Slemish Mountain, the legendary first known Irish home of Saint Patrick, is located in Co. Antrim. The mountain rises about 1500 feet (437 metres) above the surrounding plain, and it is actually the central core of an extinct volcano.
According to legend, following his capture and being brought as a slave to Ireland, 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, 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. As Patrick was not the first Christian Bishop to visit Ireland, his ministry was confined to the North. Here he established churches and an episcopal system. One such church is thought to have been founded at the nearby site of Skerry Churchyard.
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Slemish Mountain is open year-round, and on Saint Patrick’s Day (17th March) large crowds hike to the top of the mountain as a pilgrimage. The one and a half kilometre 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 180 metre climb is steep and rocky. The path can become very slippery in wet weather so care should be taken. As the weather in Co. Antrim can change very rapidly, please be equipped with good waterproofs and strong footwear.
All dogs should be kept on leads.
Large parking facility with interpretation boards and washrooms onsite