Cave Hill, Belfast

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

Cave Hill, or Cavehill, is a basaltic hill overlooking the city of Belfast. It forms part of the southeastern border of the Antrim Plateau. It is distinguished by its famous ‘Napoleon’s Nose’, a basaltic outcrop which resembles the profile of the famous emperor Napoleon. Cavehill is also the name of an electoral ward in Belfast. Historically it was known as Ben Madigan, which is derived from the Irish Beann Mhadagáin, meaning “Madagán’s peak”—so named after a king of Ulster called Madagán who died in 856AD.

All of Belfast can be seen from its peak, as can the Isle of Man and Scotland on clear days. Like Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, it lies just a few miles from the centre of a major city.

Cave Hill is thought to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Swift imagined that Cave Hill resembled the shape of a sleeping giant safeguarding the…

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