Northern Ireland / Travels

Counties Armagh & Down: St Patrick and some mountain biking

We stayed in a lovely B&B in County Armagh, with views over the countryside and a short drive from a teeny tiny little village (if it can even be called a village) with a characterful pub where we ate the two nights we stayed in the area. We spent one day driving around the countryside, seeing the largest cross in the country (Ardboe Cross, below), St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh (the first church St Patrick founded, which contains a military chapel) and driving through the Mourne Mountains (after making a trip to visit a castle which ended up being closed. Bummer.)

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One of the newer stained glass windows in St Patrick’s Cathedral.

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Roll of Honour in the military chapel

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St Patrick’s Cathedral

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Ardboe Cross

The next morning we woke up to the sound of rain outside, our first non-sunny day since arriving in Northern Ireland. We had expected this though, thanks to the forecast, and it was meant to clear up by the afternoon.

What we were not expecting, however, was what we found when we left our bedroom to head down to breakfast, noticed the sound of rain had stopped, and looked out the window on our way out:

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Snow! It was snowing! In April!

Although the snow fell for close to two hours, by the time we left it had stopped, and as we drove we observed that the snow had not reached the lower altitudes, or it had rapidly melted.

In the morning we dropped past Downpatrick and visited another St Patrick’s Cathedral – this time, the place where St Patrick is supposedly buried. We didn’t stay long as the visitor centre wasn’t opened, but we did walk through the church yard and see the rock marking St Patrick’s (supposed) burial spot.

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We spent most of our last day at an estate called Castlewellan, which is known for its stately home and opportunities for outdoor activities such as mountain biking. We hired two bikes, and both rode around the lake (on a green trail) before Andre went off to ride part of the red trail. The bike hire at Castlewellan is quite expensive (£20), however it was the only place which had bike hire actually at the trail head (rather than hiring it in a town and having to transport the bike to the trails – as you can see from the size of our car above, that would not have been practical).

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In hindsight, I would say the southern counties of Northern Ireland aren’t really worth the 3 nights we spent there. If you had a lot of time to spend in Ireland then there are interesting things to see in the area, but not really worth making the time to see, if that makes sense. Our last night was spent at a B&B just down the road from Belfast’s international airport, from which point we flew to the Netherlands the next day.

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