Updated: Sep 8
Go anywhere in Lecale and the most obvious landmark from any point is Slieve-na-Griddle. The Griddle is what remains of an ancient cromlech which stood proudly on the summit for millennia.
At the foot of the large hill is Loughmoney, one of the sources for the River Slaney. Surely it is only fitting that such a river should be the landing place for Saint Patrick on his return to Ireland in the fifth century.
From the Griddle the views, even on a cloudy day, are simply breathtaking. The vista stretches to the Mournes and Dromara Hills to the south and west. To the north Scrabo can be seen. Coming around the vista includes the Mull of Kintyre and the Isle of Man. When described in the mid 1700s the Griddle still stood upright and was such that a middle sized man could pass through it. Across the valley the ridge of Castlemahon is also strewn with Neolithic sites.
In the 1930s it was decided that a National Monument should be erected to celebrate the 1500 years which passed from Saint Patrick's landing. Across the valley on what was Slieve Wellian a huge granite statue was unveiled in 1938. It was a day of great ceremony. You can experience this on the Patrick and the pagan hills walk.
In the 1940s the mountain was bought by Paddy Fitzpatrick of Mount Panther, near Dundrum. He opened a quarry on the Loughmoney side and it is said within a week he made his money back! The stone was used as infill for the runways of RAF Bishop's Court. In this part of County Down the bedrock is more of a shale making the quarry a dangerous place to be. As it was an adventure playground for many young people a the local legend was that Robin Mass lived in a cave there and he would suck young children into this dark cavern if they got too close!
Slieve-na-Griddle was the scene of a remarkable celebration in the Marian year 1954. The local curate decided that a huge day out was in order and he arranged for a bonfire on the summit. For the first time in thousands of years a huge pyre was visible on the ancient mountain. It was a tar barrel, probably taken from the roadside, which burned so brightly on the summit. It was brought over the fields by Harry Craig of the Griddle.
Today, near the summit, is a reservoir which stores water from the Silent Valley. In the Griddle clachan lives Fr. Derek Kearney. Having spent many years in the African Missions he has recently built himself a church in what was an old byre.
The mountain is privately owned. Access should not be gained without prior permission.