Though historical accounts of why and how the bridge was built might be lost, the Manx people haven’t forgotten that the ‘Real’ Fairy Bridge is not the one you see when you drive on the A5 from Douglas to Castletown. It’s the ruin of a fairy tale stone bridge set among trees a short walk from Kewaigue Hill.
The story goes that less and less people were visiting the original site so a “Bigwig” decided to create a more accessible one that would draw more tourists. It’s worked and it seems most of the island will say Good morning/Good day/Good evening to the fairies when they drive past on the A5. A true Manxie will say it in Manx Gaelic: Moghrey mie Vooinjer Veggey (Good morning Fairies), Fastyr mie Vooinjer Veggey (Good afternoon Fairies), or Oie vie Vooinjer Veggey (Good night Fairies). But are we greeting in vain? Are the Fairies really there?
Many people know of the existence of the “Real” Fairy Bridge but aren’t quite sure where it is. Fortunately with the help of online references and the instruction from school yard attendants at Kewaigue school and a local I was able to find it. I’ll be honest with you though – we walked right past it the first time round! I set off with my friend Clare and we both passed over the footbridge on the Middle River without ever thinking to look around that area. There isn’t a sign telling you to head off on the narrow track that follows the water so we kept going and eventually split up trying to find it.
After trekking back on my own I made out the silhouette of the bridge’s arch through the trees and finally found what we were looking for! It’s far more magical and beautiful than the new site and I spent some time wandering around and enjoying listening to the sound of the water and autumn leaves rustling above. Not a soul came by while I was there but I did have a peek at the offerings left by past visitors. Some were coins but others were letters asking the Fairies to grant a happy holiday season, good weather, and a boyfriend! I was surprised that there weren’t more but then found this article describing how someone cleaned up the site earlier this year.
The location of the real Fairy Bridge is here on Google Maps but can also be easily found walking up the hill from Kewaigue school which is on Kewaigue Hill [road]. Walk from the school until you see a cottage on the left (south) side of the road. Alongside the cottage is a farm track that’s clearly signed as a Public Footpath. Follow this track for about ten or fifteen minutes until you reach the Middle River. Instead of going over the river on the foot bridge, take the narrow track on the right alongside the water. You’ll be able to see the Fairy Bridge through the trees.
Once you’ve made it, please be courteous to the Bridge and surrounding area. Though it’s a lovely idea to leave an offering for the Faeries, anything made of paper, cloth, or stuffing will soon degrade and anything plastic looks terrible. I’m sure if the Fair Folk could pass on a message it would be to leave the site as you found it and to make your wish in your heart and mind.
09/11/2015 It turns out that the history of the Old Fairy Bridge is more political than magical. The tradition of saying hello to the faeries actually stems from the time when Catholicism was made illegal on the island. The bridge used to sit at the boundary of church lands and took a toll from those passing over. When the church was ousted, the common people took to saying hello to the faeries and leaving offerings for them as a hidden way of supporting the Church. They did this because public support of Catholicism would have been criminal.