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Downpatrick is one of Ireland's most ancient and historic towns. It takes its name from a fort which once stood on the hill that dominates the town and on which Down Cathedral stands. Ptolemy, about the year AD 130, includes it (in Latin) as Dunum in his list of towns of Ireland. The old name of the town was Rath Celtair named after the fictional warrior of Ulster called Celtchar who resided there and who fought alongside Ulster King Conchobar mac Neasa (Conor Mac Nessa) and is mentioned in the Ulster Cycle and, in particular, the Táin Bó Cuailgne . The name was superseded by the name Dún Lethglaise then Dún Dá Lethglas which in turn gave way, in the 13th century, to the present name of Dún Phádraig (anglicised as Downpatrick) - from the town's connection with the patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick was reputedly buried here in 461 on Cathedral Hill, within the grounds of Down Cathedral. His grave is still a place of pilgrimage on St Patricks Day (17 March each year). The Saint Patrick Visitor Centre in Downpatrick is purpose-built to tell the story of St Patrick.

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