Downpatrick is a town in County Down in Northern Ireland. It's claimed to be the site of one of the first churches founded by Saint Patrick, at nearby Saul; this was also the place of his death and he was brought to Downpatrick for burial. The area is dotted with prehistoric and early Christian sites, while Downpatrick itself is a small market town. Belfast is only 21 miles to the north so it's become a commuter town, with a population in 2011 of 10,822.
Goldline Express 215 / 515 runs from Belfast Europa bus station via Carryduff to Downpatrick, taking an hour. These run M-F every 30 min, Sa hourly and roughly every couple of hours on Sunday.
Bus 17 runs five or six times M-Sa between Downpatrick, Castlewellan and Newcastle, 35 min.
Bus 19 runs five times M-F to Ballynahinch, 30 min, for buses to Lisburn, Hillsborough and Belfast.
Downpatrick 1 bus station is on A25 Market Street, 200 yards south of town centre.
By road from Belfast, take A24 south to Carryduff then A7 into Downpatrick. From Dublin leave A1 at the first exit after the border near Newry, to follow A25 east via Castlewellan.
You can walk to many of the sights including Inch Abbey, and Rowallane Garden is on the bus route from Belfast. You need wheels for the outlying attractions.
National Cycleway 99 runs from Bangor down the peninsula to Portaferry, Strangford and Downpatrick, continuing to Newcastle. It's all on-road. From Belfast follow the traffic-free Comber cycleway, then hug the west bank of Strangford Lough to Downpatrick.
- Town centre has many pleasant Georgian buildings along English St and Irish St.
- 1 Down Cathedral (Cathedral Church of Holy Trinity), 35 English St BT30 6AB, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 11:00-16:00. This is claimed to have been the burial place of St Patrick in 461, with St Brigid and St Columba alongside. Multiple churches since that time have been swept away: the present Church of Ireland (Anglican) building from 1818 set out to be so relentlessly medieval Gothic that truly medieval material survives only in traces. These include two 12th C crosses, an 11th C font, and part of the walls of the 13th C Benedictine Abbey. The 10th C High Cross is a replica: the original suffered weathering and was moved to the nearby museum. A massive granite slab was placed over St Patrick's grave in 1900, to curb a fashion among emigrants of taking a handful of soil away with them. Free.
- 2 Down County Museum, The Mall, English Street BT30 6AH, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. W-Sa 10:00-16:00. This was the county jail in the late 18th century, and United Irishman Thomas Russell was hanged at its gates in 1803. The museum permanent collections cover an overview of town history, the High Cross, farming and the jail. Free.
- 3 St Patrick Centre, 53A Market St BT30 6LZ, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 09:00-17:00. If you don't know much about the "real" St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, you're in very good company - most detail is the invention of much later hagiographers. The medieval Armagh scholars were especially busy and inventive, since the primacy of their church depended on the primacy of St Patrick. This gallery and IMAX show explores what we know and why he still matters. Adult £5.75, child £3.50, conc £4.50.
- 4 Inch Abbey, Inch Abbey Road BT30 9AT. 24 hours. Founded before AD 800 on what was then a drumlin island in the marshes. The remains there nowadays are from the 12th century Cistercian Abbey, which looks to have been small but wealthy. The Cistercians believed in manual labour, farming to support themselves, as well as prayer, abstinence, and above all No damned Irish! The ruin is scenically sited on the west bank of the River Quoile - either approach via A7 Belfast Road or take the steam railway to the Abbey station. Free.
- 5 Quoile Castle is the shell of a 16th century tower house, along A25 a mile or so northeast of town. The riverbank is a wetland wildlife reserve.
- 6 Saul Church was built in 1933, with a replica Round Tower, and incorporating fragments of a medieval abbey. Saul derives from sabhall, barn, where St Patrick is said to have sheltered and preached after the Strangford Lough currents spat him ashore nearby. His colossal statue on the hill is also modern.
- Ballydugan Medieval Settlement, Drumcullan Rd BT30 8HZT (next to Ballydugan Mills). Recreation of a medieval village opened in summer 2020, but they overdid the realism when the Black Death forced suspension of its activities.
- 7 Ballynoe Stone Circle, Ballynoe Rd BT30 8ET (two miles south of town). 24 hours. A stone circle some 30 yards in diameter with 50 upright stones closely placed. The site seems to have been in use from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. Free.
- 8 Struell Wells, Struell Wells Road BT30 6RL (two miles east of town). 24 hours. Sruthail means stream. It flows down a rocky valley, partly underground, supplying a series of wells with supposed healing or holy properties. Inevitably Saint Patrick gets in on the act, but the site predates him. There are four main wells, and the bath houses you see now are from the 17th century. Pilgrims conducted complicated penances and observances, but in the 19th century these became rowdy so there was a clamp-down. The wells dried up around 2006 when the culverts feeding them fell into disrepair, but this has been remedied. Free.
- 9 Rowallane Garden, Crossgar Road, Saintfield BT24 7LH, ☏ . Daily 10:00-16:00. Extensive garden founded in the 1860s with many exotic species. Adult £8, child £4, NT free.
- 10 Ardglass is a fishing village ringed by medieval turrets in various stages of decay. Jordan's Castle, south end of Quay Street by the golf club, is the only one you can visit within. Isabella's Tower to the west however is a Victorian folly. Ardtole church is a 15th century ruin on the hill north of the village.
- Legananny Dolmen: see Newcastle (Down) for this impressive 5000 year-old megalithic tripod, and for Finnis Souterrain nearby.
- Down Arts Centre, 26 Irish Street BT30 6BP, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Music, drama and exhibitions.
- Omniplex Cinema is on Owenbeg Ave.
- Downpatrick & County Down Railway, Market Street BT30 6LZ (next to bus station), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Running days 12:30-17:00. The railway from Belfast reached Downpatrick in 1859 and Newcastle in 1869. The line closed in 1950; it re-opened in 1987 as a heritage railway. Steam trains chunter down 3 miles of track to Inch Abbey - see website for schedule of running days. The two locomotives are 0-4-0 "Sugarpuffs" built by O&K of Berlin in 1934/35 for the Irish sugar beet factories - Thurles #1 and Mallow #3. After they were replaced by diesel shunters in the 1960s, a railway enthusiast went to considerable trouble and expense to preserve them for use on a British heritage railway, as he'd been assured - correctly - that they were standard gauge. It was 15 years down the line before he discovered that they were Irish standard gauge of 1600 mm, which all mainline railways across Ireland use to this day. The locos couldn't possibly run on the British and European standard gauge of 1435 mm. Adult £8, child £6.
- 1 Downpatrick Racecourse, 24 Ballydugan Road BT30 6TE (On A25 one mile south of town), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. This has National Hunt (jumps) meetings, mostly Mar-Oct. Horse-racing is on an all-Ireland basis so the course follows the Irish not the UK race season.
- 2 St Patrick's Golf Club, 43 Saul Road BT30 6PA, ☏ . 18-hole golf course founded in 1929, course is 5969 yards par 69. With pro shop and restaurant. Round £60.
- 3 Downpatrick Cricket Club, The Meadow, 2 Strangford Rd BT30 6SL (half a mile north of town), ☏ . The club play in NCU Senior League Section One, which is the second tier of cricket in the northern counties. International matches have been held here.
- Beaches: most of County Down's beaches are rocky. The best sandy stretches are south of Downpatrick around Tyrella.
- Grove Shopping Centre, Market Street, is by the bus station.
- Downpatrick Retail Park is quarter of a mile further south along Ballydugan Road. Asda is open M-Sa 07:00-22:00, Su 13:00-18:00 and has a filling station.
- The Daily Grind, 20 St Patrick's Avenue BT30 6DW, ☏ . M-Sa 10:00-15:30. Upstairs cafe good for lunches and sandwiches.
- Oakley Fayre Cafe and Deli, 52 Market Street BT30 6LY, ☏ . Bakery shop and cafe, has GF options.
- Golden Dragon, 21 Scotch Street BT30 6AQ, ☏ . Tu-Su 16:30-22:30. Great Chinese takeaway, no dine-in.
- The Emperor, 13 Church Street BT30 6EH, ☏ . M-F 12:00-14:00, 16:30-23:30, Sa Su 16:30-23:30. Chinese restaurant, sit-in and takeaway
- Mullans Bar (Speedy's), 48 Church Street BT30 6EJ, ☏ . Daily 11:00-01:00. Popular pub, often with music.
- Mirabelle Bar, 28 Market Street BT30 6LY, ☏ . M-Th 11:30-00:00, F Sa 11:30-01:00, Su 12:30-01:00. Little pub squeezed between shops and a delicatessan
- Avenue Bar, 18 St Patrick's Avenue BT30 6DW, ☏ . 24 hours.
- Brendans Bar & Restaurant, 94 Market Street BT30 6LZ, ☏ . M 11:30-20:00, Tu-Su 11:30-00:00. Friendly well-run place serves good food.
- 1 Denvir's Hotel, English Street BT30 6AB, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Established as a coaching inn in 1642, this is a clean friendly hotel with six rooms. Also has a pub and restaurant. Cornelius Denvir (1791-1865) who grew up in Downpatrick was a notable RC bishop, natural scientist and educator. B&B double £80.
- B&Bs in town are Dunleath House and Number Nine.
- 2 The Mill at Ballydugan, 3 Drumcullan Rd, Ballydugan BT30 8HZ, ☏ . This converted flour mill is primarily a wedding venue but may have accommodation for others.
- Buckshill camping and caravan site, on A25 towards Strangford, is CCC members only but you can sign up online.
As of Oct 2020, Downpatrick has a 4G signal from Vodafone, Three and O2; with EE you'll probably manage a mobile call. Lots of dead spots in the countryside around. 5G has not yet reached this area.
- Strangford has a grand mansion, a couple of ruined castles and a neolithic tomb. It was Winterfell in Game of Thrones.
- Ards Peninsula is reached by ferry from Strangford. Top sights are Mount Stewart and Grey Abbey.
- Newcastle is a coastal town. The castle is long gone, but it's a good base for the Mourne Mountains.