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County Antrim
Slemish (6) - - 624718.jpg
Summit: 1,434 feet D221054
54°52’53"N, 6°5’50"W

Slemish is a most distinctive mountain in County Antrim. It stands a few miles east of Ballymena, in the townland of Carnstroan. Tradition holds that St Patrick, enslaved as a youth, was brought to this area and tended sheep herds on Slemish, and that during this time he found God.

Historically the hill was called 'Slieve Mish',[1] from the Gaelic Sliabh Mis.

Slemish is the remains of the plug of an extinct volcano. Its distinctive appearance —its upper reaches are very steep and rugged, in contrast to the tidy fields on its lower westward-facing slopes and the relatively flat bogland to the east— causes it to dominate the landscape for miles around.

Slemish is within an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) and, therefore, helps to protect and manage the fragile animal and plant communities that inhabit its slopes. An ideal location for bird watchers, large black ravens, buzzards, wheatears and meadow pipits can be seen regularly.


Slemish Mountain is the legendary first known Irish home of St Patrick. According to legend, following his capture and being brought to Ireland as a slave, Patrick worked as a shepherd at Slemish Mountain for about six years, from ages 16 through 22, for a man named Milchu (or Miluic).

It was during this time that Patrick turned to frequent prayer as his only consolation in his loneliness. In a vision he was encouraged to escape and return home.

He did this, then became a priest and returned to Ireland, allegedly to convert his old master. The legend goes that his own real conversion took place while on Slemish out in all weathers, communing with nature and praying continuously.

In later times, Slemish was the site of a United Irish camp during the 1798 rebellion in County Antrim.


Slemish Mountain is open year-round, and on St Patrick's Day (17th March) large crowds hike to the top of the mountain as a pilgrimage. The mile-long round walk to the summit and back takes approximately one hour in good weather.

Excellent views can be had of the Antrim and Scottish coasts to the east. Ballymena town, Lough Neagh and the Sperrin Mountains are all normally visible to the west whilst the Bann Valley and the higher summits of the Antrim Hills can be seen to the North.

The climb is 600 feet and is steep and rocky. The path can become very slippery in wet weather so care should be taken. As the weather in County Antrim can change very rapidly, the climber is required to be hardy and well equipped with firm boots.

Ascent is usually begun from the large car park provided.

In literature

Slemish features in Dennis Kennedy's book Climbing Slemish. The book chronicles the history of a family over a whole century of Ulster life.[2]

Annalistic references

The Annals of Inisfallen record:

  • 777: The battle of Sliab Mis,in which Nia, son of Cú Allaid, fell.


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Slemish)


  1. Transactions of the Ossianic Society for the year 1857: Volume 5. Printed under the direction of the Ossianic Society Council, 1860. Page 278
  2. Dennis Kennedy