Saving the Downpatrick High Cross

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Saving the Downpatrick High Cross

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Downpatrick High Cross

A Mourne granite replica of the Downpatrick High Cross was successfully put in place at the east end of Down Cathedral on Wednesday 16th April 2014.

This followed the removal of the original Cross to nearby Down County Museum for conservation and display in a new gallery to open in 2015.

The Cross was set up by the stonecarvers, S McConnell and Sons of Kilkeel, who scanned the original and created an exact replica from granite quarried on Thomas Mountain, above Newcastle.

The original Cross stood at the foot of the town’s English Street up until 1729, when it was dismantled and the pieces dispersed around the town. Francis Joseph Bigger rebuilt the Cross with the help of Hastings Stonecarvers of Church Street in 1897.

While the reconstructed Cross was held together with slate dowels in 1897, the new replica has been constructed using internal steel rods. The carvings on the Cross have been recreated using scanning technology, in order to get as close to the original as possible. Work is still going on to study the carvings so that the biblical scenes can all be identified.

Slieve Croob, County Down

Start this walk at the Dree Hill car park (J300453). Leave the car park and turn right onto Dree Hill road, follow the road down to Finnis.

At Finnis take the road on the right – Drin Road. Follow this for about 1.5km (1 mile) and opposite No. 66 take the concrete lane on the right – known as ‘The Pass Loaning’. This gives access to the northern slopes of Slieve Croob (The Twelve Cairns), part of the Dramara hills. On the hill follow waymarkers. On meeting the surfaced transmitter road either turn left to enjoy the view from the summit or right to return to the starting point.

48 Hours in The Mournes

Getting Up To The Clouds

From the slopes of Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, the glorious Mourne Mountains are a giant’s carpet that really does ‘sweep down to the sea’. The Mournes are close and easy to access, under two hours’ drive from Dublin, but it’s like being transported to another world – a magical, uplifting experience.

Into The Forests

The mystical mountain landscape inspired CS Lewis to create the land of Narnia; explore the follies, grottos and cascades of Tollymore Forest Park and you’ll understand why. The Cedar Avenue is magnificent and there are river, lake and forest trails of differing lengths. Walking here is unbelievably rewarding; as it is in Castlewellan Forest Park a mere five miles away, and home to the National Arboretum and Annesley Gardens. It’s not just the staggering tree collection, one of Europe’s best, but also the dramatic setting of mountains and lake – kids will love the huge Peace Maze. Try a couple of nights’ camping here and enjoy the peace and tranquillity. Close to the shores of Carlingford Lough are Rostrevor Forest and Kilbroney Forest Park. Mountain, stream, sea and valley all come together here in a celebration of nature.

Getting In Touch With The Great Outdoors

The beautiful mountains themselves are a glorious area for outdoor activity. Whether it’s enjoying something you love, or sampling a new or almost forgotten pastime, there’s more than enough options to fill your day. This land of wild, upland and rolling countryside is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – be sure to leave enough time to enjoy the view!

Mourne Mountains, Climb It… Hike It.

Walking in the Mournes

For climbers, there are routes ranging from introductory to challenging – all with views that are a perfect excuse for taking a breather. You can also visit the highest climbing wall in Ireland at Tollymore Mountain Centre. For walkers, the diverse landscape is both challenging and inspiring. In the high mountain heart are the vast tranquil reservoirs of Silent Valley and Ben Crom; they’re accessible to all and provide beautiful walking routes. Down in the foothills, the green lanes of the Slieve Croob area really are rugged and unspoilt. Easy terrain or high peaks – it’s your choice.

Where the Mountains of Mourne Sweep Down To The Sea

Murlough BayThe popular seaside town of Newcastle is the picturesque gateway to the Kingdom of Mourne. A perfect opportunity to indulge yourself in a local SOAK seaweed bath or book a treatment at the luxurious Slieve Donard Resort and Spa. Unwind further with a stroll along Newcastle’s new boardwalk promenade. Further along the coast don’t forget to stop at Cranfield, near Kilkeel, one of Northern Ireland’s many Blue Flag beaches. Visit the internationally important Murlough National Nature Reserve, the first of its kind in Ireland. The magnificently isolated rippling sand dunes and heath are a favourite with birdlife. The vista of the mountains meeting the sea is unbeatable and the beach is one of the best in County Down.

Sporting Ventures

Amongst the wide choice of local golf courses is the famous Royal County Down, one of the world’s top ten links. Reclining along Dundrum Bay, it deserves its beautiful and challenging reputation. Other golf courses in the area include Warrenpoint and Kilkeel.

Blue Lough, County Down

This walk provides an easy introduction to the Mountains of Mourne giving a mountain atmosphere whilst following gentle gradients and making use of distinct tracks and pathways. Strong footwear is recommended.

A track leading from Carrick Little car park north into the mountains provides a pleasant start to the Blue Lough walk. A stile at this point crosses the Mourne Wall as it descends from Slieve Binnian to the west and continues east towards Long Seefin. The path continues along the old quarry tracks in open heathland. Much of the route was originally paved with granite slabs and there is evidence of stone working along the way. There are two main track junctions between this point and the Blue Lough, the route bears left at both. This pleasant spot where the path crosses the small fast stream, which exits the blue Lough, provides an opportunity to appreciate the view north east to Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland’s highest mountain.

The rocky slopes of Slieve Lamagan rise close by the north and Slieve Binnian lies to the southwest. These granite mountains are a remnant of an underground chamber of lava which cooled slowly and was later exposed to the air after the layers of rock above it had worn away. A short walk (600mm) further along the track to the col or saddle between Slieve Binnian and Slieve Lamagan provides a birds eye view of Ben Crom Dam and the mountain from which it takes its name. The return route is the same as the outward journey.

48 Hours in Saint Patrick’s Country

The cradle of Irish Christianity is really much nearer, and easier to get to, than you might think. In just 48 hours you can touch base with the ancient capitals of counties Armagh and Down, which form part of the Saint Patrick’s Trail. The trail itself comprises of a 92 mile linear driving route and links 15 key Christian Heritage Sites which have been identified as having some connection to Saint Patrick’s life, mission or legacy.

St Patricks Cathedral ArmaghBegin At The Beginning

Just two hours from Dublin you can explore the elegant Georgian streets and tree lined malls of Armagh. Known for 1500 years as the Ecclesiastical Capital of Ireland it is seen traditionally as the seat of both Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Archbishops. Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral occupies the site of Saint Patrick’s fifth century church. Despite a turbulent history, the 13th century site is a place of great serenity. Centuries later, the Saint Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral was built, with its stunning architecture and stained glass windows. Work on this Cathedral commenced in 1840 but was suspended due to the great famine and therefore it was not consecrated until 1904.

Cultural Conversion

Artefacts and collections of archaeological material reflecting Armagh’s leading role in early Christian Ireland can be found at Armagh County Museum, and the 17th and 18th century books belonging to Archbishop Robinson can be found at Armagh Public Library. So unique is this library, hours could be spent researching a vast collection of material relating to Christian heritage in Ireland and Europe.

Interact with St. Patrick’s Life and Legacy

Downpatrick and County Down RailwayOn route to Downpatrick follow the Saint Patrick’s Trail and stop at Bagenal’s Castle in Newry, the site of a 12th Century Cisterian Abbey. Little remains of the Abbey today, but excavations have revealed human remains, pottery and a 12th Century slab of granite bearing a celtic cross. In the graveyard surrounding Down Cathedral in Downpatrick you can visit Saint Patrick’s Grave. Tradition has it that on his death Patrick’s remains were loaded onto an ox-cart, which was then allowed to seek out his final resting place. His grave is marked with a large stone and cross engraved with the name Patric.

Further information about his intriguing life can be found at the Saint Patrick Centre which takes you on a Journey using film and video, and focuses on Saint Patrick’s own words drawn from a confession made near the end of his life. Nearby an impressive collection of early Christian artefacts from carved stone crosses to works of art and material relating to the Saint can be found at the Down County Museum.

From the town you can take the steam train on the Downpatrick and County Down Railway through Saint Patrick’s country to the ruined Cistercian Inch Abbey where medieval scribes recorded many early Christian legends. Three miles from Downpatrick is the quaint and peaceful Saul Church which stands on the site which is thought to have been the first ecclesiastical site in Ireland. From here you can also visit the holy wells at Struell, known for their reputed healing powers or experience the views at the top of Slieve Patrick.

At Strangford take the ferry across to Portaferry and travel to the village of Greyabbey which is known for its antique shops. It is also home to one of the finest examples of anglo Norman ecclesiastical architecture in the ruin of what was once Grey Abbey.

Bangor Abbey, founded in the 6th Century by Saint Comgall of Bangor, was one of the most influential seats of learning in Ireland at the time of his death in 601. The North Down Museum is also home to a copy of the Antiphonary of Bangor one of the most important manuscripts from the early Irish church and ninth century Bangor Bell.

See here for full information on the key attractions on the Saint Patrick’s Trail, or download the St. Patrick’s Trail Map & Discount Vouchers.