Downpatrick is a small city in rural County Down, Northern Ireland.
The city has some historical significance being that it is said to be the resting place of the patron St. Patrick (or Pádraig in Gaelic) and is said to be Ireland's oldest settlements in the North. Downpatrick also gained some fame and interest with much thanks to the TV series The Game of Thrones, where many scenes have been filmed at the nearby Castle Ward Estates and Inch Abbey Ruins.
There are various ways in which travelers can plan to reach Downpatrick via the Ulsterbus. For visitors planning travel to Downpatrick from Belfast, it is recommended to take Ulsterbus #15 (near Belfast City Hall), as it goes straight to the Downpatrick bus station in the city center. For visitors starting from Dublin, it is recommended to look up times and routes through the Bus Éireann company, as passengers may be required to switch buses in various stops. Alternatively, travelers starting from Dublin can take the Irish rail to Belfast and take the Ulsterbus #15.
Same with cars, it is the traveler's decision as to which directions to follow, as there are numerous ways to reach Downpatrick. For travelers starting from Belfast, Downpatrick can be reached directly via the A7 south, whereas travelers starting from Dublin may be required to take the M1 north and change onto A25 East.
As the city is relatively small and have roads that are both narrow and easily congested, visitors are encouraged to walk around when exploring the city. Furthermore, much of the places of interest in the city are of walking distance of each other and do not really require a vehicle for navigation (which is actually for the best, as parking is somewhat difficult to find in the city).
While it is possible to walk to some attractions in the outside of the main city, this is not recommended because not only are the side roads in to and out of the city narrow and difficult to walk, these locations can take hours to travel to by foot (or even by cycling). In some cases, there are some roads where pedestrians are generally not allowed to walk on (such as the case of Inch Abbey ruins; the main road to the ruins are not meant for walking and only for driving). These locations will require visitors a vehicle, as it would save the long walks and time.
Understand that there are no vehicle or bicycle rental places in the city. For this reason, visitors are strongly encouraged to rent a vehicle prior to their visit to the city. But in the event visitors arrive to Downpatrick without a vehicle (mainly visitors who arrive to the city via the Ulsterbus), there is a local taxi business (see "contact") that runs services all around the Downpatrick area. Additionally, there is a local bus that drives to Strangford (next to Castle Ward Estate) that tourists can ride (only on Mondays through Saturdays).
St. Patrick Visitor Centre, exterior
- Saint Patrick Visitor Centre, 53A Market St, Downpatrick BT30 6LZ, +44 28 4461 9000, . One of the major highlights of Downpatrick, the Saint Patrick Visitor Centre is a museum dedicated to the life and story of Saint Patrick and shares the historical backstory about the spread of Catholicism to Ireland. While the museum itself is not huge, it does offer visitors an interactive and beautiful exhibit about patron Saint Patrick and is worth the visit for only £5.75 (for Adults; £3.50 for Children). The visitor centre also provides information about the area and are willing to help answer questions for tourists coming to the city for the first time.
- Down Cathedral, English St, Downpatrick BT30 6AB, +44 28 4461 4922, . Another important site of Downpatrick, the Down Cathedral (also a component of the Saint Patrick Visitor Centre) is the largest church in the city and is of historical importance; it is said that the patron Saint Patrick was buried on the grounds of the Cathedral, as the church features a stone in the cemetery with Patrick's name etched into the top.
- Down County Museum, The Mall, English St, Downpatrick BT30 6AH, +44 28 4461 5218, . Built in what used to be the "Down County Gaol" (or Prison), the Down County Museum offers an historical insight on both the history of Ireland and County Down, with additional exhibits featuring historical artifacts and arts. Admission is free for all visitors but are encouraged to make a donation upon visit.
- Saul Church, English Street, Downpatrick BT30 6AB, +028 4461 4922, . While the building itself is not too old, the church itself was said to be built on the grounds of what used to be Ireland's first Christian church.
- Down Arts Centre, 2-6 Irish Street, Downpatrick BT30 6BP, +028 4461 0747, . For visitors who are more interested with the fine arts, the Down Arts Centre hosts various art exhibits and classes and also showcases some theatrical performances.
- Downpatrick and County Down Railway, 53A Market St, Downpatrick BT30 6LZ, +028 4461 5779, . Offering a unique experience for visitors interested with trains, the Downpatrick and County Down Railway includes an interactive museum showcasing different trains and the history of steam engine trains. Probably one of the most notable features of the railway is that it still runs a variety of vintage, steam powered trains that take visitors to the nearby Inch Abbey ruins (See "Get Out" for more information). Visitors can also reserve to ride on the footplate of the train.
- Eclipse Cinemas Downpatrick, 5 Owenbeg Avenue, Downpatrick BT30 6FJ, +44 28 4461 6777, .
- Saint Patricks Golf Club, 43 Saul Rd, Downpatrick BT30 6PA, +44 28 4461 5947, . Along with many of the city's sights, Downpatrick also hosts a very popular golf course that has been the location of some PGA tournaments in Northern Ireland in the past few years.
- Downpatrick Racecourse, 424 Ballydugan Rd, Downpatrick BT30 6TE, +44 28 4461 2054, .
- Clearsky Adventure Centre Strangford, Downpatrick BT30 7LS, +44 28 4372 3933, . Not located anywhere in the city of Downpatrick, the Clearsky Adventure Centre facilities are located in the Castle Ward Estate grounds. Visitors to the estate can choose to rent kayaks and bicycles to get around the Strangford Lough or the estate's forest park. The Centre also hosts the popular Winterfell Tours, where fans of the TV Series The Game of Thrones can revisit filming locations.
- Winterfell Tours Strangford, Downpatrick BT30 7LS, ++44 28 4372 3933, . One of the most popular activities for visitors to partake in, the Winterfell tours, run by Clearsky Adventure Centre, allow guests to revisit filming locations of HBO's The Game of Thrones via cycle hire. Visitors can also participate in an archery activity (on one of the filmed locations) and may even have the chance to meet some actors starring in the show.
As it is a small city, there are not many major retailers found in Downpatrick (although there are quite a few name brand stores in the outer parts of the city). The city is also known for numerous family businesses running old shops by the main street and are often expected to close on Sundays and on bank holidays. Some of these shops include:
- JJ Donnelly Menswear, 56 Market St, Downpatrick BT30 6LY, +44 28 4461 5426, .
- McCartan Sports, 34 Market Ln, Downpatrick BT30 6LY, +44 28 4461 3322, . Family owned, McCartan Sports largely specializes in rugby, football and Gaelic football equipment and goods.
- Asda Superstore, Retail Park Ballydugan, Ballydugan Rd, Downpatrick, BT30 6AJ, +44 28 4461 9606, .
- Argos, Unit 10, Downe Retail Park, Ballydugan Road, Downpatrick, BT30 6DR, +44 345 656 4124, .
In addition, Downpatrick also occasionally hosts a small market in the square near the Saint Patrick Visitor Centre, where merchants often sell various goods, such as plants or even jewelry. These events typically last until the afternoon and are commonplace in the weekends.
- Brendan's bar, 94 Market St, Downpatrick BT30 6LZ, +44 28 4461 5311, .
- Molloys Fish and Chips, 61 St Patricks Ave, Downpatrick BT30 6DN, +44 28 4461 5555, .
- Il Forno, 40A St Patricks Ave, Downpatrick BT30 6DW, +44 28 4421 8008, .
- Passage to India, 20 St Patricks Ave, Downpatrick BT30 6DW, +44 28 4461 5949, .
- Castillo, 61 Castle Street, Killough, Downpatrick BT30 7QQ, +44 28 4484 3007.
- Wrap & Roll, 25 Church Street, Downpatrick, +44 28 4461 7200, .
- The Emperor Chinese Restaurant, 13 Church St, Downpatrick BT30 6EH.
- Murphys bar, 78 Market Street, Downpatrick BT30 6LZ, +028 4461 6777, .
- Brendan's bar, 94 Market St, Downpatrick BT30 6LZ, +44 28 4461 5311, .
- Saint Patrick Cafe, Saint Patrick's Square, Market Street, Downpatrick, BT30 6LZ, +44 (0) 28 4461 9000, . As part of the Saint Patrick Visitor Centre, the Saint Patrick Cafe is a modern themed cafe where visitors can snack and drink while enjoying the view of St. Patrick's Cathedral.
As with most cities in the countryside, Downpatrick lacks hotels typically found in the major cities of Northern Ireland. However, visitors can still find accommodation in the local bed and breakfast lodges found in and out of the city vicinity. Some places include:
- Inch School B&B, 78 Belfast Road, Downpatrick, BT30 9AY, +028 4461 7672, . While not technically inside the city, Inch School B&B is located about 5-8 minutes away from the city center and has gained recognition as a Grade II historic building.
- Number Nine Luxury Bed and Breakfast, 79 Knockchree Road, Downpatrick, BT30 6RP, +44 28 4461 3907, . Located near the center of the city, Number Nine Luxury B&B is also one of the more popular lodgings available for visitors to Downpatrick.
- Ivy Cottage B&B, 107 Church St, Downpatrick BT30 6EH, +44 28 4461 3028, .
- Hillside B&B, 18 Cathedral View, Downpatrick BT30 6DL, +44 28 4461 3134, .
- Downpatrick Taxis, 96 Market Street, Downpatrick, +44 614515/612958. For visitors who especially do not have their own mode of transportation, it would be advisable to have the number of Downpatrick Taxis to get around town.
- Downpatrick Garda Station, 43 Irish St, Downpatrick BT30 6BX,+44 845 600 8000.
- Downe Hospital, 2 Struell Wells Rd, Downpatrick, +44 28 4461 3311.
For visitors who prefer the more historical and/or natural locations, some of the more interesting sights of Downpatrick can be seen outside the city. But while these locations are accessible by walking, it is highly suggested to drive to these locations, as it could take hours to reach by foot.
- Castle Ward Estate, Strangford, Downpatrick BT30 7LS, +44 28 4488 1204, . Built in the 18th century by the Bangor family and run by the National Trust, the Castle Ward Estate allows visitors to visit its numerous gardens, manor and other historical buildings. But besides visiting the estate grounds, visitors can also partake in activities run by the Clearsky Adventure Centre (See "Do" for more details)
- Ballynoe Stone Circle, Bonecastle Rd, Downpatrick BT30 8ET, .
- Slieve Patrick Statue, St. Patrick's Road, Saul, Downpatrick. Located in the town of Saul, there sits a massive statue of patron Saint Patrick on top of the Slieve Patrick. This particular landmark is of religious significance as visitors follow a road to the top of the Slieve, marked with shrines and statues of Catholic figures, including that of Saint Patrick. Upon reaching the top, however, visitors can get a breathtaking view of Downpatrick.
- Inch Abbey Ruins, . Located off of the A7, Northwest of the city, Inch Abbey was once a church founded sometimes between the 12th and/or 13th century. Visitors can explore the standing ruins of the church and appreciate the landscape of the nearby Quoile river. The ruins is especially popular with fans of The Game of Thrones, as it was one of the filming locations of the show. To enter the ruins, visitors can either drive there, take a steam train from the Downpatrick railway, or enter the ruins by foot (which is not advised as the main road is large enough to fit only one car at a time).
- The Mound of Down. Just outside of Downpatrick, the Mound of Down is a recently excavated mound on the Quoile marshes. Not much is known about this particular site, besides speculation that it was once a Norman settlement. The Mound is visible from parts of the city and is north of the Inch Abbey Ruins.