Downpatrick & Armagh
The cradle of Irish Christianity is really much nearer, and easier to get to, than you might think. In just 48 hours you can touch base with the ancient capitals of counties Armagh and Down, which form part of the Saint Patrick’s Trail. The trail itself comprises of a 92 mile driving route and links 15 key Christian Heritage Sites which have been identified as having some connection to Saint Patrick’s life, mission or legacy.
Armagh – Armagh City is perhaps best known for its rich Christian heritage and many of its attractions reflect this aspect of its history. The settlement has been the spiritual capital of Ireland since Saint Patrick founded his first church on the hilltop site of the present Church of Ireland Cathedral around 445AD, and today the heads of both the Catholic and Anglican Churches on the island are seated here.
Saint Patrick founded his main church here on the Hill of Armagh. There has been a Christian church on the site ever since. Although the building has been renovated many times, the basic shape of the Cathedral is still as conceived by Archbishop O’Scanlon in the twelfth century. It is a modest building with interesting monuments and an 11th-century carved stone high cross.
Downpatrick – Discover the quaint and peaceful Saul Church (said to be the first ecclesiastical site in Ireland), where Saint Patrick began his crusade to convert the Irish. Three miles from Saul is the magnificent Down Cathedral, located on the hill in Dunum, a site sacred to the Celts who had buried their ancestors here for thousands of years before his arrival in Ireland. In the graveyard surrounding the Cathedral in Downpatrick you can visit Saint Patrick’s Grave. Tradition has it that on his death Patrick’s remains were loaded onto an ox-cart, which was then allowed to seek out his final resting place. His grave is marked with a large stone and cross engraved with the name Patric. He is reputed to be buried alongside two other important Irish Saints;