St Patricks Trail
|St Patrick's Trail|
|Location Map ( geo)|
|Via:||Portaferry, Downpatrick, Newry, Newtownhamilton|
|Distance:||87 miles (140 km)|
|Meets:||Mourne Coastal Route, Ballyquintin Scenic Loop, Slieve Croob Scenic Loop, Roosley Scenic Loop|
St Patrick's Trail is a tourist route across southern Northern Ireland from Bangor to Armagh. It, and attractions related to the Saint, are marked with the outline of a mitre with a crook in it - representing Patrick's role as Bishop.
Beginning outside Bangor Abbey and near the North Down Museum - both sites for the St Patrick tourists to visit, the Trail heads south on the A21: a major 4-lane road to Newtownards. At Newtownards, the route takes the scenic A20 along the coast of Strangford Lough. This route passes by the National Trust property of Mount Stewart, and from Greyabbey, a short diversion up the B5 from Greyabbey takes you to Grey Abbey - another Patrick site. At the bottom of Strangford Lough, the A20 ends at Portaferry, which has a castle and aquarium just off the route. Here, the Trail meets the Mourne Coastal Route and Ballyquintin Scenic Loop before taking the ferry to Strangford.
West of Strangford, the A2/Mourne Coastal Route follows the coast, but the Trail takes the A25, past Castle Ward, and to Downpatrick. The Patrick site of Saul Church is not far east of the town, off the route but signed from it. Downpatrick is St Patrick's Town, with the Saint's Grave in it, along with non-Patrick tourist attractions. Inch Abbey, another Patrick site, is across the river northwest of the town, just off the A7 or accessible by a train ride on the Heritage Railway from the town centre.
Continuing along the A25, at Clough there is another castle, and the coast road passes just south of the route. From here, the route crosses the Mourne Mountains towards Newry. At Annsborough, the Slieve Croob Scenic Loop ends its journey around Northern Ireland's highest mountain (while lies a few miles north of the Trail) - a journey which begins just a bit further along the road at Castlewellan. At Kilcoo, the road takes the B8, which is the faster route to Newry than the A25 via Rathfriland. At Hilltown, the Roosley Scenic Loop provides two routes south through the mountains to the coast at Rostrevor.
On the edge of Newry, the route picks up the A25 again, taking it to the city centre and a junction with the A28. Some 800 yards to the left, on the appropriately named Abbey Way D2 section of the A28 is Bagenal's Castle: a castle built on the earlier abbey and rediscovered relatively recently. However, the trail turns right and heads north-east along the old Belfast road to pick up the A28 bypass and taking that around the city to meet the A25 again at the A1 junction west of the city. Just west of the city is Derrymore House, another National Trust property, and after that it follows the northern edge of the Ring of Gullion AONB, with the bulk of the AONB easily reached by the B30 on the left 2 miles further on.
At Newtownhamilton, the road heads north on the A29, before taking the B31 rather than heading via Keady. This route climbs from Newtownhamilton and provides a nice view of Armagh as we approach. On arriving in Armagh - St Patrick's City - the route heads around the town centre, before entering it at its north end. Upon returning to the main road, the Trail ends. Armagh city centre has many features related to St Patrick, including two cathedrals and the Trian museum.