HAL 2019 World – Day 102 Belfast, Northern Ireland

May 8, 2019 Paul Groves

Today is all about St. Patrick.  Sorry to say but St. Patrick is a Saint in name only as he has never been officially canonized.  However he is highly revered by both Catholics and Protestants alike as an extremely important person in bringing Christianity to Ireland.

Today’s excursion was entitled “A Day In St. Patrick’s Country” visiting two of the major sites in St. Patrick’s life and the ruins of Grey Abbey.

We boarded the bus and drove through the countryside to our first stop at the town of Downpatrick.  

Upon arrival we visited the St. Patrick Centre where we watched a 1/2 hour film about the life of St. Patrick.  When the film was over we had some free time to shop in the Centre’s gift shop.

Located on the top of the hill behind the Centre is the Downpatrick Cathedral where the reputed grave of St. Patrick is located.  After touring the cathedral and visiting the grave, we had an hour for lunch.

Both of us were sorely in need of a haircut, so after we had lunch at Subway, we walked around Downpatrick where we found a barbershop!  After 30 minutes we both had new haircuts.  The lady that cut Ron’s hair was really funny and was getting ready to to go Disneyworld next week.  We compared notes on what she should see.

After we left Downpatrick, we traveled to the town of Saul where we visited the modern day Saul Church. This is the location of St. Patrick’s first church which was a barn given to him by a local chieftain, Dichu, who he converted.  Close by, on the crest of Slieve Patrick hill is a massive statue of Saint Patrick with bronze panels showing scenes from his life and the stations of the cross.  Reportedly, Saint Patrick died here in Saul on 17 March 461. Outside in the graveyard is a monk’s cell where a monk would live in isolation and pursue his religious meditations.

Our next stop was at Grey Abbey which is a ruined Cistercian Priory.  It was founded in 1193 and dissolved in 1541 as part of Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church.   The Montgomery family, whose estate is nearby, was granted ownership and they re-roofed the abbey in 1626.  They also refurbished it for use as a parish church. It was used until 1778 after which it began to fall into ruin.  Even in ruins it is still an impressive place to see with its own quiet beauty.

After a long day we headed back to the ship.  Tomorrow’s port of call is Dublin.