Slemish Mountain is a peculiarly shaped mountain in Northern Ireland near the city of Ballymena. It rises to a height of nearly 1,500 feet (450 meters). Geologists tell us that it is the remains of an extinct volcano. The top of the mountain has very rugged and steep slopes in contrast to the lower gentler slopes and the flat land beneath it and this makes it stand out and visible from many miles.
According to some early accounts St Patrick spent about six years near the mountain as a slave shepherd after he was captured during a raid on his homeland in the border between Scotland and England. The six years he spent here were a formative period in his Christian experience, strengthened his faith and played a role in his decision years later to return and bring Christianity to Ireland. Patrick escaped from captivity and traveled on foot and by boat back to England and Scotland. Today some still come to visit the mountain on March 17, St. Patrick’s day.
There is a fascinating but steep walk popular with hikers. As with other hiking Ireland trails the views are fantastic. To get there take the A42 Carnlaugh road from Ballymena towards Carnlaugh/Glearm on the Antrim Coast (or vice versa). About 7 miles outside Ballymena and to the right of the road is the little village of Buckna. Just outside it is Carnstroan Lane which will take you to the car park at the foot of Mountain. The total distance of the hike is about 1.2 miles (nearly 2 km). It is not very long, but parts of it involve a steep ascend on rocky terrain so ensure you are fit to climb before you start. The return can be through a gentler path that will lead you to the car park. Provided you are fit you will enjoy the experience and the beauty of the surrounding nature, a true hiking Ireland experience. There is an information center and toilet facilities.
Because of the open terrain Slemish Mountain will give you some fantastic views of the surrounding areas and you will especially enjoy looking out towards the glens of Antrim and the ocean in the distance. Enjoy!
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