Travel back to the past with real vintage steam trains to Inch Abbey and King Magnus' Grave, on Ireland's only full-sized heritage railway. The Downpatrick and County Down Railway runs through the drumlin countryside of County Down, St. Patrick's Country - over the River Quoile and under the graceful Down Cathedral to the peaceful ruins of Inch Abbey. With a mix of steam and diesel trains, and vintage carriages, there's plenty for train fans of all ages - from wee kids to "big kids".
Built on the trackbed of part of the Belfast and County Down Railway, which ran to Newcastle, the old line was closed and abandoned nearly 60 years ago, the volunteer enthusiasts have laid nearly three miles of track to create Ireland’s only full-sized heritage railway.
Steam locomotives from the 1920s and 30s, or diesels from the 60s, convey their passengers in 50 to 100 year old carriages past rebuilt railway buildings and into the County Down countryside to the terminus at Inch Abbey, crossing the River Quoile on its way to the peaceful remains of the 12th Century monastery.
At Downpatrick Station, a modern visitor centre, the 'Carriage Gallery', tells the story of the development of railways in Ireland from the 19th century to today, and boasts six vintage passenger carriages - some of same type that starred in the 1952 John Wayne classic 'The Quiet Man' - the second oldest surviving steam locomotive in Ireland, one 1980s prototype Railbus and four goods wagons, including the former Belfast & County Down Railway's "Royal Saloon", which carried the future Kings George V and VI, as well as King Edward VII and their consorts.
The station houses an exhibition of railway memorabilia, and there is a model railway on the ground floor for children. Refreshments are served in an 1950s buffet carriage.
Trains run on weekends during the summer months with other special events at St. Patrick's Day, Easter, May Day, Halloween & Christmas.
NB. This map is based on the postcode and so may not reflect the exact location.
Prices:Fares are £5.50 for adults and £4.50 for children, while those under three go free.
Fares for special events such as Hallowe'en, Christmas and Easter may vary.
Opening times:St. Patrick's Day
The Easter Eggspress - Easter Saturday, Sunday & Monday
May Day and Spring Bank Holidays
Weekends mid-June to mid-September
The Phantom Flyer - Halloween (end of October)
The Lapland Express - December weekends
Location / Directions
From Belfast, take the A24 (Ormeau-Saintfield Road) and follow the signs for Newcastle/Downpatrick. At the Carryduff roundabout, take the A7 for Downpatrick. You will pass through the villages of Saintfield and Crossgar.
When you reach the roundabout at the outskirts of Downpatrick follow the signs for Clough/Newcastle (the A25). Make sure you make a right turn at the second set of traffic lights in the town centre into Market Street. When in Market Street, watch out for the Ulsterbus (Translink) station on your right on the edge of town.
Just past the bus station you will see a brown direction sign on the right hand side marked 'Railway Museum.' Turn right and the railway station is in front of you across the car park. Welcome!
If you are travelling from the south, follow the signs for Newcastle or Castlewellan. From either of these towns then follow the signs for Clough or Downpatrick (the A25).
At Clough roundabout take the A25 Downpatrick road. As you approach Downpatrick, watch out for Safeways supermarket on the left. Just past Safeways, on the left, you will see a brown sign marked 'Railway Museum.' Turn left and the railway station is right in front of you. The building in the photograph is the station. Welcome!