Slemish, historically called Slieve Mish (from Irish: Sliabh Mis, meaning "Mis's mountain"), is a mountain in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It lies a few miles east of Ballymena, in the townland of Carnstroan. Tradition holds that Saint Patrick, enslaved as a youth, was brought to this area and tended sheep herds on Slemish, and that during this time he found God.
Slemish is the remains of the plug of an extinct volcano. The plug is made of olivine dolerite and was formed during the Palaeogene period of the Earth's geological history. 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 Saint 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 to 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. 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.
Slemish Mountain is open year-round, and on Saint Patrick's Day (17 March) large crowds walk 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.
There is a parking facility with interpretation boards and washrooms on site.
See Annals of Inisfallen (AI)
until Professor Bury's frank rejection of [the] traditional connection of St. Patrick with Slemish, no one [had] ever questioned it
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