Sunday, August 21, 2016

Day 52 -- Castletown to Ballasalla, 7 miles

Another rainy day forecast convinced me to spend the day inside. I had missed the nautical museum in Castletown when touring Castle Rushen and the Old House of Keys a few days ago, so I  took a bus to Castletown to fill that omission.

The former home of George Quayle, a merchant, banker, politician and erstwhile smuggler who lived from 1751 to 1835, is now the home of Isle of Man’s nautical museum. When Captain Quayle built his home, he had many secret cabinets and closets installed, and included a boathouse into which he sailed his yacht and unloaded his goods without them seeing the light of day, and without anybody else seeing what he unloaded. Untaxed contraband could then be concealed until ready for market.

Castletown from Quayle home
 On my solo tour I saw an interesting old house with shipping memorabilia. Then, docent Geoff led me through again and showed me the hidden compartments. Some of the compartments were not discovered until 100 years after Captain Quayle died, still containing bottles of liquor that hadn’t been taxed. Even Captain Quayle's family was not aware of the secret hiding places!!

Emerging from the museum, I noticed a blue sky. The wind was blowing from the southeast, and there wasn’t a cloud in sight that direction. Clouds north and west of me looked black enough to produce rain, but if the wind kept blowing from the southeast, there wouldn’t be any rain where I was. With that revelation I decided to walk to Dreswick Point. I hadn’t intended to walk; I had no poles, no pack, no hat, no GPS, no food, and only a ½ liter of water. I did have my rain jacket, and a small pack in which to carry my camera and sunglasses. I also had a map, but, hey, I’m on an island – how lost can I get? Besides, I could see the lighthouse at Dreswick Point from Castletown. So off I went.

Farmhouse ruins on Langness peninsula

Dreswick Point is at the end of the narrow Langness peninsula at the southeastern corner of the island. (You may remember that Port Erin and Port St. Mary are at the southwest corner.) The route to the point follows paved lanes, and is never in doubt, all the way to the lighthouse.

Castletown viewed from Langness peninsula

Dreswick Point Lighthouse
Seascape near Dreswick Point

Returning from the lighthouse was merely a matter of retracing my steps along the road, to a junction where one way leads back to Castletown – visible in the distance – and the other way leads to Derbyhaven. Beyond Derbyhaven, the map shows a clear road around the eastern end of Ronaldsway Airport (the main airport on Man), between the runway and the sea. That road leads to a trail, which leads to another road, which leads to Ballasalla. There’s a train station in Ballasalla, and bus stops, so why would I want to return 3 miles to Castletown when Ballasalla is almost as close – just on the other side of the airport? The sun was still shining, so I headed to Ballasalla.
My map was printed in May, 2009 – more than 7 years ago. At the end of the runway on my map are four little words set in fine print – too small for my eyes to see when I’ve already made up my mind to walk to Ballasalla. “Runway extension under construction.”

So, when I arrive at the clear road that cuts between the runway and the sea, I discover it is no longer there, replaced by an airport fence posted with RESTRICTED AREA and other threatening notices common at airports. I’ve already walked almost a mile and a half away from Castletown, and I really don’t want to turn around. Besides, the day is getting warm.

There is a trail that hugs the coast – part of the Isle of Man Coastal Trail that encircles the island, but the coastal trail doesn’t go anywhere near Ballasalla or the train station or the bus stops. Still, I’m on an island – how lost can I get? So I follow the coastal trail. The day is still sunny; I’m beginning to wish I had brought my hat. And some food. And some more water. What if the coastal trail gets really bad? I should have brought my poles. I’m only 10 miles from Douglas. Why am I carrying this stupid raincoat on a warm, sunny day? I should have brought my backpack.

Then suddenly there’s a cutoff trail. Maybe that’s the trail I’m looking for – but I don’t know where I am on the map, because the coastal trail isn’t on my map. I should have brought my GPS. I follow the cutoff trail, not knowing where it goes. Hey, I’m on an island, how lost can I get? I reach a road. Do I turn right or left? Left heads towards the airport – there’s a terminal there, with a bus stop, but it’s on the other side of the runways. Right heads off to Douglas – I think – only 10 miles away. It’s sure getting hot in the sun. I wish I had my hat.

I turn left. The road heads down towards the airport. All I can see is an airport fence cutting across the road: “RESTRICTED AREA.” For years I’ve been ignoring “private property” and “no trespassing” signs when hiking in England and Scotland. But somehow, these airport signs seem more imposing. Then, just before the fence, I see that my road turns sharply to the right. I crest a hill. I hear a whistle. Like Shackleton when he heard the 7:00 a.m. whistle from the Stromness whaling station on South Georgia, I rejoice. This time it’s not a whaling station, it’s the call of the Isle of Man Steam Train in Ballasalla. A mile farther along the road and I reach the train station, board the train and am whisked back to Douglas. I knew I couldn’t get lost on an island.
Flowers in Douglas