Port Lewaigue (pronounced ‘lage’) is a small cove to the south of Ramsey, on the Isle of Man. At the time of writing, we are spending a long weekend with some friends who now live here; having moved from Douglas, the island’s capital, last year.
Mark is due to retire from the Manx insurance business in a few weeks, and the purchase of a beautiful old house, a few yards from the shore of this lovely spot, marks the final part of their long-held retirement plans.
Until yesterday, Bernie and I were strangers to this beautiful part of the island, though we had driven through the fishing town of Ramsey on previous trips – usually in November, as we reserve a few destinations for quieter, out of season breaks; we like the feel of a cold and half -empty resort when we’re wrapped up warm and deciding where to have the next bowl of hot, local soup…
(Above: the port of Ramsey, with its deep and snaking harbour)
Port Lewaigue is a leafy and picture-postcard place that most holidaymakers will bypass, not realising that the tiny but steep road off the A2 will take you down to one of the most beautiful coastlines on the island.
My own exploration of this idyllic spot began yesterday morning, when the household was still sleeping off a glass of wine or three from the night before. Tess, our collie, needed a walk and the excitement in her eyes as the world of new sight and smells beckoned was infectious.
Within two minutes, we were at the bottom of the lane and entering the beach where we met a helpful elderly lady with two King Charles spaniels. Those with dogs will know the camaraderie that prevails on such occasions – as long as the furry ones get on! They did, and we were soon chatting like old friends. It was still very early and there was that sense of sharing the morning world…
She told me that there was a circular path around the headland, but that I should ‘beware the false paths in the ferns’ – something that would make sense when I got there.
After a few more minutes of chatting, Tess and I set off on our walk of discovery. There is something lovely about encountering a new landscape for the first time.
We followed the curling path, which climbed up the headland, becoming muddier as we went. I cursed my lack of foresight in leaving the walking boots in the car, but it was too late to go back – the household would soon be stirring to life and Tess needed her morning run. The outside tap and a good brush would have to suffice on my return.
We climbed, and eventually the path opened up to the promised ‘fern field’ revealing also the view of the lovely line of hills that ring this part of the island – not too far from the famed TT motorcycle circuit.
At this point, with the tiny port now visible again in the distance, I realised the significance of the lady’s warning. There were at least five paths before me. All looked equally well-trod. I reasoned that to keep within the sight of the small cove, below, would be the most sensible; but it proved to be entirely the wrong logic.
Five minutes later, and surrounded on three sides by sharp brambles hidden in the ferns, I gave up, envious of Tess’s thick fur coat, which rendered her impermeable to the attacks.
Eventually, we found the right route – on the opposite side of the plateau – and the way descended to reveal the rest of the circular path back to Port Lewaigue.
At the end of the descent, a helpful notice board, perched, unseen, above the cove on our outward leg, gave the history of the cove, which includes a dramatic shipwreck – the steam trawler ‘Cevic’, in 1927; and two attempts to develop the little port for wider use. The first of these was in 1887 when George Kay, a local businessman, bought a substantial stretch of land to create a promenade and some seaside cottages. These were completed, but his greater plan to build a concrete walkway to link the port with nearby Ramsey floundered. A popular walk, available only at low tide, is to follow the high-water line into the nearby town, and that remains the only option, barring the road.
A second development, by a wealthy Salford brewer – James Grimble Groves (above) was more successful. As an aside, wouldn’t that name be great for a period detective! Groves’ plan was less prosaic but more doable. This canny man, who was also MP for Salford, bought a large tract of the land (where I had struggled with the fern paths), and developed it into a small estate of prestigious, large houses. These were named ‘The Colony’ and are still sought-after dwellings, with unrivalled views- see photo below.
Port Lewaigue remains largely undeveloped. Its charm is its simplicity. Our hosts tell us that it is local custom to go sea-bathing on a Sunday morning… we’ll see. I think they are winding us up!