Northern Ireland is a country of beauty and variety, and the perfect place to experience it all is the heart of County Down. Watch as the sea itself invades the land, forming the great bird sanctuary and yachting paradise of Strangford Lough. St. Patrick — the patron saint of Ireland — who sailed into the lough in AD 432 and eventually died at Downpatrick. Departing from the pier, you will first visit Belfast, on the River Lagan for a short drive through the city. You’ll then travel south, outside the city, through Carryduff to County Down. Enjoy a visit to St. Patrick’s Centre where the exhibition tells the fascinating story of Ireland’s patron saint, and light is shone on the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and its development through his mission. The exhibition also examines the major impact of Irish missionaries in Dark Age Europe — a legacy that remains to this day. You will also visit Down Cathedral and the patron saint’s grave in the cathedral graveyard. Continue on to Saul Church, a replica of an early Christian church that stands on the site where legend has it that St. Patrick preached his first sermon in Ireland. Then make your way to the pretty village of Strangford for lunch. After lunch, enjoy a short ferry crossing to Portaferry on the Ards Peninsula. You will travel alongside the banks of Strangford Lough before arriving at Grey Abbey. Founded by Cistercian monks in 1193, Grey Abbey was endowed by Affreca, the wife of Sir John de Courcy. Grey Abbey, the first true Gothic church built in Ireland, featured sophisticated if unadorned stone carvings. After Grey Abbey, you’ll return to the port, passing Stormont — home of Northern Ireland’s Parliament — on the way.