We first saw the wheel cross 20 years ago when visiting St Adamnan’s Church (more affectionately known as Lonan Old Church) as part of the Manx flower festival. It was getting late and the sunlight was low with beams of light catching the cross through the trees. The base had been decorated with flowers and it looked magical. A visit in the morning later in the week just wasn’t the same. We decided is best seen in the afternoon when the light is better. It just doesn’t have the same feel early morning…
Twenty years on, the crossretains its magic, even though it was a dull and damp day. Not only is this one of the oldest crosses on the island, it is the only one still in its original position.
Lonan Old Church was the site of one of the early Christian keeils established by Irish monks, known as Culdees. The small keeils were intended as shelter for the Culdee who held services outside by a cross.
The cross stands 8’ high in its original stone base. It is a wonderful example of interlaced Celtic knot and plait work. The back of the cross is uncarved. Even though it has been exposed to the elements for over 1500 years, the carving is still clear, even though the cross has begun to lean, giving it an attractive lop sided angle. This must rank as one of the most important and significant crosses on the island.
There are fragments of other crosses in a small cross house in the corner of the churchyard, These include some of the oldest and simplest cross slabs with a cross carved on them and no additional decorations.
The church is surrounded by farmland and a few isolated farms in one of the least inhabited parts of the Island. You have to want to find it! The Old Church is signed off the A2 but is reached along narrow unclassified roads. A map helps to find it! The nearest post code is IM4 6AL and the grid reference is SC427794.
For those on foot, alight at Halfway House (near the now closed Liverpool Arms) and follow the track signed footpath Baldromma. After about three quarters of a mile there is a T junction, with a house opposite. Turn right. In a short distance, turn left and then right to reach church.
Alternatively. from Lime Kiln Halt on the Groudle Glen Railway, take the footpath up to a road. Take the right had fork (straight on) and follow this road for about a mile to a junction on the right which has a green signpost for St Lonan Old Church, and turn right again.