[From Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol 3]



Read at Keeill Abban, 28 July, 1927.

The mediaeval topography of the Isle of Man, particularly of the highways, is a fascinating subject. We are rich in ancient highways: there is a network of them all over the Island; but especially in the central Highlands. There are few references in old documents relating to our highways; but there are two mentioned in the Chronicle of the Monks of Rushen to which I would draw attention.

The references are in an addition to the Chronicle and were written about the end of the 14th century. The document sets down the boundaries of the Abbey Lands in three districts, namely, in Kirk Malew, in Kirk Christ Lezayre, in Kirk Lonan and Kirk Maughold. The document is described by Mr. P. G. Ralfe in Volume I of the Society, New Series, 1913.

Highways are mentioned twice in the document. First, the publica Via or public way in Kirk Malew, and secondly the Regia via, the Royal Way, in Kirk Christ Lezayre. Why one was called the Public Way and the other the Royal Way may not be difficult to guess. There must have been a good reason for the distinction, especially when both terms are mentioned in the same document and written by the same scribe. The words Public Way in the case of Kirk Malew meant merely the public highway like any other thoroughfare open to the public in the modern sense.

In the case of the Royal Way in Kirk Christ Lezayre, however, the road was recognised as the one which the Royal personages and their followers commonly used when they journeyed from Ramsey, after landing there, to Tynwald and to their residence at Castle Rushen.

We know quite well that Ramsey was a favourite landing place in mediaeval times, especially in bad weather, when Ronaldsway would be difficult to approach. Landing quite far up the Sulby river in their flat-bottomed boats would be a comparatively easy matter.

In mediaeval times it was of course very necessary that the King and his retainers should be present at Tynwald. Traffic to and from Norway and the Hebrides, which belonged to Mann, was probably more frequent than we can now imagine. In the time of the kingdom of Mann and the Isles, Tynwald was attended by eight representatives from the Out Isles, and there would be many followers. The eminent chieftains from the Hebrides, in addition to the Royal princes, would stay the night at Milntown, or Ballakillingan, or Ballure, and take the Royal Way, refreshed and with comparative comfort, in the morning.

Where, then, was the Royal Way which is mentioned in the Chronicle? From the description in the document translated from the Latin by Mr. Ralfe, we are quite sure as to a certain portion of the Way. All authorities are agreed on this. The document, in describing the boundaries of the Lezayre Abbey Lands, says that the boundary ascends from Rozelean (Cronk Ruagh) as far as the Glentrammon brook called Bryseth, and ascends further southwards by the Royal Way.

A Royal Way must have a beginning and an objective. It is easy to find its beginning, which was at the northern foot of Scacafel, now called Skyhill, where the Milntown and Ballakillingan boundaries meet the Lezayre main road. But where was its objective? The Way goes south and west for many a long mile right into the heart of the central highlands; but where was its ultimate aim ?

The Royal Way was in reality what its title would indicate: an ancient track deliberately chosen and used in the middle ages by princely personages and their retainers when travelling from Ramsey port to Tynwald and to Castle Rushen.

The document I have referred to was written in the latter half of the fourteenth century (the last incident mentioned is of the date 1376, when William de Montacute II was King of Man)-but the track was used centuries before that period.

It winds up Scacafel until it reaches the head waters of the Glentrammon stream near Park ny Earkan,as stated in the Chronicle, and goes on past the source of the Cluggid brook to Clagh Hoit. Going through the pass between Clagh Ouyr and Snaefell, it continues along a level stretch from the Penypot mountain gate along the northern slope of Penypot, where the Royal Way and the Lezayre parish boundary part at the Crammag stream, after running close together for something like three and a half miles.

Here it comes to the pass between Penypot on the east and Carraghyn on the west.

After going through the pass, our Way takes a direction due south, over ling and gorse-covered spaces, and descends by Bare ny Ree (Gaelic for the Royal Way) on the southern slope of Carraghyn. Up to this point the Way is never in doubt: it is plainly visible all along.

It passes Keeill Abban, now called St. Luke's, and the site of an ancient Tynwald there. The record in the Statutes is dated 1429.

From Keeill Abban we can see across the valley to the east, where the Royal Way climbs from the two Baldwin bridges, where the Glass and the Awin Darragh meet. It goes up past the Rheyn farm house to Chibbyr Roney, to the Nab, to Corvonagh, and Ballawilley Killey. It crosses the Dhoo at Ballaquinney Mill, climbs past Ballingan and Corvalley. It goes through the mountain pass between The Mount and Slieau Chiarn, by the Braaid, and on to St. Mark's, and thence straight to Rushen Abbey and Castle Rushen, the Royal residence.

The entire Way is capable of identification with complete certainty, its whole distance, a stretch of some twenty miles as the crow flies.

It satisfies all the conditions of tracks used by primitive people. A close study of the physical geography discloses the fact that it runs along the ridges, and never at any point gets into areas where the ground is boggy or otherwise insecure either for man or beast. It avoids all streams which are not easily passable, and yet takes a marvellously direct course towards its objective.

A strange and significant feature of the Way is that the parish boundaries, Treen boundaries, and ancient Quarterland boundaries, run for many miles along the course of the Royal Way. This feature points to the fact that the Way was in existence before those boundaries came to be fixed.

Evidence as to the genuineness of this being the Royal Way is ample and convincing. Old people in Kirk Lonan have called the portion of the road on the northern slope of Penypot, Bonn no Reel

Old people in Kirk Marown call the part over the Rheyn to the Nab, Barr no Ree! Crosby people call the road leading from Keeill Vreeshey to the south of Ballaharry on to St. Trinian's, Raad ny Ree, all meaning the Road of the King.'

In addition to that, Mr. T. E. Killey, of Ballagrawe, in Marown has a document, dated 18 October, 1850, in which a certain meadow is described as being bounded by the old highroad called Bare ny Lee. This is evidence of unquestionable character.

There are a great number of places of historical importance all along the Royal Way. It was on Scacafell that the great battle was fought between Godred and the Manx in 1077.

There is a little glen on the northern slope of Penypot running towards Lhergyrhenny parallel with the Cranmag stream, which is called Glion ny Merliagh, the Glen of Robbers. The name gives one the idea that, apart from the roughness and loneliness of Way there were other and more unpleasant inconveniences likely to be met with on occasions.

There are in the Museum two pieces of 16th century armour, a breast plate and a back piece. They were found by Mr. Fred. Christian, of Lhergyrbenny, under six feet of turf, just by the Royal Way on the Mullough Ouyr side of flue road, near the Bungalow.

Perhaps the most important ancient historical feature of the Royal Way is the site of the Tynwald at Killabane' (Keeill Abban = the Church of Saint Abban).

The old Braddan Parish Club used to march around the site of the Tynwald and give three cheers,' and also go northwards to a pool of water on the ridge, called the Pool-mocar, where cheers were also given. Several pieces of the roadway, where it was very wide from Keeill Abban to Carraghyn, had been enclosed by the adjacent landowners, in the 19th century. At a point near Piscoe, where the road was very wide, many parishoners claimed it was common property and belonging to the road.

In Kirk Marown there was, on the Way, Chibbyr Roney, the sacred well of Saint Roney to whom the parish of Marown is dedicated there was Balhamer now the freon of Ballayeman, which along with St. Trinian's and other lands in the parish was granted to the Priory of Whithern by King Olaf II early in the 13th century; and there was Slieau Chiarn, the Hill of the Lord.

In Kirk Malew were the Black Fort and the Church of St. Mark's; and before reaching the Royal residence, there was the Monastery of Rushen with its bridge over the Silverburn.



'Long, long ago, in the oulden days, in the little everin' time of day, the Shenn Bedn Veg Carraghyn would be comin' from the Penypot side of Carraghyn mountain.

She would be carryin' her wheel on her shoulder, and puttin' it down on the broo of the mountain facing the settin' sun, and lookin' over the valleys of East Baldwin and West Baldwin.

'She would be spinnin' end singin', and singing' and spinnin',and after a while she would take up her wheel on her shoulder, and go back by the Injebreck side of the mountain into the darkness of Awhallian.

'And what was she coin', you're sayin'?

'She would be spinnin' the history of all the childher that would be born from time to time in the two Baldwins below.

She was the Lhiannan Shee, the friendly fairy of the Baldwins, and lookin' after them as they grew up.

'But the time came when the young people would be after wantin' to know where she came from, what she was coin', and where she was goin'.

So the young men made up that they would put it to her.

'When the time came only one was bout' enough to meet her with his dogs.

'He stood before her in the little everin', and when she saw him she didn' say a word. Her lips were movie' however, and her eyes were like stars. He couldn' see her for her eyes. He took fright, and his dogs began to yowl. He ran down the mountain to his companions. He was put to bed, but he didn' rise alive; and all his people died off.

'That was the last ever heard of Shenn Bedn Veg Carraghyn.'
Told to W. Cubbon by John Kaneen of Castleward, 1918.

NOTE- Just below where the old woman (called the Little Old Woman of Carraghyn) sat spinning is the site of the ancient Tynwald. There was also an early Celtic Keeill dedicated to St Abban, and the place is still called Keeil Abban. There is a Celtic Cross there, probably of the 7th or 8th century.



An old woman of Creg y Cowin would be going around Baldwin from farm to farm spinning. She was going one day over the tops, across Keeill Abban, to Ulican to spin, and she lost her way in the mist. She was never found.

For a long time after, they would be hearing crying on the slopes above Ulican and Awhallian. They would go up the mountain, but they never found her. They would hear her crying, but they never saw her. They would see her shadow, but it would vanish like magic. Then a queer smell of herbs would float around, and the cry again be heard, but nothing to see.

·Told by Paddy yn Boodagh of Druidale to Jack Leece. and told by him to W. Cubbon, 1927.


'And didn' St. Patrick come from {relend on a white horse?
'And didn' the white horse in its flight touch on Peel Hill?
'And didnt a well spring up where the horse's hooves touched?
'And wasn't it called Chibbyr y Pherick, and do cures to this day ?

But St. Patrick and the horse didn let on Peel Hill, however They let here and took res' here, on St. Patrick's Chair. And when they were rested they flew off to Lhergydhoo.'

(1) The tradition of St. Patrick and the White Horse is well known.
(2) My mother, now 95 (in 1927), when she was a girl in her teens, and when walking from the south to the north, had to pass St. Patrick's Chair. She was told by her grandmother not to pass St. Patrick's Chair without resting on the mound, for if she rested there her back would never be weary.
(3) There are a number of large white quartz stones on the top of Lhergydhoo hill where it is said there was once a burial ground with a circle around it.


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