we haven't seen any of those [and, spoiler alert, we won't].

So here's where we get off.

Now those of you unfamiliar with Island ways might wonder how this is actually a tram stop, seeing as it appears to be in the middle of overgrown nowhere. Ah, yes, well, seems the driver wasn't properly paying attention and slightly overshot the almost never used platform! Ok, I can't speak for the rest of our group, but we have penetrated the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda so this is nothing to us!

Our trek begins...

Ah, now this is more like it!

"Snaefell", as some of you may have noticed, is also the name of a place in Iceland. The Icelandic language is still very close to the old Norse of the Vikings, and it was they who named "Snow Mountain" as the part of the Isle of Man which would most often see snow. We have absolutely beautiful sunshine, though, and are very happy to keep it that way.

It's perhaps worth mentioning that technically we're Oop Nort', and on our previous excursions into the higher lattitudes over the last few years we have been huddling round the log fire while the Home Counties burn in a heatwave. Indeed, we well remember driving back home south and seeing the landscape turn from green to brown as the miles passed.

But now, we have beautiful greens and purples on the ground, blue in the sky, and we are happy bunnies indeed.

Looking down at an abandoned farmhouse. You'd probably need a quad-bike (or a horse!) to get in or out, but it would certainly be a place to get away from it all. But you know, put a Starlink antenna on the roof to give you good Internet access and this could be quite the high-tech WFH pad.

It's sheep farming country for those who aren't envisioning themselves as computer coding hermits of tomorrow.

A little stop for kaffee und kuchen although technically I don't think we had kuchen as such.

Approaching the mine, this grey is second-generation tailings. Early smelting processes couldn't extract a lot of the metal (lead) from the mined ore, and the slag heaps were later seen as a resource in their own right. What's left now is still sufficiently poisonous for nothing to grow, but no longer worth recycling. Chris tells us that trail bikers like to ride these slag heaps, although it can't be good for their health.

Ruins of old mine buildings.

A chimney for one of the steam engines that drove the pumps when the waterwheel-driven pumps became inadequate.

The photo doesn't really show the sparkle of the metal in a freshly split piece of rock, but it's plain to the eye. This is lead ore and it is seriously recommended to wash your hands after touching it! Ok, Wikipedia tells us "Lead(II) sulfide is so insoluble that it is almost nontoxic" - I like that 'almost'.

A curious thing: somebody seems to have abandoned a motorbike in the brush.

We don't really know, but we guess that it's probably been stolen and abandoned. One of the locals in the group will contact the police.

We are now walking out of the mountains and back into the built up areas. Chris wants us to see the chapel at Agneash, but it's locked. Fortunately, this is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, so he simply calls the verger/curate/whatever and the way is opened unto us.

It's a simple little place. In a moment, we the hordes will fill it, but I'm rough and tough enough to push ahead and get a clear picture first.

And we're nearly back at the Laxey Wheel.

Well that has been a most fine trek and we can wholeheartedly recomment Chris, our guide. Click here for his page on the VisitIsleOfMan website, or Facebook.

Nothing of sufficient interest seems to have occurred thereafter for us to photograph or otherwise note, so we'll call it a day here, but a very good day it has been.

previous    ⬆intro    next