Ireland // Down and Armagh //

The Lecale region

Jutting into the southern reach of Strangford Lough, the Lecale Peninsula is above all St Patrick country. Ireland’s patron saint was a Roman Briton, first carried off as a youth from somewhere near Carlisle in northern England by Irish raiders. He spent six years in slavery in Ireland before escaping home again and, at the age of 30, decided to return to Ireland as a bishop, to spread Christianity. Christianity had already reached Ireland a while earlier, probably through traders and other slaves, and, indeed, St Patrick was not in fact the first bishop of Ireland, but he remains easily the most famous. He arrived in Ireland this second time, according to his biographer Muirchú (also his erstwhile captor, converted), on the shores of the Lecale region, and his first Irish sermon was preached at Saul in 432. Today the region commemorates the association with sites at Struell Wells and Saul, as well as at Downpatrick.

The Lecale Way is an almost forty-mile waymarked walking tour of the peninsula starting in Raholp and running to Strangford and thence around the coast to Clough and onwards to Newcastle (maps available from the Downpatrick tourist office). If you’ve had enough of St Patrick and his seeming connection with nearly every landmark, alternative ways of exploring the peninsula are the nature rambles and horse rides available at the Quoile Countryside Centre just outside Downpatrick.