Climbing Slemish

Our own mini Uluru where St Patrick spent time as a slave

Slemish at 150 m (490 ft) is not a big hill, but it is notable – jutting out from the surrounding farmland and bogland like our very own mini Uluru.

Slemish is also notable as being the place where St Patrick, is said to have spent six years as a slave.  While enduring this lonely life, Patrick found himself coming closer to God and ultimately, after his escape, he returned to Ireland and was hugely successful in bringing Christianity to the island. St Patrick is of course the Patron Saint of Ireland and we celebrate St Patrick’s day on the 17th March each year, believed to be the date of his death. Being such a significant location in St Partick’s life, Slemish is a focal point for pilgrims on St Patrick’s Day.

In contemporary life, Slemish also featured as one of many filming location for Game of Thrones. If you can remember this far back – Season 1 Episode 2 – the area became the Dothraki Grasslands in Essos where Daenerys Targaryen’s brother Viserys and the Dothraki Khalasar make camp.

Views of Scotland from Slemish
Views of Scotland from Slemish

Climbing Slemish – Tips & Know How

  • Takes about 40 minutes to ascend and descend from the car park
  • Location – BT42 4PE (for your Sat Nav). A 20-minute drive inland from Glenarm if you are on the Causeway Coastal Route, or alternatively a 20-minute detour from Ballymena
  • Facilities – A free car park with a locked disabled toilet
  • Accessibility – the ascent takes about 15-20 minutes but it is steep and the paths are narrow and slippy

Slemish is not very high, but its prominence means that you get amazing 360 degree views from the top. If you are wondering about it’s shape, it is the remains of the plug of an extinct volcano and it’s certainly one of those landmarks that just invites a climb.

A lot of what you read will tell you that it is a 1 hour round trip from the car park but we did the whole climb in about 37 minutes, and that included time at the top for banana cake and lots of photography. I climbed in trainers but I would recommend hiking shoes with a good tread if you have them as the paths are narrow and quite slippy.

From the car park head through the gate and straight up the field. There are some steps but once the steps run out you are on your own to pick out your own preferred path. We chose a path to the right that followed the contour upwards – not too steep. We did see another hiker head straight up with relative ease.

At the top you have amazing views of Scotland to the North, Belfast hill to the South East, Lough Neagh to the South, and the Sperrins to the South West. The hill top is exposed so you won’t spend long up there in winter, but the trip was 100% worthwhile.

Walking Northern Ireland - bookWalking Northern Ireland

If you like walking / hiking  then this book is for you  – 36 unmissable hikes along the Causeway Coast, around Belfast, in the Mournes and in Fermanagh – including this one. The book includes maps, vertical profile images so you know how much puff you’ll need to put in, and descriptions of the hike together with little notes of interest.

The book is on my bookshelf and has been an inspiration getting us out and about in Northern Ireland so I can recommend it personally!

| Learn more / buy on Amazon |*

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