“ Breda Head, a bold and abrupt precipice”

from Pigot’s Directory, 1837

Bradda Head is a rugged headland to the north of Port Erin, rising to over 380 feet (116 m). It provides shelters for Port Erin Bay and is home to the iconic Milner’s Tower.

 

Bradda headlands, with it’s beautiful Glen is home to a number of places of historical interest and you can follow paths through the glen and up the headland to reach Milner’s tower with it’s fantastic views, on clear days allowing glimpses of the Mountains of Mourne in Northern Ireland.

Bradda Head, World’s First Snapshot Winner, 1931 (Ref: FNbra01)

This photograph won first prize in the Kodak ‘worlds best snapshot competition 1931’ – and triumphed out of three million entries that year.

 

It was taken at 9pm on a July evening on Verichrome Kodak film using a No. IA pocket Kodak camera. The winner was Charles W. Powell of East Didsbury, Manchester who received £4,000, which in today’s money equates to over £200,000.

He was interviewed as to how ho came to take the successful picture and he explained the camera was presented to him as a Christmas gift by his fiancee;

“We were holiday-making in the Isle of Man and I bought a Verichrome film and went out late in the evening to test it. The exposure, one-twenty-fifth of a second, at f-16, was made at 9 p.m. in July, against the sunset. The dealer who developed and printed this, my first ‘Verichrome’ spool, ordered me six enlargements in exchange for the negative of the £1000 picture. Although this was quite a reasonable offer at the time, I am very glad I turned it down.”

Sources
Kodak International Competition, The Brisbane Courier, 1931
Rushen Heritage Trust to rerun Kodak competition, IOM Today, 2014
South Bradda Mine (Ref: FNbra02)

Bradda Head was mined for copper and lead, and may have been mined as early as the Bronze Age.

 

With so little surface evidence, it is hard to imagine that the headland of Bradda is honeycombed with lost shafts and passages from the mining years.

The majestic cliffs rising from the sea to over four hundred feet have yielded their secret to man throughout thousands of years of searching for metals first using a technique known as fire setting.

These mines are probably amongst the oldest on the Island.  The South Bradda lead mine dates back to at least 1710 and the North Bradda mine to 1860.

The tall mine-house chimney is still visible on the shore line below Milner’s Tower.

Read the fascinating story of Bradda mine story at Manx Mines.

 

Source
Bradda Mine, ManxMines.com

 

 

Can you see the Sleeping Giant?

When you head down towards the lifeboat station and the old Marine Biological Centre there is a view of Bradda Head that many don’t notice.

 

This is supposed to be the sleeping place of a Manx giant seemingly half submerged in water. In his eye socket is an old mine rising up from sea level, with a nose and a frown also seen.

The story goes that following a battle between two giants, the loser was turned to stone by the island’s great sea god Manannan, and he still lies there looking back towards his beloved Ireland.

Source: The Other Mann, Claire Bettison
Bradda Head Sleeping Giant (Ref: FNbra03)

The now derelict Traie Meanagh baths can be seen from good vantage points from the coastal footpaths, where you imagine them in their heyday.

Please note: Access to the actual ‘Baths’ is not permitted as the site is not safe.

“The largest sea baths in the British Isles”

The Traie Meanagh (‘Middle Bay’ in Manx) Swimming Baths opened in June 1899 and were unusual in that they permitted mixed bathing, and this was still a selling point in the 1930’s,  when the price for towel, dressing room and attendant was sixpence.

“Fresh, Pure and Bracing Salt Water Bathing

THIS SWIMMING POOL lies in one of the sunniest and most sheltered creeks…

DIVING BOARDS at 1, 3 and 5 metres

WATER CHUTES, etc.”

The water in the Baths was supplied by a Tangye’s engine which supplied 520 tons of sea water per minute and enabled the water to refreshed daily.

As recently as the 1960s, the baths were packed with spectators and swimmers. Galas were held every Wednesday afternoon, with speed swimming events, beauty competitions, high diving, greasy pole, balloon races, egg and spoon, and umbrella swimming.

The Baths closed in 1981 and then converted into a fish farm as a part of the Marine Biological Station, which has been closed since 1990.

A lesser known cove

Spaldrick is a small and secluded pebble beach around the corner from the main sandy stretch of Port Erin beach, and has always held attraction for those wanting to get away from the crowds.

“Bathing tents… in Spaldrick Bay cater for the more conventional”

Official Handbook of The Official Board of Advertising for The Isle of Man, 1940

This cliff top building with it’s distinctive rotunda, or dome, is situated at the north end of the Port Erin.

 

Originally a Tea room, briefly a restaurant, then offices, it is now a private residence.

Collinson’s Café

This was built in 1913, designed in the Chinese style popular in the Edwardian era, for Thomas Collinson, from Halifax, whose family ran café businesses in the north of England.

Originally a tea room and remembered locally as ‘the old dance hall’, it is remembered for its spectacular tea dances;

“There was always dancing every night at Collinson’s cafe. There was a beautiful sprung floor there and a resident orchestra. But people used to change mostly into evening dress if they were going to Collinson’s for the night to dance. You would see them trailing up the promenade in long dresses!”

MHF Transcript, Mrs Alice Kellett, 1996

 

Collinson’s was a regular meeting place for internees during WW2 and became a major social centre where they held adult education classes in handicraft, gymnastics, elocution and languages.

Becoming the the Island’s 18th National Glen in 2009, Bradda Glen paths lead up to Bradda Head and Milner’s Tower, from where the views are truly magnificent.

 

Tranquil and beautiful, Bradda Glen offers lovely views over the beautiful Port Erin Bay and the Calf of Man. Tree lined paths offer many vantage points, with bench seats for walkers to stop. In the summer months the fuscias are breathtaking.

 

From the Bradda Glen café there are two main cliff paths;

The lower ‘Coronation path’ climbs more steeply to the tower. It may provide a closer view of the basking sharks if they are in the bay. It has a Manx Wildlife Trust information/view point.

The higher cliff path is part of the Raad ny Foillan coastal walk and has steps and some steep paths. There is a footbridge here named after Tony Wright, a teacher, commissioner and popular member of the community whose focus was in helping children, particularly those who had lost their way, meaning the bridge also has symbolic significance.

A third route to the tower, with access from a road higher up involves less of a climb (see map below).

A long standing holiday destination

In the mid nineteenth century, Charles Jennison, the owner of the Bellevue Zoo in Manchester, spent his holidays in the area and was a keen fisherman. He had a thatched summer holiday home built near the entrance to the glen known as ‘The Hut’.

The area was redeveloped in the 1920’s by the owners of Collinson’s Café into another cafe.  Further expansion saw the creation of  Collinson’s Holiday Centre. The Thatched House was converted into a ‘Lounge’ for afternoon teas, with a Dining room built in 1935. Also described are a large a recreation room, ‘Seaview’ luxury accommodation, bungalows and a Ladies hostel. Together with the nearby open-air baths, these formed quite a holiday complex.

“A setting so lovely as to make those who see it for the first time gasp with delight”

Collinson’s Bradda Glen Holiday Centre Brochure

In the 1960’s the place was still known fondly for ice creams and cream teas on the lawns while sunbathing.

If you think the views from the bay are stunning, climb to Milner’s Tower on the headland for panoramic views over Port Erin bay, Port St Mary, Langness, the Calf of Man and the Sound.

 

It is quite a steep climb up to the tower but well worth it and the scenery has long been noted;

“The whole scene is very pleasing, and will well repay those who take the trouble to visit the spot; still more will they be delighted if they stroll for some distance along the edge of the cliff, for the rock-scenery in two or three places is almost unequalled for grandeur by any other in the island.”

From Jenkinson’s Practical Guide, 1874

Memorial to a Liverpool safe maker

Milner’s Tower is monument to William Milner, a significant benefactor in Port Erin, whose family had a company making fire resistant safes in Liverpool.

The tower is distinctively shaped – part square tower, part round turret. There are different opinions about the  provenance of the design; it resembles a key or keyhole, or a key and a lock, or the footprint of the tower is the form of a lock.

The inscription reads:

“To William Milner, in grateful acknowledgment of his many charities to the poor of Port Erin, and of his never tiring efforts for the benefit of the Manx fishermen ; this tower was erected by public subscription, A.D. 1871.”

Climb the 40 steps of the tower for stunning views of the area.

Port Erin map
Map showing walking paths in Port Erin including the coastal paths and tracks through Bradda Glen to Milner's Tower.
Port Erin Self Guided Walking Trails
Trail 3 covers some of the main features of Port Erin from Spaldrick Promenade and Bradda Glen through to the Cliff Path.