Whilst the Isle of Man is fairly hilly in places, it only has one mountain. Snaefell. This is a Norse name, Snae neaning snow.
It isn’t a particularly big mountain, being just a smidge over 2000 feet.However, it is high enough to be a tourist attraction, with a Victorian electric railway taking you within 40′ or so of the summit.
The track isn’t so steep that it requires a rack and pinion system (like the Snowdon mountain railway), however there is a third rail using something called the fell mountain system to control the cars. It is only partially implemented in this case: is used for braking purposes on the descent, traction via the bogies being adequate for going up.
The railway dates from 1895 and there are six individual cars available, our journey was on number two.
It is a thirty minute journey from the town of Laxey for the five miles to the top, however there is an intermediate station known as the bungalow about two thirds of the way up the mountain which is where we joined it. On the journey south from near Ramsey, we could see that the mountain top was enshrouded in mist and indeed on our drive we passed through a strange triangular tunnel effect where mist was rolling up the hill and over our heads at a fair old lick, but the road ahead was clear.
It was fairly expensive to do the journey (£5.60 return, although David was free) but a challenge we were keen to undertake. The car wound its way round the side of the mountain with stunning views, until we went into the fog bank. We piled out of the train and ascended the last 40 feet or so, finding the trig point on a small peak. We couldn’t see very far at all, but telecoms masts could be faintly made out either side of the summit. It wasn’t overly pleasant up there, being cold, damp and a spitting rain in the fog bank as well. Unlike Snowdon, the terrain on the peak wasn’t too rough and concrete walkways with steel handrails, mainly for access to the mast compounds.
There was a concrete bunkhouse next to the train stop called the summit hotel, but it didn’t look like you could stay there any more. Instead, it was now a Cafe and gift shop. They did do a nice drinking chocolate though, complete with marshmallows that received the David seal of approval.
All too soon we were ready for our descent, this time in a much fuller train. Whilst we had been aloft, the mist had sank down as low as the Bungalow station and it was to be a couple of miles driving away from the mountain before we were into clear air again.
As ever, hover over the thumbprints for prose and click for a big picture.
There are four webcams on Snaefell at Bungalow. The one on the station building is here.