The Sleeper Above Belfast

Napoleon’s Nose is a prominent feature of the Cave Hill

Napoleon’s Nose, a hump in the land that lies just above the caves, is a prominent feature of the Cave Hill. The best place to view the hill profile is from the Antrim Road above the junction with Fortwilliam Park. Here the profile of the hill is strongly reminiscent of a face of a giant lying on its back. If the sun is shining in the mid-afternoon, it throws a shadow into a gully beside McArt’s Fort, which then appears very like an eye.

This profile has been well known for many years.

It has been suggested that it may have lodged in Jonathan Swift’s imagination when he was a clergyman at Kilroot, outside Carrickfergus, in 1694, contributing to his creation of Gulliver’s Travels. The giant profile definitely inspired other writers however. The poet Alice Milligan (1866-1953) wrote these lines extolling Cave Hill:

Look up from the streets of the city,
Look high beyond tower and mast,
What hand of what Titan sculptor
Smote the crags on the mountain vast?

Made when the world was fashioned,
Meant with the world to last,
The glorious face of the sleeper
That slumbers above Belfast.

© Cormac Hill. Reproduced with kind permission of the Cave Hill Conservation Campaign 2004.