GD tour - sun, rain, sun and a sting in the tail!

Background to the trip

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to get a decent win on the Premium Bonds, and it struck me that the only moral thing to do would be to spend at least some of the winnings on a SOTA adventure! My activations so far had been in G/SE, G/SC, G/WB & GW/SW, so where to go for somewhere a bit further afield? I settled on the Isle on Man as it’s somewhere I’d always wanted to visit as I have an interest in motorsport and it looked ideal for getting a nice haul of SOTA points in a relatively compact area. So, I duly booked flights, hotel and hire car and 25th July - 27th July were in the diary!

A couple of weeks before departure I was informed that the flight I had originally booked, which was on the morning of the 25th had been cancelled, and I’d been rebooked onto an evening one on the same day. A bit annoying, as it meant I wouldn’t be able to do any SOTAing or sight-seeing on the 25th, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

Day 1 - Flight to the Isle of Man

I arrvied at Gatwick Airport feeling a little apprehensive, as this would be the first time I had flown with any radio gear. This is where I have to say that we are extremely lucky to have this reflector as a resource, as I was able to garner lots of useful advice on what to take as hand luggage, and what to pack in the case. From the equipment point of view I put the pole and guying pegs into the hold, and everything else came with me in the ruck sack as carry-on. Still, as I arrived at security I did get a few butterflies in case I was going to be told that I couldn’t take an essential piece of equipment with me.

I wasn’t entirely surprised when my rucksack was pulled to one side for further inspection after it had been through the scanner. I’m sure we’ve all had some less than pleasant experiences with airport security staff, but luck was on my side as the person who wanted to inspect my bag was a lapsed radio ham, so he knew exactly what my equipment was going to be used for! A quick re-scan of the LifePo4 battery that I was carrying, and I was on my way. Not before I told the security officer that it was never too late to give ham radio another go…

The flight itself was uneventful, despite a delay of an hour or so, and after picking up the hire car and a short drive, I checked into my hotel in Douglas. Unpacking my case revealed that all the gear had survived the flight intact (phew!) and it was time to hit the sack!

Day 2 - GD/GD-004 & GD/GD-005

When posting alerts for this trip I had tried to keep all the details vague as I had a feeling I might have to adopt a flexible approach as the weather was looking fairly changeable. I drew the curtains to reveal a sunny scene…

… but the BBC weather app predicted heavy rain from 1400, so after a quick breakfast I was on the road and heading off to Bradda Hill, GD/GD-004. My journey took much longer than expected as first my phone seemed to tie itself in knots when I was trying to use it to navigate, and then I got caught up with a road closure. So although a bit later than planned, I was relieved when I arrived at my chosen parking area of Fleshwick Bay.

I have to say that GD/GD-004 is definitely at the tougher end of scale of the 1-pointers that I have attempted so far!

The path to the summit (heading up to the top right of the above photo) looked pretty steep to me. After consulting my OS maps app, it looked as though I could zig-zag my way up to the top by turning left and going through the woods. Things started promisingly enough, but the path ended abruptly and it was a tough fight through a lot of heather and brambles to reach the top. Thank goodness I was wearing trousers and not shorts!

I had the summit to myself and setup for 2m FM first which provided three contacts. No more after a few calls on .500, so I set up the dipole for 40m SSB. Unfortunately just as I was ready to rock I completely lost phone signal, so couldn’t send a spot! I tried some blind calls, but nothing. It made me realise how lucky we are these days to have use of the spotting system! After a frustrating wait my phone picked up a signal so I spotted myself and managed to work Robert, @M0RWX. Then several sections of the mast collapsed, and despite me being able to hear some other chasers calling, they weren’t able to hear me. After re-raising the mast I worked 3 further stations, noting that conditions on 40m didn’t seem great. No further callers and with the potential for rain later in the day, I was off. Here are a few pics from the summit.

The descent was much easier than the ascent, and it was off to the second summit of the day which was Mull Hill, GD/GD-005. I parked in the large free car park at Cregneash from where it was a very easy 10-15 walk to the summit. Drizzle was in the air now, although at this stage not too heavy. Once again it was 2m FM first and I quickly worked 5 stations. I decided to leave it at that and head off to my planned third summit of the day, South Barrule, GD/GD-003 as I wanted to see if I could beat the predicted heavy rain. Here are a couple of pics from Mull Hill.

Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the summit of GD/GD-003! The heavy rain arrived, exactly as predicted by the BBC weather app at 1400! This was the unpromising scene from my car at the parking spot for GD/GD-003!

I tried to convince myself that it didn’t look too bad, and started the walk up, but turned back after 15 minutes as the combination of heavy wind and driving rain was not very appealling. The weather was looking better for tomorrow, and I knew I would have time to fit in this one and the other two summits, so I drove back to the hotel to dry off and watch the gloomy scene outside from my window!

Day 3 - GD/GD-003, GD/GD-002, GD/GD-001 & return home

I got up fairly early, ready for a fully day of SOTA, and was pleased to see that the rain had finally stopped, and it seemed there was a good chance of dry weather for the whole day.

First all, a repeat attempt of GD/GD-003. I parked up on the track at SC 24749 475629 and headed up to the summit. There was a little bit of drizzle in the air, very boggy ground and not much visibility, but it definitely was better than yesterday!

No view at all from the top, but at least it wasn’t raining, and despite the high winds, it was a pleasant temperature. I managed 21 QSOs here using a mixture of 2m FM, 40m SSB & 30m CW. This included my only S2S of the trip from GW4TQE, who was on GW/MW-026. Thanks John!

Next up, Slieau Freoaghane, GD/GD-002. I was delighted that part of my drive took my along the TT course, which somehow encouraged my right foot to press down slightly closer to the floor. In a speed-limit observing way of course! I parked up at a large free gravel car park at SC 34268 86628. This car park wasn’t shown on any maps I’d looked at beforehand, so perhaps it’s a new addition.

The first part of the walk was along a stony track before I turned left at SC 34426 87774. Frankly I would have missed this path had I not been using my OS app as there weren’t any signs and it was pretty indistinct! This photo was taken at the point at which I turned off the main track. You can kind of see the start of the “path”!

The rest of the walk was a very boggy and squelchy affair, but I was at the summit soon enough where I rung out a “CQ SOTA” on the summit bell. No-one replied!

9 Contacts on 2m followed including a GM contact which pleased me. I then set up for some 40m SSB but once again lost all trace of a phone signal. I went on an extended walk around the summit to try and get something, and cycled through a few airplane modes, but nothing! I tried some blind calling again, but to no avail. I decided to leave it there as I was keen to give myself enough time to enjoy GD/GD-001 without feeling the need to rush.

Just before I left the summit the clouds started to disperse, so I could enjoy more of a view.

After getting back to the car and having some lunch, it was a short drive to The Bungalow tram station for the ascent up to GD/GD-001. I decided to walk, rather than using the tram, but it was nice get a shot of a tram in action before setting off for the final summit.

My legs started to cry enough on the final approach, but I made it. I setup by the trig for 2m, and made 8 QSOs. At this point I must say particular thanks to @GW4ZPL & @2E0MIX for managing to work me on 2m FM from all five summits. Thanks guys!

As there were a few people looking around the trig I decided to move slightly further away to setup for some hf. Here I managed a further 25 contacts using 40m SSB & 30m CW. Towards the end of activation the clouds dispersed so I could enjoy some more lovely scenery.

Back at the car and time to begin the sad task of packing everything up for the flight back home. The drive back to the airport took me along some more of the TT course and as I had the time, I stopped off for a short walk along the coast before entering the airport.

The sting in the tail!

After not such a pleasant experience with one of the rudest security officers I’ve ever come across, all seemed to be going to plan as the plane was boarded on schedule for an on-time departure. Except, why was the captain chatting with the cabin crew instead of getting ready to depart? Once everyone was boarded we were given the news that some of the airspace around Gatwick had been closed earlier, and as a result of the congestion in the skies, we weren’t going to be taking off for 2 hours. Not great news as I had come to Gatwick by train and I wouldn’t be now be getting back in time to get the last one back to Woking. In the event we were delayed by about 90 minutes, but it was too late. That last train departed as I was waiting by the baggage carousel. It was too late to call any willing or unwilling friends and family for a pickup, so I had to resort to a very expensive taxi ride back home! Not the ideal end to the trip, but I guess that’s the risk you take with late flights.

Despite the annoying end, it was a fantastic SOTA experience. Great to explore somewhere I’d always wanted to visit, and as ever I enjoyed making contact with lots of the regular SOTA chasers.

Until next time & 73,

Matthew, M(D)0JSB


Thanks for a great trip report.

Strongly recommend taking a look at the SOTAmat Android SOTA-spotting over FT8 app for those summits with no coverage.


Thanks for bringing us on your SOTA adventure around the Isle of Man.

Good you managed to make decent progress on day 2 despite the delay on day 1 and the hurdles put up by the weather.

The conditions were very strange but glad we managed to exchange signal reports when you were on GD/GD-004; that entire day I could not hear any other chaser. I knew activators were working them, and normally I could hear them, but not that day. I listened out for the other 2 summits you alerted for on 40m but was unable to hear you unfortunately.

GD is still on my to-do list but it’s unlikely I will be taking the train/plane based on your experiences!

73, Robert


Thanks Robert. It’s always a pleasure to get you in the log. Conditions certainly seemed on the poorer side for inter-G on 40m, so I guess we were lucky to get even that one QSO! Thanks for listening out for me on the others. Hopefully the radio gods will be kinder to us next time.

73, Matthew


An interesting and useful report - many thanks.

Thanks also for the reminder why I’m hoping never to fly anywhere ever again! :slight_smile:

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Thanks John. I know what you mean about flying! I often feel like it’s an experience to endure rather than relish. Especially the airports! I did consider going by ferry, but in the end the times and practicalities didn’t quite work for me as I had a short time frame to fit in this trip. Something to think about it if I ever consider a repeat visit!

It used to be so much fun when someone else was paying and flying, even for package holidays was a luxury. My first flights were in a Short 360 from Liverpool to IOM. The 360 looked like a single deck bus with wings! Next flight was in April 1984 “some jet” from Manchester to Gatwick. But then I flew 1st class on Cathay Pacific from Gatwick to Hong Kong (the old really scary runway in Kowloon). The business trip included 1st class Cathay flights to Taiwan and Singapore and the return was 1st class with Singapore Airlines. It’s hard to describe just how good that and the 1st class lounges were at the airports. It really was just unbelievable.

And then we had 9/11 and being treated worse than cattle became de-rigueur at all airports. Cheap flights with crabbit security staff and hours and hours of queueing to check in, pass security, queing at gates and queuing for luggage and queuing for hire cars makes it’s all beyond tedious.

I’ve had a complimentary 1st class upgrade with BA on a Heathrow/LAX flight by asking nicely (seriously) and I’ve had a few free upgrades to Business class with KLM when I was flying back and forth to Korea/Japan a lot 18/19 years ago. But these were all post 9/11 and whilst 1st class was nice it still didn’t make US TSA/immigrations staff more bearable.

So yes, flying is something you endure and think back to when it was fun and exciting.


One even called me “Dad” once… No respect. I wasn’t impressed…

73 Phil