THE recently completed 92 mile Saint Patrick’s Trail was launched today at the Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick.
The signed trail linking key Patrician and Christian Heritage sites from Bangor, Downpatrick and Newry and over to Armagh is an integral part of the Saint Patrick and Christian Heritage Signature Project. It is one of five major capital Signature Projects identified by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB).
NITB Director of Product Development Siobhan McCauley said at the launch, “The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is extremely pleased to be part of the further development of the Saint Patrick story here in the Saint Patrick Centre as well as the wider transformation of Downpatrick, from public realm works to the renovation of the Down Arts Centre”.
“The Saint Patrick’s Trail is the glue that holds the entire Saint Patrick and Christian Heritage Signature Project together. This 92 mile tourist signed driving trail succeeds in creating a regional spread across County Down and into Armagh. It ncourages visitors to explore the area they are in, as well as remain on the trail to explore the next site, generating additional spend in the area.
“The attractions along the Saint Patrick’s Trail – the cathedrals and churches, the historic sites and beautiful scenery of the Mournes and Strangford Lough – all bring to life the story of Saint Patrick creating an authentic and unique visitor experience. An experience that is unrivalled.
“NITB congratulates all the members of the Saint Patrick’s Steering Group for their commitment and dedication to the project. It is through their concerted efforts that this project has now launched, and through their ongoing commitment that it will go from strength to strength.”
The four areas identified along the trail, Armagh, Newry, Downpatrick and Bangor, each have a ‘hub’ which will inform and direct visitors to associated sites within the area. The Saint Patrick Centre is the ‘hub’ for Downpatrick, encouraging visitors to explore more along the trail.
The Saint Patrick and Christian Heritage Signature Project was awarded a capital allocation of £3.5million through the Programme for Government, Tourism Development Scheme. These monies have been used to provide financial assistance to enhance the visitor experience through various projects at sites identified along the trail.
Down District Council Chairman Welcomes The St Patrick’s Trail
Councillor Eamonn O’Neill, Chairman of Down District Council said, “It gives me great pleasure to be associated with the launch of the Saint Patrick’s Trail. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to Downpatrick, the home of many of the sites and stories associated with Saint Patrick.
“This part of Northern Ireland has had unique and long-established links with Saint Patrick. We only have to look around us at the award winning Saint Patrick Centre, or the magnificent structure St Patrick’s Cathedral to see the present day legacy of Patrick, and to realise that this once ancient city and surrounding countryside played a significant part in Patrick’s life, away back in the 5th century. And indeed, only a short walking distance from here, adjacent to Down Cathedral you can visit Saint Patrick’s Grave, where tradition has it he was laid to rest.
“Patrick is special not only because he is a historical figure, but also because his work has created an enduring legacy that continues to grow and be celebrated today, 1,500 years after he lived.
“The Saint Patrick Trail is based around 15 key sites along a 92 mile driving route from Armagh through Newry to Downpatrick and up the Ards Peninsula to Bangor. I’m sure you have already noticed the brown signage installed along the route? Further to this we have erected a number of totem stands and panels along the length of the trail to aid the visitor experience, and provide local information on other associated Christian Heritage sites. I’m sure you will agree, such information helps promote Saint Patrick’s legacy and brings his story to life.
“All five Councils (North Down, Ards, Down, Newry & Mourne, Armagh) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency have worked closely with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) to develop, waymark and interpret the trail in a uniform manor. In addition, circa £5m capital expenditure has been invested in the re-development of many of the Christian Heritage sites and attractions along the trail over the last 2 years, with the potential for a further £2m investment, all as part of the NITB St Patrick Christian Heritage signature project. All of which will greatly help in making Saint Patrick’s Trail a major tourism attraction in years to come, and put this corner of Ireland firmly on the tourist map,” added Councillor O’Neill.