Trails and trials of the writer who walks
This dashing waterfall in a pretty park is part of the approach to Kirk Michael. Here, only eroding red sand dunes separate the sea from the land. The Way takes me along the beach and apparently to a dead end as the path which should have brought me back up from the shoreline has eroded away completely. I have to follow in the footsteps of others and resort to a very unladylike posture on all fours to scramble up the wet, slippery slope of dirty red sand. Now I am dirty as well as dishevelled.
In Kirk Michael, pushing against heavy wind and rain, I spot a bus shelter, intending to take a five minute sit down in the dry, but I see there’s a bus to Ramsey in about five minutes so I make a quick decision to skip the featureless (and very exposed) north coast. I’m no purist. Not in this weather.
First priority in Ramsey is to buy some more tent pegs. There’s a camping shop directly opposite the bus station. Second priority is to find a hairdresser. I know that doesn’t sit well with the image of tough outdoor back-packer, but it’s now Thursday and my hair was last washed on Tuesday. You understand, girls.
It amuses me that despite my request simply to wash and dry my hair on the cheapest tariff, hairdressers can’t resist faffing it around. When she asked me if I wanted any spray, I said ‘No thanks, I’ll be getting enough spray from outside.’ I was charged an outrageous £16 – I don’t pay that much for the whole works at home.
The wind on the harbour side of Ramsey is so strong I can barely stand, and am glad to get blown into a side street.
While waiting for my hairdressing appointment, I spent a very pleasant hour in the Mitre Hotel where the bar overlooks the harbour. As well as observing pedestrians being hurtled down the street in one direction or battling an invisible force field (actually, I suppose that’s just what wind is!) in the other direction, there were two men in diggers working on changing the direction of the channel into the harbour. This activity entertained everyone in the bar for quite some time.
The Harbour Bar was also a good wi-fi opportunity to search on my phone for a cheap hotel or B&B. I always find three or four days ‘rough’ to one night in a real bed makes for a nicely balanced trip. Tripadvisor threw up a B&B called Thorncliffe which I rang, and although someone answered, I couldn’t seem to make a proper connection. (I discovered later that my phone had accidentally been switched to mute), so I trekked up the hill to the address, only to discover from the householder that it is no longer a guesthouse. How foolish of me to think that a place featured on Tripadvisor, with a sign over the door that clearly says ‘Bed and Breakfast’, sporting Isle of Man flags in the garden, and ‘Credit Cards Accepted’ plaques down the side of the door, might be a guesthouse. Silly girl. (By the way, the hairdresser also recommended this place to me. She should have stuck to her job.)
With the wind still blowing at a strength that even my extra tent pegs will probably not withstand, I begin to think that perhaps I will just get the next bus to Douglas and call the whole thing off, but the five day forecast (aren’t smartphones wonderful?) shows that the wind will change direction and drop dramatically over the afternoon. No bed for the night, but at least my hair looks nice.
Having had no luck with accommodation in Ramsey, and almost deciding to skip the rest of the walk anyway due to the wild winds, I placed my faith in the five day forecast and pressed on. I’ve decided to pitch on a headland overlooking Maughold lighthouse. It’s a visitor viewing spot, but I’ve just watched the last dog-walker drive away in the growing darkness and I’ve pushed my way into a thicket of tall leggy gorse where I’ve tramped down a clearing just big enough for my tent. The only problem is, there’s no soil here. The bracken and leaf debris is so deep, I can’t find anything to push the pegs into. I’ve taken the ferrules off walking poles and used them to secure the guys at either end, and then tied the other guys and loops to gorse branches, using my spare bootlaces and spare gaiter elastic to get them to reach. The whole thing is a bit rickety but I’m hoping it’s secure enough to see me through the night. I’m now invisible to the road, which always makes me feel good in these ‘not so wild’ camping spots.