In the region around Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, you can visit several sites connected to St. Patrick.
The first is the Cathedral of Down, a medieval Benedictine abbey refurbished in the eighteenth century.
When Patrick died it is said that oxen carried his body back to that part of Ireland he loved best, and his body was interred here on this hill that overlooks Downpatrick. In fulfillment of an ancient prophecy that foretold three saints would share this most-hallowed ground, the bones of St. Columba and St. Bridget are also said to be buried here, making it one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Ireland for more than a thousand years.
The nearby village of Saul contains more memories of Patrick. An exquisite little church stands on the site where Patrick is said to have preached his first church service.
Inside are a few pews and a lovely stained glass window depicting the saint, while an ancient graveyard with tumbled-down stones sleeps outside. On a neighboring hill known as Slieve Patrick stands a massive statue of the saint, dedicated in 1933. The spot offers an expansive view of the pastoral, rolling countryside of County Down.
Finally, travelers should visit the Struell Wells, a set of holy wells located in a serene, rural valley two miles east of Downpatrick. These holy springs, which are sheltered by picturesque stone houses, have been associated with Patrick for many centuries. Legend has it that these were the first springs to be blessed by the saint, and the waters are thought to have the ability to heal both body and spirit.
View Larger Map
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.