This linear walk begins from the Quoile Countryside Centre, travelling along the Qoile River before taking in sights such as The Mound of Down and the St Patricks Centre.
Distance:4.5 (One Way) miles
Point of interest:The Quoile River, Mound of Down, Inch Abbey, Down Cathedral, St Patricks Centre
OS map:Sheet 21
Terrain:Off road and on road sections
Route:From the Countryside Centre, go through the gate onto Quay Road and turn right. Follow the lane about a quarter of a mile past two small car parks. Shortly after the second, the lane comes to an end at the gateway to Steamboat Lodge. Go down the steps to the left of the lane and turn right at the bottom on the first path. At the end of the path, go up the steps onto the raised platform area which is the old Steamboat Quay.
Carefully descend the other set of steps from the top of the quay to the riverside path, noticing a plaque on the wall. Turn back and look at the stone quay. Follow the riverside path for about a quarter of a mile which runs parallel to the lane you came along. Go past the two small car parks and path up to the Countryside Centre. Cross a small wooden bridge and look for the next fishing platform on the right. Go to the end of the platform and look to the left at the entrance to a long thin channel called ‘The Cut’ which was a short canal created in 1857 to help ships avoid an awkward bend in the river.
Continue along the riverside path until you see the remains of an old sailing ship on the left side of the path behind a wooden fence. Continue along the riverside path ignoring all left forks. At the end, climb the steps and turn right. Almost immediately you are on Quoile Quay (also known as Coal Quay).
Follow the paved path between the river and the road as it bears round to the right. When you see a large car park on the opposite side of the road, take a path on the right leading down to a large wooden jetty that provides access to the river for disabled anglers. Return to the roadside path and turn right. Follow the path for about a quarter of a mile as it follows a large left bend in the river. Look for a vehicle entrance on the right with gateposts. Turn in here where you will find a large stone monument and views to the old floodgates from the riverbank.
Return to the roadside path and turn right. After about 150 metres, and opposite the far entrance to the layby opposite, look for a gap in the wooden fence on the right. Follow this small, unmarked track through the grass to the riverside. Either retrace your steps to the roadside and turn right or, if long grass and nettles don’t concern you, follow the riverside path through the undergrowth until it reaches the steps up to the road. Carefully cross over the road at the bridge, remaining on the same side of the river. Follow the pavement at the side of the road towards Downpatrick for about 100 metres then look for the sign which marks the way back down to the riverside. This next section of the riverside is known as Jane’s Shore.
Follow the path about a quarter of a mile until you reach a boardwalk beside rushes. Continue along the riverside path. Go through a single kissing gate and stop after passing through a triple kissing gate that allows livestock access to the river. Continue along the riverside path passing through several sets of kissing gates. Stop when you reach the next section of boardwalk. Continue along the riverside path until you reach the end where it makes a sharp left turn up a slope to the main road. Follow the path by the road past the metal sculpture of St Patrick. When you are level with the town sign carefully cross the busy road into the small lane opposite. As the lane reaches its highest point and begins to bend to the right look for a farm gate on the left. Go through the gate and follow the track straight across the field under the telegraph wires.
The next gate takes you into the site of the Mound of Down. This is an almost circular site comprising a ditch (where you are standing), outer rampart, inner rampart and summit. Follow the path straight ahead through the walls of the outer rampart. Turn right at the next junction and follow the path for 90 degrees round the mound. At the next junction go straight ahead through the inner rampart and climb up to the top of the mound. Retrace your steps down from the top of the Mound of Down and through the inner rampart. At the first junction turn right and follow the path past an information board and to the far side where modern steps lead through the outer rampart. At the bottom go straight ahead through the ditch and then turn right. Follow the grassy path with the cathedral straight ahead.
Go through the gate in the far corner into the small car park and follow the steep lane up past the primary school. At the top turn right onto Mount Crescent. Follow the road round to the next junction and turn right onto English Street. The Down County Museum (housed in the old gaol) is on the right and is well worth a visit once you have finished this walk. Follow the pavement towards the cathedral. Stop where the road splits around the cathedral and look at the large stone cross on the grassy area. Walk up the road round the left side of the cathedral. At the top of the slope, turn left up the few steps and follow the path to the large stone which marks the grave of St Patrick.
Go back along the path and down the steps. Turn left and walk through the parking area to the gates at the far end that lead into another graveyard. Stop here and look at the view.Do take time to look inside the cathedral. When you are ready, follow the road back down the other side of the cathedral. Go a short way along English street. Opposite the museum look for a set of steps on the right signposted for St Patrick’s Centre. The centre is the large building at the bottom.
To return to the Quoile Countryside Centre by public transport you can catch a bus from the bus station 200 metres away (turn right onto Market Street) but these only go to the old Quoile Bridge (service 14 to Killyleagh), the service is infrequent (1.5-2 hourly) and no buses run on Sundays. From the stop it is then a ¾ mile walk to the Quoile Countryside Centre. Alternatively there is a taxi rank just before the bus station on the opposite side of the road.
To return to the Quoile Countryside Centre on foot it is a 2 mile walk by road. Turn left into the main shopping street (Market Street). At the traffic lights, bear left then right and follow the main road (Church Street). At the large roundabout where the A7 to Belfast goes left, bear right on the A22 for Killyleagh. After a short distance bear right on the A25 (Strangford Road). After 1 mile bear left onto Quay Road and the Quoile Countryside Centre is on the right.
Facilities:Toilets and numerous cafes in Downpatrick. There is also a Tourist Information Centre in the St Patricks Centre off Market St.
Toilets and interpretation in Quoile Visitor Centre - opening hours apply. The Centre is signed off the the Downpatrick to Strangford Rd.
Accessible toilet facilities:Yes
Accessible terrain:Steep section down to river, level flat path, several kissing gates along the walk.
Publication availability:For more information contact Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233
Getting to the start by public transport:
Downpatrick is well served by local buses from various
directions including Belfast. The nearest you can get to the Quoile Countryside Centre is old Quoile Bridge (about ¾ mile away) using service 14 from Downpatrick to Killyleagh (every 1 ½ to 2 hours from Monday to Saturday). Check with Translink before you travel (www.translink.co.uk
Getting to the start by car:Downpatrick is about 20 miles southeast of Belfast on the A7. The Quoile Countryside Centre is just off the main Downpatrick to Strangford road (A25) about one mile northeast of Downpatrick; it is well signposted. There is a free car park at the centre.