The former Conservative politician and train enthusiast – turned TV presenter – Michael Portillo visited the Downpatrick and County Down Railway to film an episode of the third series of the BBC2 programme Great British Railway Journeys.
During the series Mr Portillo uses a copy of the Bradshaw Railway Guide from the 1860s to travel the parts of the original railway network that still remain today.
It was compiled by the Victorian cartographer George Bradshaw, who was best known for developing the most successful and longest published series of combined railway timetables.
The latest television series took the presenter to Ireland, where he travelled by train from Dublin, making stops in Drogheda and Newry before stopping in Downpatrick.
On his visit to the railway museum Mr Portillo had a chat on camera with its founder Gerry Cochrane and marketing manager Robert Gardiner. He also enjoyed a train journey in from Inch Abbey to the old station in Downpatrick where he visited the Down Cathedral and St Patrick’s Grave, the former is mentioned in the Bradshaw Railway Guide.
The programme is due to be aired on BBC2 sometime in February 2012.
Below is what Bradshaw has to say about Downpatrick, although brief, it is a more substantial account than other towns on the BCDR network attract:
Bradshaw’s Handbook for Tourists in Great Britain & Ireland 1866
A telegraph station.
MARKET DAY – Saturday FAIRS – First Saturday in each month
Situated on the river Quoile, in a valley, at the south-west corner of Strangford Lough, has a population of about 5,000, and returns one member to parliament. The Cathedral contains the tomb of Lord Kehany; the window at the east end is worth notice.