The Slemish scenic drive is approached from Glenarm if your heading north and Carnlough if your heading to Belfast. Whatever direction you start from, you will drive up one glen and down the other (Glenarm and Glencloy).
The unique shape of Slemish gives away its geological past, it is a remnant of a volcano, one of several that poured out vast lava flows that covered this part of the North Antrim and created the Giants Causeway around 60 million years ago during the Paleogene period (Lower Tertiary).
After the final eruptions the lava in the vents slowly solidified and millions of years of erosion followed including several ice-ages which weathered away the surrounds of the volcano leaving what we see today, the solidified dolerite vent which is known as a volcanic plug.
With no other peaks around, the views and sense of height from the top is wonderful, access is via a steep rough path from a car park near the base. The top is 437 metre high (1430 feet). It is a wonderful spot on a clear summer day with panoranic views over the whole Braid Valley, Sperrins and Belfast Hills.
The area around Slemish is where Patricius (Saint Patrick) was brought after being sold as a slave to Milchu, a local chieftain. At this time, raiding parties from Ireland to Scotland, England and Wales were common practise as was slave trading. Many believe the raiding party came from the Sconce at Articlave, a strategic power base of the time, and that he was brought back here before being sold to Milchu. The Sconce has associations with Niall of the Nine Hostages and also Roman artefacts.
Patricius in later life wrote the ‘Confessio’ which tells of his experiences, in it he write:
I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people…..’
He worked as a shepherd for Milchu, and during the six years he spent in enforced servitude he endured many hardships but also found his spiritual calling and faith. At this time the area would have been forested with the peak of Slemish rising out of it, He writes…
’ after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.’
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