The Downpatrick & County Down Railway offers a number of exciting events for your enjoyment, or just to keep the kids (and big kids) busy! Doors open for all events (unless otherwise indicated) at 2.00pm and finish at 5.00pm. These pages will tell when our next train is, where we are, what there is to see and all you need to know to plan your trip to the Railway.
If you need more information, then please drop us a line via the Contacts page.
Below is a standard timetable for Easter, May Day and Summer Trains
Additional services may operate on certain days during peak times as appropriate.
All trains are steam hauled but may be substituted by a heritage diesel train, where necessary, at any time.
Click on the images below to take a virtual tour of the Railway Station Foyer, Station Platform, and the Signal Cabin and Inch Abbey courtesy of Virtual Visit NI
Nestling under the shadow of the picturesque Down Cathedral, the railway currently operates through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty over approximately two miles of a restored section of the former Belfast and County Down Railway main line to Belfast out of Downpatrick to Inch Abbey, a ruined 12th Century Cistercian Abbey, with a further one mile built along the old Newcastle route to a Viking King's Grave, completing a triangle of track, which is hoped will be extended to the hamlet of Ballydugan three miles south of Downpatrick.
In addition to guided tours of the exhibitions and workshops, on running days visitors can experience the delights of traditional railway travel. Steam locomotives from the 1920s and 30s, or diesels from the 60s will take the passengers in 50 - 100 year old carriages from Downpatrick to the tranquil ruins of Inch Abbey. Real enthusiasts can have an exhilarating time by booking a day's experience on the footplate, driving diesel, as well as firing and driving a steam locomotive.
Visitors may choose to take a tour of the station and worksheds, Signal Cabin, etc., to see the behind-the-scenes work going on outside of the train running days. There's also a buffet carriage parked at the platform for teas, coffees and buns, in the station there is a shop with railway themed stock, and upstairs there's a small photo exhibition and a Thomas the Tank engine model railway layout for the kids.
Our lines are illustrated in the map below:
The railway is located in beautiful countryside, the Downpatrick Marshes, which presents the viewer with totally different aspects at each season of the year. The best views of Downpatrick cathedral, the Church of the Holy Trinity can only be obtained from the railway.
St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint, is reputed to be buried beside the cathedral, which is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The cathedral occupies the site of an abbey founded by the Norman knight Sir John de Courcy, in the 12th century. It, in its turn, was built on the site of a much older fortified settlement, some of which has been excavated by archaelogists in recent years. It is likely that this hill has been a settlement site for a couple of thousand years, at least.
The view south-west from close to the site of the burial mound of the Viking king Magnus Barefoot. Until the building of a barrage across the river Quoile, this area was tidal, and even et the water table is very close to the surface, resulting in extensive flooding during the winter months. The railway at this point, in fact, runs along the edge of an ancient shoreline.
The word 'Quoile' is an Irish word meaning 'wooded' (Scottish gaelic 'Kyle') and the river banks between Downpatrick and Strangford Lough (Viking 'Strong Fjord', referring to the lough's very strong currents) still support extensive woodland. The Vikings used this river as a route inland for their longships.
The line's northern terminus is close to the spectacular ruins of the 12th century Inch Abbey. The word 'Inch' is an anglicisation of the Irish word 'Inish' meaning 'island', and in fact the monastery's site was once an island set in the tidal marshes near the mouth of the river Quoile. For a fuller description of Inch Abbey and its history, click on the link below.