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Antrim Hills Way

The route is in place through permission of landowners. It is mostly off-road through fields which are usually grazed by sheep or cows. For safety reasons dogs are not allowed even if on a lead. Hills are exposed and mostly covered in heather or tussocky grasses. Good footwear and advance preparation are strongly advised.

Please note - Section 5 is extremely wet - gaiters/ waterproof trousers and footwear are essential if you want to remain dry.

 

County

Antrim

Distance

22 miles

OS Map

Sheet 9

Nearest Town

Glenarm

Route Shape

Linear

Route Type

Hill

Terrain

Ueven, hilly and usually wet

Grid Reference (Start)

D309154

Grid Reference (End)

D221053

Point of Interest

Spectacular views of Slemish and the coastline.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Antrim Coast & Glens

Route Description

Section 1 - Glenarm to Black Hill

From the information panel in Glenarm’s Coast Road car park, head left past St Patrick’s Church. This attractive, eighteenth-century building is the oldest Gothic-style church in Ireland. Cross the bridge, then turn right along Toberwine Street. This widens into Altmore Street, with its rows of stately Georgian houses and a stone archway that allows entry to Glenarm Forest Park.

Continue to the archway at the top of the street, then turn left onto Town Brae Road. Climb steeply along the tarmac to reach a T-junction after 1km. The ascent continues more gently now, with increasingly expansive coastal views providing compensation for the effort of the climb.

After 2km, a sign indicates the start of the mountain section. Cross a stile and follow a footpath up the left-hand side of a field, passing between several thickets of gorse. The ground flattens at the top of the field and fine views open out to Slemish, the end-point of the walk.

As you pass over the brow of a hill, the first summit of the day comes into sight ahead. Standing atop a ridge to the southeast, you should just be able to make out a pillar on the skyline, marking the top of Black Hill.

To reach the summit, first follow the posts across rough grassland, then veer left and climb across the peaty hillside. The 381m-high trig pillar makes a great vantage point, with the outlines of the Belfast Hills, the Mourne Mountains and the Sperrins decorating the horizon all around. It’s a wonderful view and a good spot for a break, as you relax in the knowledge that the most significant climb of the day is now behind you.

Did You Know?

The village of Glenarm was established around the time of the Normans. In the twelfth century it was granted a royal decree by King John, making it the oldest chartered village in Ulster. Modern visitors can still explore the 800-acre forest park that once formed part of Glenarm Castle estate.


Section 2 - Black Hill to Mullaghsandall Road

The route swings east at the summit of Black Hill, crossing rough, heather-covered ground towards the edge of the plateau. The coastal views improve as you progress, with the hills of Scotland and the rocky outcrops of the Maidens, or Hulin Rocks, all clearly visible out to sea. It’s an expansive panorama, and one that stays with you for the duration of the day.

The terrain becomes easier underfoot as you head south along the eastern edge of the plateau. Keep to the high ground and cross a series of grassy undulations to arrive at the 378m summit of Scawt Hill. A gradual descent and ascent then brings you to the top of Ballycoos (361m). From here, descend easily across cropped grass to reach the road and car park at Linford.

It’s worth pausing for a moment to examine the two prominent mounds near Linford car park, which are thought to be Neolithic burial sites dating from around 4000 BC. The route itself continues south, climbing around the impressive cliffline to reach a short section of stone track. Now pass over the shoulder of Robin Young’s Hill, and descend to heather moorland at the edge of Sallagh Braes.

Follow a fence around the rim of the escarpment, with steep gullies allowing an occasional glimpse into the void below. The airy sensation and the view over the curving cliffs make this a very memorable piece of walking.

A section of rough, peaty ground now brings you to the firmer surface of a farm track.  Pass through a series of gates to reach Mullaghsandall Road.

Did You Know?

The coastal cliffs of all the hills on this route are a legacy of the last ice age. The most striking formation is Sallagh Braes, a semi-circular basalt escarpment that was created when glaciers cut into unstable slopes and caused a massive land slip. The cliffs of this natural amphitheatre are now some 100m high and 2km long.


Section 3 - Mullaghsandall Road to Donaghy's Bridge

Head left along the tarmac for roughly 120m, then turn right onto a track enclosed by stone walls. You’ll need to cross a stream on stepping stones and negotiate two wooden gates before reaching open grassland. The posts now lead past an artificial lough, where you must cross another stream before climbing through a field to reach a road.

Turn right and follow the road for almost 1km, with good views across the sheer eastern cliffs of Agnew’s Hill. This mountain presents the last challenge of the day, and the ascent begins as soon as you leave the tarmac. Climb steeply along the western side of the ridge, with a fence providing guidance on your left.

Cross the fence near the top of the slope, and climb the final metres to the summit cairn. At 474m this is the highest point of the route, and an opportunity to survey your surroundings once again. From Black Hill in the north to Slemish in the west, almost the entire Antrim Hills Way is visible from here.

Follow the ridge south and descend to a col. A brief final climb now brings you to the mountain’s southern cairn. This is where the route leaves the ridgeline and begins to head west. Descend gradually to a track that once formed part of an old droving road, and turn right.

This part of the Antrim Hills Way finishes at the end of the track, at Donaghy's Bridge. If you have left a vehicle at Ballyboley Forest car park, follow the markers for the Ulster Way instead, passing through a section of forestry to reach the parking area.

Did You Know?
In 1595, the peak now known as Agnew’s Hill was marked on maps as ‘Benwellerorie’. Rory Ogue McQuillan was a prominent clan leader, and the name was an anglicisation of Binn Mhaol Ruairí , meaning ‘Rory's bare peak’. The modern name honours the Agnew family, who came to prominence after the decline of the McQuillans in the seventeenth century.


Section 4 - Donaghy's Bridge to Greenmount Hill Farm

The second day of the walk starts near a wooden footbridge, where the track from Agnew’s Hill turns into a tarmac lane. A route information panel marks the spot. Parking is limited at the end of the lane however, so a better option is to leave your vehicle at Ballyboley Forest car park. From there, follow signs for the Ulster Way to reach this point.

From Donaghy's Bridge, continue west along the lane. The first part of the road is little more than a track, with a healthy growth of grass splitting the centre of the tarmac. To your right lies an expanse of open grassland, while the dark boughs of a forestry plantation line the road to your left. When the trees drop back, long views open out along the Glenwherry Valley, with the windfarm at the top of Elliot’s Hill forming a prominent landmark.

A gradual descent brings you to Crosswater Bridge. The grass has now abated and the road surface has consolidated underfoot. Keep straight ahead, still largely descending past several farms and houses. The noise of the traffic on the busy A36 begins to intrude as you near the end of the section. Continue past a row of mature beech trees, then a short distance later you arrive at the entrance to Greenmount Hill Farm and Agricultural College.

The entrance to the farm is marked by a large sign for the ‘College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise’. Turn right and head up the driveway to reach a public car park some 200m later. Another information board for the Antrim Hills Way marks the end of the section.

Did You Know?

Red grouse were once common in these hills, but by 2008 they had become one of Northern Ireland’s rarest game birds. The local population had fallen to just six pairs. The Glenwherry Hill Regeneration Project, run by Greenmount Hill Farm, was launched in response, and has since been credited with saving the species from extinction in this area.


Section 5 - Greenmount Hill Farm to Shillanavogy Road

From Greenmount car park, continue a short distance north along the driveway, then turn left across a stone bridge. Climb past a series of fields to a collection of outbuildings. Here the route is signed through several gates and onto a stone track, which leads away from the farm towards open hillside.

After roughly 500m, turn left onto another track. Follow this along a series of fences, slowly gaining height amid the tussock-covered hills. Along the way you’ll need to pass through several gates and junctions, each of which is clearly signed.

You now arrive at a high, flat section of track that contours along the upper slopes of Glenhead. The easy terrain allows plenty of time to appreciate the views. The vista stretches from Agnew’s Hill in the east, past Belfast’s Cave Hill and the windmills on Elliot’s Hill, to the distant peaks of the Mourne Mountains in the south.

When the track starts to descend, turn right and cross a wooden stile. You are now on open mountainside, and signs indicate that you should ‘look for and follow the white posts’. These are weathered and sometimes widely spaced, so it’s worth taking your time to locate each one.

Once across the stile, turn left and follow a series of fences over several hummocks. The ground is sometimes wet underfoot, and there are several stiles and small ditches to negotiate. Though the route passes near the summit of Glenhead (393m), there are no distinguishing features to mark the top.  A gradual descent along a fence then brings you to the tarmac of the Shillanavogy Road.

Did You Know?

As you cross this area you might spare a thought for St Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, who tended livestock near here at the turn of the fifth century. Records relate how he and his fellow slaves often spent months alone in these hills, naked and with no food except what they could scavenge.

 

Section 6 - Shillanavogy Road to Slemish

Cross directly over the Shillanavogy Road and begin to climb again on the other side. Rather than following a fence – as you have been doing for the last couple of kilometres – the route now heads northwest across open ground.

A short ascent brings you to a prominent marker post on the northeastern slopes of Douglas Top. From here a new panorama is suddenly revealed, with the unmistakable profile of Slemish now visible to the northeast. This mountain owes its distinctive shape to the fact that it is an old volcanic plug, and was once constrained within the crater of a volcano. It will act as a beacon for the remainder of the route, beckoning you on to the finish.

Descend northwest until you meet a track, then turn right. Follow the track downhill to a junction marked by a route information board. Now head left, continuing along another track to a prominent waymarker attached to a large, upright rock.

Turn right at the rock and climb across two stiles to reach an expanse of rough heather and grass. A series of white-topped posts leads northwest across the moor, drawing ever closer to the steep, craggy slopes of Slemish.

It is something of a relief to reach the cropped grass and firm ground surrounding Slemish itself. The trail skirts around the southwestern base of the hill, running just beneath a jumble of boulders. After almost a kilometre the car park comes into sight ahead, and a final descent beside a series of wind-sculpted hawthorns brings you to the end of the route.

Did You Know?

During the Tertiary period, this region was subject to two million years of intense volcanic activity. The remains of numerous extinct volcanoes dot the Antrim plateau, including Scawt Hill and Slemish. Both these mountains are made of dolerite, formed from hardened magma. Nearby formations such as the Giant’s Causeway also bear testament to the amount of lava that flowed. 

 

Please be aware that this walking route passes through areas of open land such as hillside, working farmland and working forests. Livestock may be present, ground conditions may be uneven or wet underfoot and all forestry signage should be adhered to. Please refer to the ‘Walk Safely’ information that can be found at the link below.

Getting to the Start

A2 (Antrim Coast Road) Bus Services 252 or 152.

Dogs

Dogs are not allowed. Dogs are strictly not allowed, even when on a lead. Cattle can feel threatened by dogs.

Accessibility Grade

Grade 5

Accessible Facilities

The following facilities are available for users with limited mobility:

Café (wheelchair accessible) - Glenarm
Shop (wheelchair accessible) - Glenarm
Visitors Centre - Slemish
Disabled toilets - Glenarm, Slemish
Disabled parking - Slemish

Facilities

Toilets are at Glenarm, Larne town and Slemish. Refreshments will be at Glenarm, Larne, Broughshane and Ballymena.

Publication

The Antrim Hills Way - available free of charge to download (see Activity Brochures NI link below).

Publication Availability

Larne Tourist Information Centre (028) 2826 0088

Walk Location
Map of Northern Ireland
 
Image Gallery

Ratings and Comments

★★★★★
Christopher Somerville 23 June, 2017 @ 17:35

We did a stretch of the Antrim Hills Way today round the Sallagh Braes. Good car park, waymarks, a well maintained route with sturdy ladder styles.. Stunning scenery and views to Alisa Craig and the Kintyre and Galloway Hills. Some nice flowers; bog asphodel, milkworts, louse wort, bell heather and, of course, wild mountain thyme. Many thanks to walkni.

★★★★☆
Mary D 1 September, 2015 @ 15:47

We walked this route from Slemish to Glenarm over 2 days on the August Bank Holiday and we were lucky to have sunshine and a warm breeze to help us along. A few markers missing at Slemish so as you go around the back of the mountain, veer to the right. We camped above the Sallagh Braes and the views over Bally Galley, Larne and The Maidens were stunning in the morning sunshine. Even with the dry weather we needed our gaiters. It was a very steep descent from Agnews hill which could be treacherous in wet weather. We could see where Game of Thrones had been filming when we looked down from the top of the Sallagh Braes which was a bonus!

★★★★☆
Ronnie Irvine 19 November, 2014 @ 23:58

Hadn't walked this for a few years and still as good a walk as ever.Well signposted.Excellent stiles-but we walked on a damp day and tops of stiles very slippery-mainly because slats on top platform run linearly and not cross-wise,so a slip is very possible on top of stile.

★★★★☆
Stephen K 22 April, 2014 @ 20:46

Walked this back in Aug 2012 as part of my three ways in three days walk. Did it in reverse to allow me to join it up with Moyle and then Causeway. The walking was good in places and a bit soft in others. Had a few moments where the foot disappeared up to the ankle but all adds to the fun. In the early stages around Slemish it was difficult to pick up the markers I think some of them were down. The views were excellent all along the Sallagh Braes and after looking down towards the Antrim Coast. Best time to walk it is after a spell of dry weather but don't let the weather put you off. It's a very good walk and plenty of good views to keep you interested.

★★★★☆
Richard S. 23 August, 2013 @ 20:50

I'm a keen fellrunner from Yorkshire, ran the whole route in Aug 2013. A stiff start up the road from Glenarm, once onto black hill I enjoyed the coast views all the way along Sallagh Braes. The climb up Agnew's hill was a daunting sight but the view from the top was worthwhile. The old lane along to Greenmount was welcome relief from the rough terrain. More rough boggy stuff up Glenhead, and the flat boggy section from the N slopes of Douglas Top across to Slemish was hard work on tired legs (and waymarking not so good here either!). Managed to run the route in 4h 34min. Waymarking was generally good except for the bit I mentioned, although map/compass/gps would be essential if the cloud was down... wait for a decent day! Thanks for website, maps and route, very helpful for a visitor to the area.

★★★★☆
James 5 June, 2010 @ 16:00

Completed Sections 3-5 in reverse. Started at Slemish for my Duke Of Edinburgh. Found the Slemish Area fantastic, changeable terrain but unfortunately gets very boggy and wet underfoot. Further on, the journey from Greenmount to Ballyboley NE tip is a nice walk. Agnews and Highbound Hills are relatively strenuous but is very rewarding. The views along Sallagh Braes are lovely before I finished at the Robin Youngs Car Park. (Camped at Ballyboley tip). I also think that the route is extremeley well waymarked, no bearings etc required!!! Very frequent with appropriate arrows fur either direction. Barbed wire fences are accessible thanks to Stiles and Ledges. A great walk (24km) suitable for all the family"!!!

★★★★★
Gleb Gribakin 20 April, 2010 @ 23:21

Only walked a small part of Section 3, south of the car park towards Sallagh Braes. Views from Knock Dhu are absolutely stunning!

Trevor McWhirter 12 August, 2009 @ 04:21

Walked the Antrim Hills Way in reverse, from Slemish to Glenarm. Very boggy underfoot, visibility poor and it rained all day! However, route marked very well and did'nt need my map and compass once. Great walk, shame about the weather. Maybe next time.

Brendan Major 15 May, 2009 @ 11:27

I’ve walked the first stage of the Antrim Hills Way a couple of times earlier in the year. Though the walk starts unpromisingly enough with three kilometres of road walking out of Glenarm when it turns off the road at Dunarragan it very quickly becomes a joy. There is a rather prominent notice when you turn off the road informing you that during the summer months there will be a bull in the fields you are entering but I’m unsure if this is a warning not to venture in during these months or a denial of liability should your broken body become the plaything of an unhappy bovine. If its intended as a plea to proceed cautiously it would be good to know more clearly what ‘cautiously’ that might mean.

The portion from Black’s Hill to the unfortunately named Drains Bog at the end of the section is an easy walk along the ridge and provides brilliant views of the coast – or evocative sounds of the sea if end up walking in the dense mist. A few of the waymarker posts have toppled (a plot by the bull perhaps?) but there are so many posts that the trail remains very easy to follow.

The section would be a good introduction to off-road walking if you have ‘urban young’ to entertain or tire out. My 10, 14 and 17 year old companions were sufficiently impressed by the views (and with their own achievement) to request another walk the next day.

Its unfortunate that these is no escape route from Drains Bog back into the Glenarm Forrest, the eastern finger of which stretches invitingly close at Mc Cartneys bridge. This would allow for a very satisfactory circular route back to Glenarm village. The alternative is a bit of an unlovely road trudge back.

bill 19 September, 2008 @ 21:45

i have walked regulary over the antrim hills and i know there are many lovely walks but i fail to venture any further as i love the antrim hills.

Howard 26 August, 2008 @ 15:36

Walked section 2 up to Agnews Hill. Stunning scenery. Very enjoyable. Very well waymarked.

Jane Allen 15 June, 2008 @ 22:21

apologies walk on sunday 15th june organised by northern walking .com (very well organised and supervised thanks)

Jane Allen 15 June, 2008 @ 22:08

Walked part of the Antrim Hill Way on Sunday 15th June, (with northernwalk.com)section 4 and 5 from Greenmount HIll farm to Slemish .very plaesant enjoyable route, well sign posted, pleasantly strenuous, spectacular views of Arran Island,Sperrins,Mournes,Lough Neagh and Braid Valley.A great family day out!

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