The south-west reach of Strangford Lough narrows down to the Quoile River, and a short distance upstream lies the cathedral town of Downpatrick. The name is appropriate in that the cathedral is said to be where St Patrick is buried. Down Cathedral occupies a site with a religious past stretching back to the 12th century and incorporates parts of the 13th century Benedictine Abbey of Down. Just across the river is another religious site, Inch Abbey, founded by John de Courcy as an act of repentance for his destruction of Erenagah Abbey. The abbey is now a ruin, with buildings dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. The Down County Museum is free to enter and is a rich source of local history, while the St PatrickCentre tells the story of the famous saint and includes an IMAX experience.
Like many cathedral towns and cities, Downpatrick has a range of attractions with something for everyone. For arty types, the Down Arts Centre offers performances, exhibitions, classes and workshops. Racing enthusiasts might want to check out what’s on at the town’s racecourse. Railway buffs can take a trip on the Downpatrick and County Down Railway, the only full-sized mainline heritage railway in Ireland. Wildlife watchers can head down to the QuoilePondage Nature Reserve, with a riverside path and a bird hide for observing our feathered friends. Finally, for the religiously inclined, there are four holy wells known as the Struell Wells in nearby Struell, and our old friend St Patrick makes a lofty appearance on Slieve Patrick, where a pleasant walk leads up to a statue of the saint with wonderful views.
|Down Cathedral. Photo by Ross, via Wikimedia Commons|