A Guide To The Slemish Mountain Walk: Parking, The Trail + How Long It Takes

slemish mountain walk
Photo left : By ShaunTurner. Photo right : By Ballygally View Images

Debating trying the Slemish Mountain walk today? You’ve landed in the right place!

It’s unlikely that you’ll learn too many Saint Patrick facts by donning an oversized green hat and a ginger beard while drinking your own body weight in Guinness each March 17th.

Thankfully there are 364 other days of the year for learning about Ireland’s legendary patron saint and where better than on Slemish Mountain, Saint Patrick’s first known Irish home. 

If you read our guide to the best things to do in Northern Ireland, you’ll know how much we rate this ramble. Below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the Mount Slemish walk.

About Slemish Mountain

Slemish Mountain at Sunset
Photo by ShaunTurner on shutterstock.com

Just a cursory glance at the distinct shape of Slemish Mountain will tell you that it’s actually the central core of an extinct volcano.

Located in County Antrim, it rises to an elevation of 437 m (1,434 ft) and can be seen for miles around due to the surrounding land being relatively flat. 

After being captured by pirates at the age of 16, Saint Patrick was alleged to have worked as a shepherd on the slopes of Slemish for six years before escaping.

These days St Patrick’s Day sees people participate in an annual pilgrimage to Slemish, drawing large crowds prepared to make the climb to the summit.

The Slemish Mountain walk: 3 quick need-to-knows

Slemish Mouintain walk guide
Photo by Ballygally View Images on shutterstock.com

Although the Slemish Mountain walk is much easier in comparison to some of the other hikes in Northern Ireland, it’ll still pose a challenge for most.

The walk up Mount Slemish is short (info below), but hard, thanks to the steepness of the mountain. Be sure to be prepared and check the weather in advance.

1. How long it takes

This is cracking little short walk with an epic payoff that should take between one and two hours to complete, depending on the weather and your pace. The distance to the summit from the car park is 1.2 miles.

2. Difficulty

Though a short walk, the Slemish Mountain walk is steep and rocky at times and the path will become slippery in wet weather. Still, those with a moderate level of fitness shouldn’t have too much trouble scaling Slemish. 

3. Where to park

There’s a fine bit of parking right at the base of Slemish. If you’re not familiar with the area, just pop ‘Slemish Car Park’ into Google maps. You can’t miss it.

Driving up from Belfast via the B94 should take around 45 minutes and you can’t miss the car park on Carnstroan Lane. The vibrant town of Ballymena is less than 20 minutes away too. 

4. Toilets

Unlike many of the hikes in Ireland that we’ve written guides on, Slemish Mountain is one of the few with some really decent toilets. There in the car park – you can’t miss ’em!

The Mount Slemish trail

Slemish car park
Photo via Google Maps

The information signs about Slemish Mountain are excellent, with info on everything from the mountain’s history, geology and wildlife. So, have a read before you set off!

Follow the grassy track to the base of the mountain and at this point, you can choose your own ascent up towards the 400-metre summit. Rocky in parts, you may be required to do some scrambling at times, but the effort is all worth it!

Prepare for the views

Stunning panoramic views of the rolling fields of Antrim countryside are rewarded to those who reach the top. On clear days you should be able see the Antrim coast and the distant outline of the Scottish coast to the east. To the west lie the Sperrin mountains of County Tyrone. 

Making your descent

The descent on the Slemish Mountain walk is, you’ll be relieved to hear, much easier than the ascent (this may sound obvious, but it isn’t always the case – I’m looking at you, Carrauntoohil!).

Make your descent down on the easy southwestern side of the mountain and keep an eye out for the plentiful wildlife!

You might catch a glimpse of a few Irish hares bouncing around on the slopes while looking up may reward you seeing any number of Wheatears, Ravens and Buzzards darting around in the wind.

The descent is much gentler than the climb so don’t rush it and remember to breathe in all the stunning views as you make your way down and amble back to the car park. 

Other great hikes in Northern Ireland

slieve binnan
Photo by James Kennedy NI/Shutterstock.com

In our guide to the best hikes in Northern Ireland, you’ll find a clatter of other tracks and trails to head off on.

There’s everything from short and handy walks to rough and ready hikes. 

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