Antrim Hills Way
Antrim, Northern Ireland
End: Slemish Mountain
Distance: 22 miles (35 km)
Time: 2 days
Surface: Meadows, Open Moorland
Established with the permission of local landowners, the Antrim Hills Way in Northern Ireland is a short trail-just 22 miles (35 km)-but it is not one for the fainthearted. lt can be very wet underfoot and is completely exposed to whatever weather is thrown at it. However, this is all amply compensated for by the views you will have from this high coastal plateau over the mountains of Antrim all the way to Scotland.
The route is almost entirely off-road once you leave Glenarm village, weaving its way through farmland with robust populations of sheep and cows and over heather-laden fields and swathes of tussock grass. Your first hill is Black Hill (1,250 feet/381 m), then comes Scawt Hill (1,240 feet/378 m), one of Northern Ireland’s numerous volcanic plugs. The spectacular basalt amphitheater of Sallagh Breas provides some of the route’s best walking, before you cross an often boggy approach to Antrim’s fifth highest peak, Agnew’s Hill (l,555 feet/474 m), a broad, flat summit that drops dramatically over a series of rocky bluffs to the seaport of Larne. Oh top of Agnew’s Hill it becomes plain how the walk got its name: Carnearny, Big Collin, Slemish, Carncormick, Slievenanee, and Trostan, even the distinctive glaciated landscape of the distant Sperrins-the hills of Antrim surround you.
From Agnew’s Hill you descend to a stony track over a wooden bridge and follow it to Greer mount Hill Farm, a traditional uplands hill farm home to more than 250 purebred Scottish Blackface sheep. More open fields then take you to the trait’s end at Slemish Mountain (1,434 feet/437 m), where, according to tradition, Saint Patrick tended to his sheep.