While all of Ireland claims St. Patrick as its patron saint, the real St. Patrick is most closely associated with the counties of Northern Ireland.
Even if we can’t claim any Irish blood, many of us hold affection for the patron saint of the Irish, that wonderworker who drove the snakes out of Ireland and brewed the first green beer.
O.K., I’m making that part up about the green beer. And the part about the snakes isn’t true, either (biologists say that Ireland never had any snakes to begin with). But the real story of St. Patrick holds wonders aplenty, and there’s no better place to explore them than in Northern Ireland.
Legend has it that Patrick landed on the coast of County Down in the year 432 and from there began his efforts to bring Christianity to the pagan tribes of Ireland. His memory is recalled at a number of sites throughout Northern Ireland, particularly in County Down.
An added bonus is that Northern Ireland contains some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery, especially along the northern and western seacoast. From the Giant’s Causeway (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) to the magnificent glens of Antrim, Northern Ireland is a visual delight and a walker’s paradise.
In County Down, you can explore the misty Mourne Mountains, lush forest parks, and winding coastline. A County Down must-see is elegant Mount Stewart House, an eighteenth-century estate that boasts one of the finest gardens in the British Isles, and Castlewellan, an impressive Victorian castle that now houses a Christian conference center.
Follow the links below to learn more about sites in Northern Ireland connected to the life of St. Patrick.
- The Life of St. Patrick
- The Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick
- Additional St. Patrick Sites in County Down
Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.