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The Story Of Saint Patrick

Follow the Footsteps of Saint Patrick

Patrick was born in northern Roman Britain around 387, yet more than 1,600 years later a multitude of historical associations, myths, legends and stories about him still abound in the land that he converted and loved.

St Patrick's Heartland is concentrated around the city and county of Armagh, and the town of Downpatrick and County Down, but it also stretches out to places like Slemish Mountain in County Antrim.

After his capture, legend has it that Patrick was forced to tend sheep and pigs as a slave on Slemish. Nowadays climbing Slemish in his honour is not just a walk in his saintly footsteps, but a chance to simulate his encounter with the wilderness, serenity and beauty of the local countryside.

Patrick eventually escaped and sailed back to his family in Britain. But prompted by a vision, he chose to return to Ireland on his Christian mission. He came up Strangford Lough and today it is well worth lingering at the many ancient sites and attractions that speak of him around these parts.

At the St Patrick's Centre, there's an exhibition dedicated to telling his story. At Saul there's a gorgeous replica of an early church and round tower on the spot of his reputed first sermon and church in Ireland. On the crest of Slieve Patrick there's a huge statue in his honour, and panoramic views of the spot where he first landed. And there's much more.

A tour or a stay in this historic County Down also connects you back to Patrick through a host of healing wells, high crosses, standing stones, old abbeys and welcoming villages where the locals will regale you with a welcome and a tale.

In 445, Patrick established the Seat of Armagh as the centre of Christian learning in Ireland. Today, with two towering cathedrals celebrating the saint's, life, legacy and mission, Armagh is a rich cultural experience and one of the highlights of the Heartland of St Patrick.

The cathedrals are a must, but with its close proximity to the archaeological site of the ancient Celts at Navan Fort, Armagh can even take you back to the times before Patrick. For those in search of history Armagh County Museum also houses artefacts and collections reflecting the city's leading role in early Christian Ireland, while Armagh Public Library holds rare and valuable books, illuminated manuscripts and ancient Irish artefacts, gems and coins.

There's a lot more than history though. Armagh's elegant Georgian streets and lively shops, bars and restaurants will offer entertaining complements to your discovery of St Patrick.

Patrick died in 493 and his remains are believed to be buried in the grounds of Down Cathedral in Downpatrick. Go there: it's one of the most evocative sites in Ireland.

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