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County Antrim
Knocklayd and Ballycastle, County Antrim - geograph-1927483.jpg
Knocklayd and Ballycastle from the sea
Range: Antrim Hills
Summit: 1,686 feet D115364
55°9’44"N, 6°15’4"W

Knocklayd is a pleasingly rounded hill of 1,686 feet at the northernmost end of the Antrim Hills, overlooking the north coast of County Antrim and the pocket port town of Ballycastle.

The name of the hill is from the common Gaelic Cnoc meaning "Hill", while the final element is the genitive of Irish leithead which literally means ‘width’ or ‘breadth’, though in this case it reflects a Scottish Gaelic meaning: "slope"[1]

This is a smooth hill, lacking in stream-carved gullies, of volcanic origin on a columnar tholeiitic basalt lava bedrock; a form best seen just to the north in the Giant's Causeway.


Knocklayd looms large over Ballycastle and the coast, being the last substantial hill before the sea. It is one of the more striking summits in the area: a steep-sided dome rising standing apart from its neighbours, largely bald of any trees and providing a high viewpoint over the coast out to Kintyre and the HebridesJura and Islay are clear in the sea – and over the long expanse of hills to the south. Ballycastle sits beneath the hill, and Rathlin island is close off shore. To the west, the Sperrins and County Donegal are visible.

The summit is marked by a trig point on a sizable grassed-over cairn.

Knocklayd under snow

The eruption of 1788

In 1788 Faulkner’s Dublin Journal carried a spoof article, playing upon the popular interest then current in the volcanic origin of the Causeway Coast and the peaceful hills of Antrim. The Journal reported, in a story which became famous:

..Our fears were very much increased in the evening by a most uncommon noise from Knockdale, the top of which burst, and the discharge of burning matter and hot stones from it was truly alarming, killing several cattle in the adjacent fields, many cabbins were thrown down, and several people are missing …[2][3]
Summit of Knocklayd


For the most part Knocklayd is approached from Ballycastle to the north, though it can also make for a dramatic entrance to Ballycastle at the end of a trek across the Glens of Antrim.

A common starting point is from a car park in Ballycastle Forest Park. From here a forest path leads straight up the hillside, opening into a path on the bare slope. The climb is steep, but it eases as the rounded summit dome is reached.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Knocklayd)