Day out in DownpatrickJanuary 26, 2020
For some reason I’ve always thought of Downpatrick as being a good hour from Belfast by car, but it’s actually only about a 35 minute drive (within speed limits!). I’ve been to the area numerous times over the past couple of years, as I’ve held Dog Friendly Food Tours in Finnebrogue Woods and the fabulous Fodder with it’s amazing dog friendly tipi tent! That said, I’ve never really ventured into the town or the surrounding areas too much. So, I grabbed the dog and we had a mini road trip to visit a few historic St.Patricks trail sites starting with Saul just on the outskirts of Downpatrick.
St.Patricks Church Saul (Church of Ireland) is the site where St.Patrick built the first Christian Church in Ireland in 432AD – long long time ago! Today the church is open daily and operates a Sunday Service at 10am. There is a beautiful St.Patrick stain glass window at the Alter, and a foundation stone on the outside of the church stating that it was built in 1933 on the site given to St.Patrick in 432AD.
Now Saint Patrick himself is said to be buried in the grounds of the Church of Ireland Cathedral – Down Cathedral, where a granite stone bearing the name ‘Patrick’ was placed to symbolise St.Patricks final resting place. Inside the Cathedral are three fragments of an original St.Patricks cross which existed on the site between 750AD and 850AD. The cross is said to have been in the location where he was buried. Today a replica cross stands in it’s place and was erected there in August 2018.
So after that short history lesson – lets face it, it’s good to know these things about our Patron Saint, I went out towards Strangford and paid a visit to National Trust Castle Ward. I have two annual memberships now, one for the National Trust and one for the Forestry Commission, both of which I will get great use of in the coming year, especially while doing the #NIDOGS1000 challenge. I’ve been to Castle Ward before, but have never walked the designated trails, and as the day ended up much better than forecast, I chose the orange farm trail which is 3km in distance.
If you park in the Shore Car Park, then you can head out via the old Farmyard and the filming location of ‘Winterfell’ which is a great stopping off point, and is also adjacent to the Trail Head Dog Friendly cafe (open at weekends in Winter). The Farm Trail leads you along the shore of Strangford lough – I met about 3 other people while walking the trail, so it was a great way to get some peace and relaxation. The trail is circular which means you end up back where you started, so you can nip into the cafe afterwards and have a coffee and treat, while dogs enjoy a Frozzy’s dog ice-cream. If you have registered for the 1000 mile challenge, then your embroidered patch is valid at the Trailhead cafe for a complimentary tea or coffee, when you purchase a scone/traybake or sandwich. Fab!
So next time you have a free afternoon, think about a trip to Downpatrick – you could even take the Strangford ferry home!