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Celebrate The Real St Patrick

St Patrick’s Day. What does it mean to you? A riot of colour and noise, shamrocks and greenery, funny hats and fireworks?

You could be virtually anywhere in the world on March 17th, the day of St Patrick’s death, and join in the fun. It was in New York, after all, that the first parade was held in 1762 and in the US where the celebration of Ireland’s patron saint first became truly spectacular.

But what if you want to engage with the real St Patrick?

Rediscover his connection to the ancient Celtic spirituality he encountered when he began his crusade to convert the Irish to Christianity.  Trace his footsteps in the beautiful landscape in which his spirit is embedded in tradition and legend.

That is only possible in one area. Armagh and Down, St Patrick’s Country.

Here you can visit a replica of his first church in Ireland, near where he landed at Saul by Strangford Lough. You can explore the cathedral where his first stone church stood in Armagh, the settlement he founded as the home of Irish Christianity. And you can make a pilgrimage to his grave in Down Cathedral, Downpatrick around the corner from the only centre devoted to his life and work.

And the best time to visit is during the Home of Saint Patrick Festival, held each March. It has been created not just to entertain but to capture the man, his vision and his extraordinary achievements in the world he knew and loved.

Refugee, slave, peacemaker and unifier – Patrick was a man for all times and the festival celebrates his significance to today as well as his historic achievements and importance to Irish identity.

From fires at dawn at the Navan Fort, the ancient home of Ulster’s kings and queens and the Ulster Cycle of Myths, to sunset at the Mound of Down in Downpatrick, the sites Patrick himself knew well are used for all kinds of magical events. So is St Patrick’s (Church of Ireland) Cathedral in Armagh, on the site of Patrick’s first stone church, and St Patrick’s (Roman Catholic) Cathedral, on the site believed to have been chosen by Patrick.

Whatever time of year you choose to come, for a truly unforgettable experience why not take the St Patrick’s Way: The Pilgrim’s Walk. This 82-mile signed walking trail starts at the Navan Centre in Armagh and take you through many beautiful landscapes to sites connected to Saint Patrick and Christian Heritage, ending at Down Cathedral, where he is buried. A special Pilgrim’s Passport, available from the Navan Centre, can be signed at ten locations along the route and stamped at the St Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick. It can be walked in its entirety (eight to ten days) or in various stages at different times.

Rediscover his connection to the ancient Celtic spirituality he encountered when he began his crusade to convert the Irish to Christianity.

From family fun and inspirational musicians from around the world to spectacular choirs in cathedral settings, literary and historic talks, illuminations, comedy, dance and drama and tours of beautiful St Patrick’s Country, the Home of Saint Patrick Festival has something for everyone.

And on March 17th itself a spectacular cross community procession of floats and bands and fancy dress offers an unforgettable experience for all the family.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!