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Walking the Way of Saint Patrick 1

Walking the Way of Saint Patrick

Overview

Follow in the footsteps of Saint Patrick on a pilgrimage walking trail offering some of the best walking in Northern Ireland. 

Saint Patrick, Ireland’s most beloved saint, was the missionary who brought Christianity to Ireland’s island. This pilgrim’s adventure follows a 132 km trail connecting Armagh and Downpatrick – the two locations most closely related to Saint Patrick. Starting from the spiritual centre of Armagh, the tour takes the scenic route through the stunning Mourne Mountains, through beautiful forest to the seaside town of Newcastle, winding its way through the untamed landscape of Murlough Bay Nature Reserve, by Dundrum Castle, Tyrella Beach and finally to Downpatrick.

Along the way, taste some freshly caught juicy langoustines, turbot and shellfish. Have a delicious traditional apple tart or a glass of cooled cider from fruit, grown on local farms where orchards have been nurtured for over 100 years.

Don’t forget to stamp your Pilgrim Passport at the ten specified locations along the route and present your completed stamped Passport at The Saint Patrick Centre to receive your Certificate of Achievement.

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival Armagh 

Welcome to Armagh. The spiritual centre of the island of Ireland and its oldest city is the starting point for exploring Saint Patrick’s life and legacy. Often called the ‘Orchard County’, Armagh has 4,000 acres of apple orchards. Beautiful pink blossom adorns the trees in May at the start of apple season. Visit The Navan Centre on the outskirts of Armagh, or relax and take in the vast history and beauty of the Cathedral City.

Day 2: Armagh to Scarva | 25 km / 15.6 mi

After hearty breakfast start walking from Armagh, passing Lowry Lakes then Gosford Forest, then on towards Tandragee. The destination for this section is Scarva, with its award-winning floral displays and canal paths, close to the town of Banbridge.

Day 3: Scarva to Newry | 20 km / 12 mi

Today’s journey is via Newry Canal towpath, on mainly flat waterside paths. Newry Canal is the oldest summit-level canal in Britain and Ireland and opened in 1742, connecting Portadown and historic city of Newry. The city itself is vibrant, with bars,
restaurants, as well as an interesting heritage trail and flourishing arts scene.

Day 4: Newry to Rostrevor | 15 km / 9.3 mi

Starting from Newry soon you will be rewarded with wonderful views of Carlingford Lough and the Cooley & Mourne Mountains on either side. This area on the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland borderlands is steeped in folklore which is told in Rostrevor in both Words & Music. The charming village of Rostrevor on the shores of Carlingford Lough is said to have inspired C.S. Lewis in his writings of the tails of Narnia. St. Bronagh’s a disciple of St. Patrick set up a monastery in the area which ruins can be seen today and date back to the 6th centenary.

  • Walking for the day: 15 km (9.3 miles)
  • Accommodation: The Sands B&B or similar

Day 5: Rostrevor to Hilltown | 12 km / 7.1 mi

Today your walk will take you into the Mourne Mountains, firstly through Kilbroney Forest then onto open hillside trails to the village of Hilltown. Your overnight accommodation is located in a charming little farming village. With fewer than 1000 people, Hilltown has the impressive eight pubs in the high street, a legacy from 18th-century smugglers who shared out their contraband here.

  • Walking for the day: 12 km (7.1 miles)
  • Accommodation: Clonmurr B&B or similar

Day 6: Hilltown to Newcastle | 20 km / 12 mi

After breakfast you will continue on the trail through the Mourne Mountains, today’s trail is mostly on a mixture of open hillside and forest tracks along a very picturesque walk in the lower mountains. Your second half of the day will take you through Tollymore Forest Park and into the seaside town of Newcastle where you can relax and unwind along the towns beautiful promenade surrounded but Slieve Donard in the background and Dundrum Bay in the foreground.

Day 7: Newcastle to Tyrella Beach | 18 km / 11.2 mi

Leaving Newcastle, you pass the world-famous Royal County Down Golf Club that hosted the Irish Open 2015. The path then leads you to Murlough National Nature Reserve. After exploring the ancient dune ecosystem, follow the inner bay to the villages of Dundrum and Clough. The coastal path runs along a disused railway line that connected Belfast and Newcastle. On one side, you’ll see the tidal the coastline of the inner bay and on the other a wooded area. Look out for wading birds on the mudflats as this is an important habitat for them.

  • Walking for the day: 18 km (11.2 miles)
  • Accommodation: Bright House B&B or similar

Day 8: Tyrella to Downpatrick | 16 km / 10 mi

Today you will walk through what is known locally as St. Patrick’s Country. In Ireland, the story of Christianity began here, where Saint Patrick brought his boat ashore on Strangford Lough. Walk Saint Patrick’s footsteps, from the site where he established his first church to his final resting place.

Day 9: Departure

Your tour ends after a hearty breakfast, and you begin your onward journey.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodations on this tour include a mix of welcoming B&Bs and guesthouses. All places have been carefully hand-picked by us and their quality is regularly monitored. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

Click to view default hotels

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal or higher value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is included on all days. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. You can have dinner at the guesthouse you are staying at or at the village inns and restaurants.

Difficulty & terrain

This itinerary is suitable for leisure walking and pilgrimages (read more about difficulty grades). The routes are sign marked, and the itinerary is easy to follow. The route covers varied topography, from rolling hills to canal towpaths. Every day offers different views and terrain, with a combination of off- and on-road trails. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

This trip is available from early April till the end of October. The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season. Northern Ireland’s climate is oceanic, with cold, rainy winters and mild summers. Atlantic weather fronts move relentlessly one after another over the country, resulting in a rapid succession of cloudiness and sunshine, rain showers and subsequent improvements. The least rainy city is Armagh, in the southern inland areas, with 810 mm (32 in). The temperature usually becomes relatively mild by the second half of May, when, however, nights can still be quite cold. In return, spring is the least rainy season and the sunniest of the year. From June to August, temperatures are enjoyable for walking: average highs are around 18/19°C (64/66 °F).

Getting there

Up-to-date travel advice on the United Kingdom is available here (for Canadian citizens) and here (for US citizens).

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended airports for this tour are Dublin (DUB) or Belfast (BFS).

By train or bus
  • From Dublin airport, T1 Zone 14, take the direct bus Bus X4 towards Armagh (1h 25min).
  • From Belfast airport take bus 600 for a 15 minutes journey to the bus station. Hop on one of the many buses to Armagh (approx. 1h).
  • Ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast: Sail between Scotland and Northern Ireland 6 times daily in a crossing time from only 2 hours 15 minutes so you can travel when it suits you.
  • Ferry from Liverpool to Belfast: Twice daily direct link from the heart of England to Northern Ireland with crossing time approximately 8 hours with a choice of both day and night sailings.
  • For more information, please visit StenaLine and use the Omio planner above.

Inclusions

Included

  • 8 nights in private en-suite rooms (B&Bs and guesthouses)
  • 8 breakfasts
  • Detailed journey documentation and practical information (maps and waterproof route notes, details of restaurants and places of interest along the way)
  • Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (up to 20 kg per person)
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights along the trail are bookable upon request

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