Nine things to see in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

If you are planning a trip to the Emerald Isle, here are nine things to see in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland. We saw many historical attractions during our one-day road trip from Dundalk to Downpatrick but especially enjoyed these.

We began our day trip at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, in Dundalk, Ireland. After driving about an hour, we reached our first stop of the day, Inch Abbey, in Northern Ireland.

Inch Abbey

Inch Abbey near the town of Downpatrick in County Down, Northern Ireland, is a magnificent ruin of a Cistercian abbey from the 12th and 13th centuries. It is within walking distance of the Quoile River and is a photographer’s dream.

Sit back, relax and watch as we walk through the magically peaceful Inch Abbey ruins.

We spent an hour or so wandering through the ruin before walking down to the water where a geocache is hidden, but we couldn’t find it. We looked forever, but just no luck.

The Saint Patrick Centre

After leaving Inch Abbey, we made our way to the town of Downpatrick and The Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick. If you are interested in learning about Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, this is a great place to visit.

Nine things to see in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

The museum tour begins with a time bridge. As visitors cross this bridge, they are moved through multimedia technology into Ireland as it was during the 5th century.

We thoroughly enjoyed learning the story of Saint Patrick. These interactive exhibits illustrate the life of Saint Patrick using his own words taken from his Confession, written around 450, as an autobiography. Very impressive, and I recommend visiting here while you are in Downpatrick.

Down Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity

Down Cathedral is a majestic-looking structure on a hill overlooking the town of Downpatrick. A monastery existed here over 800 years ago, but after Henry VIII ordered all monasteries dissolved, the building fell into disrepair.

Nine things to see in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

A Cathedral was built at this location in 1609 and restored in the late 18th century. Today it contains a gorgeous pipe organ, box pews from the 18th century, and stunning stained glass windows.

The Cathedral provides an excellent tour that is a top-rated tourist attraction. The tour is brief but full of information and well worth your time.

Grave of St. Patrick

Legend says Saint Patrick was buried during the 5th century on the Hill of Down, where Down Cathedral now sits. For that reason, religious pilgrimages have been made to Downpatrick to this hill for over 1,600 years.

Nine things to see in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

The gravesite is near the front of Down Cathedral and is covered with a large granite boulder in the 1900s to prevent religious pilgrims from removing soil from the site. Carved into the boulder is the name “Patrick.

Saul Church

Just outside the town of Downpatrick stands the Saul Church. This site is known as the Cradle of Christianity in Ireland. Saint Patrick is said to have landed nearby in 432AD on the Slaney river.

Nine things to see in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

The building standing today was built in 1932 to mark the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s landing 1500 years ago and to commemorate Patrick’s first Ireland church. Services are held in this church every Sunday.

Nine things to see in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

Visitors come here each year from throughout the world as part of a religious pilgrimage or to learn more about the fascinating history of Sait Patrick. A huge celebration takes place here each March 17th.

Struell Wells

This impressive holy well site also has a connection to Saint Patrick. Legend says Saint Patrick traveled here from nearby Saul to bathe in the healing waters and spend time singing spiritual songs. It is a large fenced area with an eye well, bathhouses for men and women, and a drinking well.

Nine things to do in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

Week-long pilgrimages took place at Struell Wells. First written mention of these wells is in the 1300s, and it is a belief that Saint Patrick baptized converts here in the early 400s AD. Believers would travel here to experience the curative powers of the waters.

Even today, people come to Struell Wells seeking cures. During our visit, we met a lady at the wells who hoped and believed she would find a cure for her cancer. In prior visits, she had become cured of other serious health issues she was battling and was confident she would find healing again.

Ballynoe Stone Circle

Simply amazing. There is a tiny small space along the road where, at home, one might expect to be large enough to park one motorcycle. That is where we parked our car! The site is at the entrance to someone’s home and farm and a man and woman were across the fence from us hard at work with their sheep.

We smiled and said hello but they continued their work and we walked on through the turnstile gate. We quickly encountered the most amazing arched pathway that looked like a tunnel to heaven, except for the muddy ground. The walk was about a quarter of a mile with fairy offerings left along the way on both sides.

Nine things to do in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

The path finally opened up to another turnstile gate and we could see the stones. Nine things to do in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

Nine things to do in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

A geocache is hidden along the path and hallelujah, we were actually able to find it this time. It was in sad repair and we had no supplies to fix it. We were even unable to extricate the log from its waterproof tube so we could sign it. We were, nonetheless, ecstatic to actually finally find a geocache during this trip.

Our visit to the impressive Ballynoe Stone Circle is probably the highlight of our day’s travel to the Downpatrick area. This stone circle probably dates to 2000 BC and consists of 50 stones that create a large circle more than 360 feet in diameter.


Ardglass is a pretty coastal village about six miles from Downpatrick. It has a good fishing harbor, is a perfect seaside resort village, and we were able to visit more than one interesting archaeological site here.

Ardglass was one of the busiest ports in Ulster during the 15th century and is home to more castles than any other Irish town. We saw three of these during our visit.

Margaret’s Castle, a small tower house complete with a murder-hole, is attached to and part of Margaret’s Cottages, a lovely B&B in Ardglass. We did not go inside, but this B&B is on my list of future housing options in Ireland.

Nine things to do in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

Jordan’s Castle is the most prominent and noticeable of the tower house castles in Ardglass. The Castle was locked but did not appear as if it was ever open to the public. We were able to wander around the grounds and take photos.

Nine things to see in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

Cowd Castle, at the entrance to the Ardglass golf course, is another of the two-story tower house castles we discovered in Ardglass. The golf club is housed in the Castle now.

Ardtole Church

From there we went wandering around the countryside in search of Ardtole Church ruins nearby. After several wrong turns and hair-standing on the back of your neck turns in the skinny road, we found it. The ruins are located on a hill but are enclosed by fences and locked gates. Great photo opportunity though.

While out at Ardtole Church we came across a sign indicating St. Patrick’s Well. We went on a hunt for that but were unable to ever locate it.

We did enjoy our skinny road drive although Steve’s knuckles were blanched very white by the time we found the main road. By the main road, I mean a road where two-way traffic is actually possible if you are very careful.

We had a wonderfully full day in and around Downpatrick, discovering and learning about the history of this area. There is so much to see and understand that I doubt we will ever get tired of visiting here. More reasons why we keep returning to Ireland.

Nine things to see in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

One thought on “Nine things to see in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland

  1. Next time you are in Northern Ireland, you should visit my cousins Petie and Paddy. They live in a village of about 100 called Rock in County Tyrone. Paddy found me on GEDmatch and was trying to enlist my help with his genealogy research. Petie just celebrated his 90th birthday earlier this year.

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