St. Patrick’s legacy is part of the fabric of Northern Ireland – enshrined in churches, cathedrals and the many abbeys, high crosses and round towers that evoke his time and his history. More than 1,600 years after his birth, myths, legends and stories about him live on in the land that he converted and loved. So, whatever your interest, there’s always more interesting facts to discover about St Patrick. 

Following in St. Patrick’s footsteps 

A great place to start is the 92-mile linear driving route that takes you round 15 key sites with links to St. Patrick’s life and Northern Ireland’s Christian heritage. 

The North Down Museum 

The first port of call is the North Down Museum which holds important manuscripts from the early Irish Church. Pilgrims come here from all over the world to see the spot St. Columbanus set out from to revive Christianity in Europe during the Dark Ages. 

Bangor Abbey 

Then it’s on to the 6th century Bangor Abbey, founded by Saint Comgall – once one of the most important seats of learning in Ireland with almost 3000 monks. 

The ruined Grey Abbey, along the peninsula, is one of the finest examples of Anglo-Norman ecclesiastical architecture you’ll see. Its recreated medicinal herb garden is definitely worth a visit – and you can buy the plants. 

Explore more in Downpatrick 

A ferry ride from Portaferry to Strangford takes you right to the heart of St. Patrick’s country.  

Here, the quaint and peaceful Saul Church (said to be the first ecclesiastical site in Ireland) is where Saint Patrick began his mission to convert the locals. Just three miles away is his burial place in the magnificent Down Cathedral. He’s believed to have sung psalms at Struell’s holy wells – today known for their healing powers. And the ruins of St. Tassach’s church near Raholp is where he received the last rites. 

Onto the Cistercian Inch Abbey, founded in 1180 by John de Courcy, who led the 1177 Anglo-Norman Invasion of Ulster. Then The Saint Patrick Centre  where you can hear Patrick’s own words, drawn from a confession made near the end of his life in a fascinating interactive experience. Nearby Down County Museum, a Georgian county gaol, houses a collection of early Christian artefacts and material relating to the saint. 

Bagenal’s Castle, Newry 

St. Patrick’s legacy can also be seen here in the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey founded in 1157. Though not much remains today, excavations uncovered a 12th century slab of granite bearing a Celtic cross. 

Armagh - the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland. 

Traditionally the seat of both the Catholic and Church of Ireland archbishops, Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral occupies the hilltop site of the saint’s original church. Centuries later, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic), with its magnificent stained glass windows, was built on the opposite hilltop. Though work commenced on it in 1840, it was suspended due to the great famine and not consecrated until 1904. 

A tour through museums and libraries 

Armagh County Museum is a treasure trove of artefacts and archaeological material bearing witness to Armagh’s leading role in early Christian Ireland. 

No. 5 Vicar’s Hill, opposite the main entrance door to St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, is the former home of the Diocesan Registry which held the Church records. Some of these are still on display, along with ancient coins, gems and old Armagh maps. 
 
And, at the Armagh Robinson Library, books line the walls from floor to ceiling. It was built so that the public could enjoy the 18th century Archbishop’s own collection of books, art and papers on Christian heritage in Ireland and Europe.  

Slemish Mountain, County Antrim 

Though much of Saint Patrick's story centres round Armagh, Downpatrick and County Down, Slemish Mountain played an important part in his early years. Captured as a boy, legend has it that he was forced to tend sheep and pigs as a slave on Slemish. Nowadays walkers climb the mountain in his memory and to share his experience of the wildness, serenity and beauty of the local countryside. 

Though he escaped and returned to his family in Britain, it wasn’t long before a vision prompted him to return to Ireland and begin his Christian mission.  

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day 

St. Patrick’s Day is a day of fun, celebration, parades, carnival floats and so much more – and one with the power to turn many parts of the world, and some pints, green for a day. 

As you’d expect, Armagh is at the heart of it all with ‘The Home of St. Patrick Festival’, a lively celebration of his life, with music, song, dance and endless cultural fun. 

The Ulster American Folk Park 

The Ulster American Folk Park gets in on the celebrations too with traditional music, dance and food for the whole family. You can also hear the poignant tales of how the emigrants who journeyed across the Atlantic brought their St Patrick’s Day traditions, and their memories of home, with them. 

The Ulster Folk Museum, Cultra 

The Ulster Folk Museum too enjoy the day with a festive family ‘hooley’. There’s entertainment from traditional musicians and Irish dancers and a chance to learn about traditional crafts, such as basket making, tweed weaving, straw rope making and blacksmithing. Food enthusiasts too get the traditional experience with open-hearth baking and champ, potato bread and drop scones. 

Of course, these are just some of the ways in which the legacy of this man and saint are carried on today. There are many more reminders of his life and times that you’ll no doubt discover on your own Northern Ireland adventure. 

North Down Museum
Visitor Centres & Museums
External building of museum with adjoining Town Hall building in background

Visit North Down Museum to explore the fascinating saga of the North Down area from the Bronze Age to the present day. The Museum takes you on a journey through Early Christian heritage and the Vikings to Scottish Settlers and the Victorians.

Bangor Abbey
Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings
Image of the front of Bangor Abbey on a bright sunny day

Founded in 558AD the main body of the building dates from 1830's, the tower from 15th century and steeple dates around 1693. Interesting gravestones include a memorial to the assistant surgeon of the Titanic, local man John Edward Simpson.

Grey Abbey
Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings
a photograph of the exterior of old church ruins

Grey Abbey, a Cistercian Abbey church and its living quarters were founded in 1193 by Affreca wife of John de Courcy, the Anglo-Norman invader of East Ulster.

Strangford Lough Ferry
Boats & Ferries
Strangford Lough Ferry

The ferry links the beautiful Ards and Lecale Peninsulas and the villages of Strangford and Portaferry across the Narrows of Strangford Lough. The 10 minute ferry journey allows you to take in the stunning scenery of this Marine Nature Reserve.

Saul Church
Churches & Sacred Sites
Saul Church

Two miles outside Downpatrick is the replica of St Patrick's first church in Ireland. Close by, on the crest of Slieve Patrick is a massive statue of St Patrick. Bronze panels illustrate scenes from the life of Ireland's Patron Saint.

Down Cathedral and Saint Patrick's Grave
Cathedral
Down Cathedral and Saint Patrick's Grave

Down Cathedral, a Cathedral of the Church of Ireland with magnificent stain glass windows, box pews and beautiful organ case was built in 1183 as a Benedictine Monastry. The patron saint, Patrick is believed to be buried in the nearby graveyard.

Struell Wells
Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings
Struell Wells

Struell Wells was built around a stream flowing through a secluded valley. It was a popular place of pilgrimage from the 1600s until the 1840s.

Raholp Church
Churches & Sacred Sites
Raholp Church

Restored ruins of a sixth century church of St. Tassach, said to have given the last rites to St. Patrick. Entrance through pillars.

Inch Abbey
Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings
Inch Abbey

Located on the north bank of the Quoile River, Inch Abbey was founded by John de Courcy in atonement for his destruction of Erenagah Abbey.

The Saint Patrick Centre
Visitor Centres & Museums
The Saint Patrick Centre

The Saint Patrick Centre is the starting point for any visitor who wishes to know more about Ireland’s patron saint. The exhibition Ego Patricius – The Story of St. Patrick, explores Patrick’s legacy, and recalls the saint’s story, in his own words.

Down County Museum
Visitor Centres & Museums
Entrance to Down County Museum, Downpatrick

Down County Museum is located in the old county Gaol of Down. It houses fascinating exhibitions on the history of Down as well as restored cells with life-size figures of prisoners and their gaolers.

St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral
Churches & Sacred Sites
St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral

Saint Patrick founded his chief church here on the Hill of Armagh in 445AD, and there has been a Christian church on the site ever since. The present building dates from the 13th Century and was last restored in 1834.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral (Roman Catholic)
Churches & Sacred Sites
Saint Patrick's Cathedral (Roman Catholic)

This imposing cathedral, on an elevated site, was started in 1840, but work was suspended during the Great Famine of 1845-48 and recommenced in 1854 when J. J. McCarthy was appointed architect. It was dedicated for worship in 1873.

Armagh County Museum
Visitor Centres & Museums
Armagh County Museum

The oldest county museum in Ireland is set in Armagh’s beautiful Georgian tree lined Mall. Its collections capture centuries of stories relating to the people who lived, worked and had connections with this famous city and historic county.

No 5 Vicars' Hill
Visitor Centres & Museums
No 5 Vicars' Hill

Built in 1772 as the Diocesan Registry to hold records for the Church of Ireland Diocese, this Grade A listed building has been restored and was formally opened to the public in March 2011. Fully accessible. Interactive displays for all ages.

Armagh Robinson Library
Visitor Centres & Museums
Armagh Robinson Library

Established in 1771, Armagh Public Library is one of the oldest libraries in Ireland, holding rare and valuable books, ancient Irish artefacts, and print, gem and coin collections. Visitors and researchers, individuals and groups, are all welcome.

Slemish Mountain
Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings
Slemish Mountain

Slemish Mountain is about 1,500 feet above sea level and is located close to Broughshane in County Antrim. It is the legendary home of Saint Patrick and is actually the central core of an extinct volcano. Hike to the top and enjoy fantastic views!

Ulster American Folk Park
Visitor Centres & Museums
Ulster American Folk Park

Experience the adventure that takes you from the thatched cottages of Ulster, on board a full scale emigrant sailing ship, to the log cabins of the American Frontier.

Ulster Folk Museum
Visitor Centres & Museums
Photo of a lady and gent dressed in clothing from early 1900's outside of one of the cottages. The lady is standing holding a chicken and the gent is

Step back in time and uncover a way of life from 100 years ago. Explore thatched cottages, farms, schools and shops as you wander through the beautiful parkland of the Ulster Folk Museum.