Top Historic Sights in Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Explore the historic highlights of Downpatrick

St. Patrick's Grave

Outside Down Cathedral on the highest part of Cathedral Hill lies the grave of Saint Patrick, the apostle of Ireland. By the early medieval period Patrick’s grave had become an important site for the developing church and an important monastery had grown around it. At this time the tradition of the hill being the burial place of saints Brigid and Columcille had been added to the legend of Patrick, giving rise to the wel ...
Founded: 5th century AD | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Down Cathedral

Down Cathedral location is an ancient ecclesiastical site dedicated to the Holy Trinity recorded in the 12th century. In 1124 St Malachy became Bishop of Down, and set about repairing and enlarging the Cathedral. In 1177, Sir John de Courcy (Norman conqueror of Ulster) brought in Benedictine monks and expelled Augustinian monks settled there by St Malachy. De Courcy, who had enraged the king by his seizure of la ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Ballynoe Stone Circle

Ballynoe Stone Circle is a large and complex site which appears as a large circle of over 50 closely spaced upright stones, some as much as six feet tall, with some small gaps, surrounding a space about 110 ft across. Two of the fallen stones have cavities which could be artificial cup-marks. The stones of the outer circle are nearly all composed of local Silurian grit, but a few are granite erratics. Two of the stone ...
Founded: 3000 BCE | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Audley's Castle

Audley"s Castle is a three-storey tower house named after its 16th century owner, John Audley. There are thousands of small stone towers similar to Audley"s Castle in the Irish countryside. They are one of the commonest of archaeological sites, which indicates these were not buildings put up for the higher aristocracy, but for lesser lords and gentry. Most were built in the late Middle Ages (roughly 13 ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Inch Abbey

Inch Abbey is a large, ruined monastic site north-west of Downpatrick. The site was originally on an island in the Quoile Marshes. The pre-Norman Celtic monastic settlement here was in existence by the year 800. In 1002 it was plundered by the Vikings. The Vikings plundered the settlement again in 1149. Its large earthwork enclosure has been traced from aerial photographs. On the ground, the early bank and ditch ca ...
Founded: 1180 | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Quoile Castle

Quoile Castle is a 16th-century tower house, which was inhabited into the 18th century. The south corner of the building has fallen down and shows a cross-section of the castle. In the north east wall the doorway has been rebuilt and gives access to a straight mural stairway. This is protected by murder-holes at the bottom and at the top. The inner doorway at the ground floor opens into a chamber with a stone vault an ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Struell Wells

Of all the wells throughout Ireland dedicated to Saint Patrick, the Struell wells must be the most famous. It is said that Saint Patrick travelled throughout Ireland using wells to baptize his new converts and in some cases to demonstrate the power of God with healing acts or with expressions of powerful piety and dedication. At Struell wells, there is a story of how Patrick used to bathe under a fountain of flowing water ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Annadorn Dolmen

Annadorn dolmen has a large, low, slightly displaced capstone about 65 cm thick covering a rectangular chamber and supported by three stones about 60 cm high. An account of 1802 suggests that it was formerly set beneath a large rectangular cairn 60 ft in diameter and approached by a lintelled passage, so it could be the remains of a passage grave. Another possible explanation could be that the supporting stones were o ...
Founded: Prehistoric | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Audleystown Court Cairn

Audleystown Court Cairn is a dual court grave situated near the south shore of Strangford Lough. It is a, now roofless, trapezoidal long cairn, with the sides revetted by dry-stone walling almost 27m long and a shallow forecourt at each end opening into a burial gallery of four chambers.  
Founded: Prehistoric | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Mound of Down

The Mound of Down is an ancient monument which gives County Down its name. Originally the home of Celtair - Rath Celtair - this became a stronghold for the Dál Fiatach, a powerful army who once owned the Isle of Man. It is a good example of an Iron Age defensive earthwork in the middle of which a Norman Motte and Bailey was built by John de Courcy after his defeat of Rory Mac Donlevy in 1177. Originally on the sh ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Loughinisland Churches

The Loughinisland Churches are the remains of three ruined churches, dating from the 13th to the 17th centuries. They are situated in Tievenadarragh townland, in a large graveyard on an island in Loughinisland Lake, now reached by a causeway. The earliest recorded reference is to a parish church on the site in 1306. The Middle Church is the oldest, probably from the 13th century. The large North Church was built in t ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Downpatrick, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.