St Patrick's Day in Northern Ireland - What to see in Downpatrick

Dufferin Coaching Inn is located just a stone's throw away from Downpatrick, a town famous for its Monastic heritage. Known as Saint Patrick’s town, the quiet area comes alive during the St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

We caught up with an expert on the area’s historic inheritance, Dr Thérèse Cullen from Irish Monastic Tours who told us the must-see attractions in County Down during St. Patrick’s Day. “The story of St Patrick provides elements that everyone can relate to. Saint Patrick is part of our common Christian heritage on this island, as he predates sectarian disputes and has been claimed by both communities,” said Dr Cullen. 

“While St Patrick’s Day has become a day most commonly spent in the pub, it’s important to remember why we celebrate the day. What better way to kick off this year’s celebrations than by getting outdoors and experiencing the same landmarks as Patrick did fifteen centuries ago?” 

Slieve Patrick

Trace the footsteps of the town’s patron saint with a dander down Saint Patrick’s Trail and a scenic climb to Slieve Patrick where you can view the largest statue of St Patrick in the world!

The Parade

Thousands of people flock to the main street of Downpatrick each year to watch the vibrant cross-community carnival parade. The entertaining floats range from traditional Irish dancing performances and live music of marching bands, to energetic exotic dance routines from far-off cultures and elaborate art exhibitions from the local community. 

The Saint Patrick's Centre

Step through the state-of-the-art visitor’s centre located in the heart of Downpatrick. The modern museum houses some of the most treasured relics relating to Patrick’s life. Narrated by award-winning Irish actor Ciarán Hinds, visitors are guided through a chronological tour of Patrick’s journey from slavery to sainthood. 

Holy Wells of Struell

Although they date back before the time of Saint Patrick, this magical site is the backdrop of four holy wells, which once upon a time people visited seeking cures from the sacred waters. Legend has it that St Patrick used to come from nearby Saul to bathe in the waters, and religious pilgrims still visit the spot to this day!

Dr Cullen runs tours of historical Irish monastic sites throughout the year and throughout Ireland. For St Patrick’s Day she will host a series of special tours every Saturday in March.  Tickets can be booked directly through Irish Monastic Tours www.irishmonastictours.com.

In addition to these ever-popular Saint Patrick’s Day activities, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is offering a fun-filled 10-day festival to celebrate the achievements of Saint Patrick. The festivities, kicked off with an opening ceremony and afternoon concert from the Newry, Mourne and Down Youth Trad Orchestra, will feature a range of activities, from re-enactments of Patrick’s journey in Ireland to colourful carnival parades suited for the entire family. Here’s a flavour of what to expect over the next 10 days:

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Saints & Scholars Concert

Set to take place on Thursday 15th March at Down Cathedral, this event promises a remarkable celebration of St. Patrick’s heritage and culture through music, song, poetry and dance. Hosted by Gerry Kelly, the night will display the many different styles of Irish music from traditional ballads to contemporary songs. Just visit here for more information.

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Saint Patricks Day Walk

Taking place at Castle Ward Estate, the Saint Patrick’s Day Walk offers the chance to take in the stunning landscapes around Lecale and Saint Patrick’s country. Refreshments are also available along the way whether you prefer a little whiskey or tea and coffee.

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Down County Museum

On Saturday 17th March, Down County Museum will offer families a great day out filled with Irish dancing and music, folk music, storytelling, and circus style entertainment from clowns, acrobats and jugglers. Visitors can also view the exhibitions like Ballyhosset to Bengal, Saul Pottery: the ceramics of Willie Taggart, and Faces of the Lough.

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Saint Patrick’s Day cross-community Carnival Parade

Noted as a highlight of the Saint Patrick’s festival celebrations in Newry, the cross-community Carnival Parade taking place in the City Centre at 12pm on the 17th March, will focus on the theme of ‘Myths and Legends’ and will provide an abundance of colourful display floats and bands. Families can also enjoy a range of free activities including music, face painting, and stalls from 1pm – 4pm at Hill Street in Newry.

Guests at Dufferin Coaching Inn and visitors to the local area are advised that road closures and shuttle services will be in place throughout the local area as we celebrate St Patrick’s Day.  Please visit Translink.co.uk for more information on public transportation options and  http://trafficwatchni.com/roadworks-report for information pertaining to road closures and parades.