Ireland is famed for its spectacular natural beauty – fertile green scenery bordered by dramatically craggy coastal landscapes – but despite this, Ireland has no signature walking route that truly showcases the scenery of this land, as well as capturing its character and history. Saint Patrick's Way: The Pilgrims Walk, launched earlier this year, could be the answer. The Way is an 132km (82-mile) sign-posted walking trail between Armagh and Downpatrick, covering 10 sites that are important to the life of Saint Patrick and to the history of Christian Heritage in Ireland. This region is not only key to the story of Saint Patrick and Christianity, however, but to the story of Ireland itself. The stops on the Way cover history stretching from the times of the ancient seat of kings in Armagh to medieval castles in Newry and all the way up to modern times in state-of-the-art visitor centres in Newcastle. The 10 stops along the route are:
1. Navan Centre and Fort, Armagh
2. Armagh City, Armagh, resting place of Brian ború, High King of Ireland, and
3. The Palace Demesne, Armagh
4. Scarva Visitor Centre and Tearoom, Banbridge
5. Acton Visitor Centre, Banbridge
6. Sean Hollywood Arts Centre, Newry
7. Bagenal’s Castle, Newry
8. Kilbroney, Rostrevor
9. Newcastle Visitor Information Centre, Newcastle
10. The Saint Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, St Patrick’s was buried here in the grounds of Down Cathedral
This history is set among some of the most spectacular scenery found in Ireland, covering a range of terrain and landscapes – fields, streams, forests, and towns, with clearly marked signs pointing each walker in the right direction. The beauty of this walk is that it’s ever changing.
The trail is suitable for leisure walkers and pilgrims alike. The walks are flexible and can range from ½ day to full day, with the route being tackled in stages across several days. Generally the Way can be completed in 6 to 10 days depending on pace and fitness.
They have created an excellent resource in the Pilgrim’s Passport which provides a useful map of the route along with some interesting information on each stop. It can be stamped at each of the 10 locations and presented at the completion of the Way for a Certificate of Achievement.
The Way may follow in the footsteps of Ireland’s patron saint, but it certainly isn’t geared only towards Catholics or pilgrims. It is a journey though breath-taking scenery, and through the history of Ireland itself.