This 82-mile Trek Through Stunning Parks and Coastlines Is Northern Ireland's Best-kept Secret
The St. Patrick's Way is a one-week trek through Northern Ireland's most dazzling parks, peaks, and coasts, with odes to the trail's namesake saint along the way.
Odes to St. Patrick abound throughout Ireland, but few pair the saint's history and the Emerald Isle's beauty as splendidly as the 82-mile St. Patrick's Way. This long-distance pilgrim walk, known as Ireland's Camino, winds through a jade patchwork of Northern Ireland's most pristine parks, peaks, and coasts.
Walkers follow St. Patrick's footsteps for six to 10 days, a journey bookended by Armagh, Ireland's oldest city, and Downpatrick, the saint's final resting place. Breathtaking scenery — from the Mourne Mountains, which inspired C.S. Lewis' fantastical Narnia, to the unspoiled Dundrum Bay — paints the way.
With 82 miles of history and scenery, one would think this trek is packed with tourists — but that's not the case. The trail opened in 2012, and remains virtually crowd-free (even before the COVID-19 pandemic). Tim Campbell, director of The St. Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, said his team registered 1,600 unguided and 700 guided St. Patrick's Way walkers in 2020. (For scale, the famed Camino de Santiago sees over 300,000 pilgrims each year.)
These figures prove that St. Patrick's Way is more than an adventurous ode to the beloved saint — it's one of Northern Ireland's best-kept travel secrets. But with its deep backstory and dazzling beauty, Ireland's Camino won't stay a secret for long.
Scenery and History Along St. Patrick's Way
As a tribute to St. Patrick, Ireland's Camino has roots in Catholic history, but it's designed to welcome nature lovers from all walks of life. It starts in Ireland's spiritual center, Armagh, just 40 miles southeast of Belfast. In this ancient city, points of interest span the St. Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral, the Navan Fort of ancient kings, and lush green apple orchards as far as the eye can see. In fact, St. Patrick even planted an apple tree in this fertile area, nicknamed Orchard County.