[From Mate's Isle of Man Illustrated, 1902]
THE high-road to Douglas, once over Braddan Bridge crosses Port-e-Chee, a beautiful holm between the Dhoo and Glass rivers, which meet below the Quarter Bridge. Up the vista of the Dhoo, beyond Braddan trees, are visible the towers of the Poor Asylum and the Lunatic Asylum, with Greeba Mountain beyond, and the Gap of Greeba opening to the west. Up the Glass at the head of Port-e-Chee stands a many-gabled farmhouse, built in the last century by the Dukes of Athol and their first residence on the Island. Beyond is a glimpse of Cronkbourne, the residence of Mrs. Moore. Cronkbourne Village consists exclusively of the houses of Mr. A. W. Moore's workpeople engaged in his sail-cloth factory-the largest export manufactory of the Island. Port-e-Chee is overlooked by a circle of residential mansions. The valley is very richly wooded ; but the upland prospects are over bare slopes dotted with farms. The charm of Manx landscape is that nothing impedes the free-flight of the eye along the slopes of green to the purple and blue of the hills.
Two roads lead from Douglas to Onchan, the upper by Glencrutchery ; the lower by the Crescent and the Burnt Mill Hill just short of Derby Castle. Government House is on the upper road between Glencrutchery and Onchan, half-a-mile back from the sea and at an altitude of 300 feet, overlooking the headlands and the bay. It is but a modest house hardly adequate to the hospitality dispensed by its vice-regal residents. Onchan Village lies east of Government House, and consists of small whitewashed slate-roofed cottages of characteristic Manx type. From the village street a cross-road dips down to the vicarage on the left and the church on the right. Beyond the church it forks left to Groudle Harbour and right by Howstrake to Onchan Harbour. By Groudle Harbour is the ancient bridle-road to Laxey and Ramsey. Onchan Church, originally Conachan or Kentigern, is modern (1833) Early English, dedication St. Peter's. Its tower and steeple with the clump of timber around it figure picturesquely from every point of view. There are some fine crosses with designs that point to Northumbrian origins. A re-grant of land was made in this locality by Godred II., of Man (1154) to the Priory of St. Bees (Cumberland).
Water Mill, Groudle Glen
THE Groudle River rises some 600 feet above sea-level in Slieu Meayll, and feeds the reservoirs which supply Douglas. The beauties of Upper Groudle must be sought, hidden as they are in the recesses of its windings. The old water mill on the little flat near the harbour was a gem of the picturesque, now modernized into the engine works of a reserve reservoir. Groudle was anciently Escadala, and the harbour Escadalavik. Half-a-mile northwards from the harbour, on the old road, is Lonan Old Church, the most ancient building in use within the Island. Its east and north windows are curious examples of early work, not later than the 12th century. In the churchyard are several early crosses. The country slopes seen from this point show the eastern contour of the Island in a succession of magnificent sweeps. Groudle Hotel is half-a-mile from the sea on the edge of a ravine beside the bridge on the Electric Railway, and in the ravine is a curious and interesting mill-wheel. A miniature railway runs from the hotel seawards and bends round to a cascade, where a brook leaps over the cliffs and mingles its spray with the spray of the salt water. The coast from Groudle Bay is an excellent example of the jagged sea-walls of the Island, all round Clay Head to Laxey Bay. Groudle is reached by the Electric Railway from Derby Castle, sweeping round the seaward side of Bank's Howe. The Howe was a sheep run. It is now also Golf Links. The Electric Railway sets down golfers near the top of the gradient, 300 feet above sea-level. From the summit of the Howe the views are superb. South Barule and the vista of southern mountains recede in echelon far as the Calf of Man. Through the gap of Greeba one gets a glimpse of Peel Hill. The northern mountain summits are all visible. Groudle and Lhen Coan are deep down on the northern side, lying in sunshine unfanned by the breeze that blows above the hill.
Lhen Coan, Groudle Glen
Beforethe streamlet dances at my feet,
Abovethe lark high poised in ether sings,
Aroundthe landscape lies in stillness sweet,
While Zephyrs fan me with their airy wings.
From Bank's Howe it is an exhilarating scramble down to the Groudle Hotel, and the cool recesses and water music of Lhen Coan. Bridges and paths cut in the rock lead through the canon. The Electric Railway skirts the west side of Lhen Coan and crossing the brook at the head of the canon continues by the brook for a mile further before crossing a low divide to Garwick Glen.
On Garwick Beach
BEYOND the half-way house to Laxey, the view opens on Laxey Bay. At this point and all the way to Laxey, road and railway run near together. The road dips lower into Garwick Glen and crosses the stream by a picturesque mill. The railway line crosses on a high culvert a bow-shot higher up, overlooking the mill and millwheel. Farther down, half-hidden by woods, is the red-tiled roof of the Garwick Hotel, below which is the most beautiful part of the glen.
Fairy Glen, Garwick
Above the culvert is a prehistoric earth fort perched on the summit of a rock and almost encircled by the ravine of the brook. An ancient saddle-road crosses the glen by the hotel door, and beside this road are the Cloven Stones, a prehistoric burial mound. Garwick Bay is properly a corner of Laxey Bay. The coast S.E. to Clay Head is very picturesque, sheer cliffs of lichened slate hung with ivy, the haunt of hawk and jackdaw. Caves in the face of the cliffs. The bay abounds in fish, and boats and fishing gear may be had on the beach. The coast towards Laxey is inaccessible from the sea ; but at the Laxey end two miles away is a beautiful beach of sand. High on the hill midway over the bay, 400 feet above sea-level, is Lonan Church, a large building with grey pinnacled square tower, but modern (1833) and of no interest. Between the church and the sea the line passes through an ancient burial ground, the stone coffins of which remain visible, their date probably as late as the 13th century. A thatched cottage near by stands on the site of the old church of the locality prior to the establishment of parish churches (1275)
Harbour, Old Laxey
OLD LAXEY is on a little flat between steep heights at the mouth of the Laxey River (Lax-a salmon water). The harbour is the river estuary, on one side shelving rock, on the other a pier of massive rough stone. Two ancient roads, the primitive pack-horse road of terrific steepness, and the old coach-road scarcely less steep, clip into the valley at this point. Old Laxey Bridge is picturesque. It formerly only admitted of one vehicle to pass. The original bridge was, doubtless, the work of the monks of Rushen who possessed the coastlands from Laxey Harbour to the Dhoon
Laxey Beach is a lovely spot. The sands make a good bathing ground. The coast is safe ; boats may be had, and there is excellent fishing in the bay and along the Dhoon coast. There is no landing pier or jetty, but passengers from Douglas, Ramsey, etc., by the coasting steamers are safely landed by means of small boats. Perhaps the best views are obtained by approaching Laxey by water. The sight of an old church stands on a knoll by the old saddle-road-Kil-Niglus (Church of Nicholas), with its well (Chibbyr Niglus). Artists will find good subjects all about this pretty little spot.
FromI Old Laxey there is a moderately steep ascent through the hamlet of Minorca, to a fine prehistoric burial place, consisting of two chambers of huge and rudely worked stones called King Orry's Grave A fine stone stands at the west end of the grave, ten feet in height. A horseshoe, beads, and stone weapons found in the grave are now preserved in Mr. Kermode's Museum in Ramsey. This burial place dates from long before the period of the Orry Kings, who were buried at Iona, Furness Abbey, and Rushen Abbey; and the name is a modern figment. This locality is rich in prehistoric burial-mounds, and sites of Celtic churches. Many local place-names are of Norse origin.
A MILE from the port, two deep valleys, viz. : Glen Roy from the west, and Laxey Glen from the north, meet at right angles. This is the nucleus of Laxey. It is a place of modern growth, but in the Rent Roll of the Island (1513) there was a mill at the meeting of the rivers. The population is scattered seawards down the glen, up the steep hillsides all round, and on the Mines Road as far as the Big Wheel. In Glen Roy, there is no population, its steeps being clothed with woods and virgin wilderness, except where art has made it a veritable Paradise in the Pleasure Gardens .
Laxey Glen Gardens
Laxey Church and the Electric Railway Station stand together on a beautiful pine-shaded terrace, overlooking the meeting of the waters. High-road and railway cross the ravine over the Glen Roy River, on two lofty parallel bridges, deep down under which are the Laxey Glen Flour Mills. The St. George's Mill (woollen cloth) stands beside the meeting of the rivers. It was founded by the proprietor, Mr. Egbert Rydings, of the St. George's Society. Mr. Rydings has written a number of Manx tales in the Anglo-Manx dialect The Manx homespun made at Laxey is supplied to many artistic and aesthetic patrons in London. Laxey Glen Gardens really within Glen Roy, are opposite the Electric Railway Station. Within the Gardens nature and art have created an incomparably lovely place, with tennis courts, bowling greens, lawns and arbours, a small lake fed by the Glen Roy River, woodland walks, and an incomparable mountain glen beyond. The Glen Royal River has some fine falls, the chief of which is Nikkesen, around which the native imagination has woven weird stories. The silvery shingle of the pools derives its brightness from the mica in the native clay slate. The restaurant is in Continental style with verandahs and roofs that suggest Switzerland and the Rhine. The proprietor, Mr. Williamson, who has travelled much through Europe, has adopted here ideas in vogue at Continental resorts. The pathetic old Manx song " Sheep under Snow," has its locality in Baljean, a farm overlooking Laxey. Its motif is that of " Home to our Mountains."
THE ascent is up the S.W. side of the Great Laxey Valley. The cars are of great power and have break systems that defy accident. The Big Wheel is in full view across the glen at the foot of the ravine of Glendrink. Its height is 72 feet ; breadth, 6 feet ; and effective force, 200 horse-power. Water rises through a cylindrical stone tower, and overflows into its overshot lade--the wheel working as an automatic pump for the Great Laxey Mine, and discharging from fifty to three hundred gallons per minute from a shaft 2,000 feet deep. A stream that drives the wheel is drawn from Upper Glen Roy and winds rounds the hills in a mill-race five miles long. The entrance to the mine shaft and the mine office are visible a bowshot below the wheel. Great Laxey Mine is of enormous depth, being 362 fathoms, or 3,172 feet below the surface, viz.: as deep below the sea level as the summit of Snaefell is above it. Its workings underground pass quite underneath the mountains to the north, and honey-comb an area of four miles north and south, by half-a-mile east and west. In recent years the price of ore has fallen 60 per cent., and where seven hundred men were formerly employed, there are now only one hundred and fifty. The Laxey miners have emigrated to South Africa and the United States. The lead ore of Laxey contains about 45ozs. of silver per ton. Blende or zinc ore is also a valuable product of this mine. Notwithstanding the " deads " or rubbish heaps, the surroundings are very picturesque-ravine, hazel copses and gorse, bridge, charming old country mill, farmsi ead and white miners' cottages in the foreground ; higher up, the prettily clustered hamlet of Agneash perched on the edge of Glendrink ; disused aqueducts, wheel-pits and mine-houses among its trees; and soaring against the blue sky the inaccessible front of Creg Agneash powdered with yellow gorse and purple heather. The mountain railway for three miles looks down into the yawning canon of the Laxey River. Every object down below dwindles into insignificance-the river but a riband, the road a mere continuous white line. The valley has a charm all its own, and the view from the mountain railway across the village with its white cottages irregularly dotted here and there along the hill sides, the moors on the left hand, and the sunlit sea on the right form a picture which once seen is never to be forgotten. At the head of the valley which ends at the base of Snaefell is the Snaefell Mine, famous for the appalling calamity of May 10th, 1897, and for the heroism of the Snaefell and Laxey miners engaged in the rescue of their comrades. Over this scene Snaefell dominates in picturesque and solemn beauty. The true ascent begins at the Bungalow or Mountain Hotel on the divide of the Island, near which is the mountain power station. Beyond the divide is the source of the Sulby River. The westward prospect is across a moorland amphitheatre, circled by Pen-y-Phot, Garraghan, and the mountains of Kirk Michael and Ballaugh. The dark lines on the green waste are old cuttings of peat, in former days dug for fuel, by the people all over the North of Island.
Snaefell and Pen-y-Phot.
THE Isle of Man Electric Tramways and Power Company, in addition to their power station for the Douglas cable cars, have four power stations of which the following statistics will prove interesting, and considering the ascent of the mountain reassuring to the timid passenger. The Derby Castle station has three Lancashire boilers and three inverted vertical compound engines, each of 90 horse-power, driving Edison-Hopkinson dynamos. At Laxey are two Lancashire boilers and two inverted vertical compound engines, each of 90 horse-power, driving Edison-Hopkinson dynamos by belt connections ; with a 180 horse-power engine coupled direct to a multipolar dynamo. Between these stations there is at Groudle an accumulator battery. The Snaefell station has four Lancashire boilers and five horizontal compound engines, each of 120 horse-power, driving Edison-Hopkinson dynamos; and on the Ramsey branch, which is connected continuously to the Douglas and Laxey system, there are two Galloway boilers and two engines, each of 180 horse-power, with Ledward's condensors, coupled direct to multipolar dynamos; there is also an accumulator battery attached to the station, and to the Snaefell station. The Snaefell line is electrically connected with the lower lines, and can draw upon the reserve energy. The ascent is severe, being an almost continuous climb of 4¼ miles on a gradient of one in twelve--which requires 100 h.p. per car. With generating engines of 1,600 h.p. in combination, working day and night, and the accumulator battery attached, the reserve power is always in excess of what is required for the busiest traffic.
FROM the Bungalow the line descends spirally round the west side and the north end of the oval mountain dome, and finds itself near its goal as it passes along the eastern shoulder scarcely iooft. below the summit. The actual summit (2,024ft.) is a rude cairn of slate rubble, with the remains of the shelter used by the Ordnance Survey Engineers in 1865. Southwards from the cairn is the Mountain Hotel. A sunrise from Snaefell is a spectacle well worth waiting for. As on all mountains the views of the hour depend on the local conditions of the atmosphere. But even in cloudy or broken -weather the formation and dispersion of cloud may be here seen as though it were Nature's laboratory. England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are generally visible; and even on unfavourable days glimpses of them may be seen through the openings of driving clouds. There is plenty of wind on Snaefell, even when the landscapes far below and the fields of circumambient sea lie in profound calm. But the exhilarating influences to be obtained here make the breeze a positive delight of itself. The panoramic views, of course, constitute the chief charm. To all the arts of the compass the Island lies spread out like a contoured map with infinitude of detail and the added charm of superb colour. The originator of the Snaefell Mountain Railway is Mr. Alexander Bruce, J.P., who, as Chairman of the Douglas and Laxey Electric Power Company, Ltd., perceived the advantages of electrical motive power applied to steep gradients. The ascent seems now the simplest thing in the world.