New path to summit of Slemish Mountain considered by council
A new path to the summit of the Co Antrim mountain where the patron saint of Ireland is said to have tended his sheep is being considered by a council.
Each St Patrick's Day, pilgrims walk to the top of Slemish Mountain, where the young saint had worked as a shepherd slave.
Now a study prepared for Mid & East Antrim Borough Council has recommended a feasibility study for a "sustainable and sensitively-built" path to the peak, along with a looped walk around the mountain base, visitor information and 'on site' facilities.
Despite spectacular views from the Scottish coastline in the east to Lough Neagh and the Sperrins in the west, its historical links and geological significance, the report is critical of the lack of effort by the council to attract visitors.
"With only a 15-minute drive from Broughshane and Ballymena, it is an attraction for both locals and visitors to the area," the report says.
It continues: "However, consultations revealed safety concerns about the steep and rocky nature of the 180-metre climb and how after the grassy track to the foot of the mountain from the car park users must follow desire lines or choose their own route on the steep slopes.
"In places, over-use is causing erosion and damage to the landscape. Furthermore, the lack of effective marketing to attract visitors until the recent MEABC (Council) 'Shaped by Sea and Stone' tourism campaign, has meant that Slemish Mountain is another under-utilised outdoor recreation site with considerable potential in the borough."
The report recommends the development of "a professionally-designed, sustainable and sensitively built path from the base of Slemish Mountain to the summit and a looped walk around the mountain that incorporates surrounding historic sites connected to Saint Patrick".
It adds: "These actions would maximise the outdoor recreation potential of this signature natural landmark by improving safety for walkers and making the summit more accessible to a broader range of visitors, such as families who are weary of the current slippery nature of the path in wet weather."