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.
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. So why not take along a picnic to the Abbey on a warm day?
Photographic display and model railway in station house.
Trains run during the summer months with other special events at St. Patrick's Day, Easter, May Day, Halloween & Christmas.
Summer 2014: Trains will run from 15th June until 15th September on Saturdays and Sundays, with the first train leaving at 2pm and the last train returning from Inch Abbey at 5pm. As an extra treat, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency will be providing something special for train visitors - a living-history 'Monk' who will greet passengers arriving from Downpatrick, and provide a talk about the ruins of the Abbey and life for the people who lived and worked there.
In 2012 the Downpatrick & County Down Railway gained one thing it's always been missing: a modern visitors' centre.
Housed in a spectacular building, which harks back to the great Victorian termini, the 'Carriage Gallery' is Ireland’s only dedicated carriage museum which tells the story of the development of railways in Northern Ireland from the 19th century to today.
The 'Gallery' displays vintage vehicles from all over Ireland, as well as carriages unique to the old railway which used to run between Belfast and Downpatrick, Newcastle, Ardglass and Bangor, as well as artefacts and an audio-visual exhibition.
Railway Chairman, Michael Collins, commented on the attraction, "This is the only centre in Ireland that gives the limelight to carriages, not the engines, as it was the carriages which carried the people that used the railways and it is through them that we can tell the social history of the areas and the people the railways served."
The 'Gallery' boasts six vintage passenger carriages, 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.
Already causing a stir are two ancient six-wheeled carriages from the Midland Great Western Railway, from the 1890s which operated from Dublin to Galway, and the same type that starred in the 1952 John Wayne classic 'The Quiet Man'. Hidden from view under tarpaulins since they were donated by Irish Rail in 2007, their dilapidated condition creates a direct contrast to the three fully restored vintage carriages on display.
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.
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!