Downpatrick is the major town in the ancient barony of Lecale. (Click link for satelite image). The name Lecale is derived from the ancient gaelic "Leth Cathail" which means "Cathal's portion"; Cathail being a prince of Uladh about 700 A.D. An even earlier name "Magh-Inis" - the island plain - reflected the area's geography, which is surrounded on three sides by the sea. Indeed some people in the area still use the name Isle-Lecale. Until about 200 years ago, when the first sea barriers were constructed and drainage began, the sea encircled almost the whole of the area; Strangford Lough, the Irish Sea and Dundrum Bay. There are a few small hills. On Slieve Patrick stands a giant statue of Saint Patrick, erected in 1932.
The Mountains of Mourne form a blue silhouette on the south-western horizon.
A feature of this part of County down is the drumlins, low rounded hills, which were formed by the action of the ice during the Ice Age, The land is fertile and for many hundreds of years provided grain harvests of great quality which Killough Harbour was built to exploit.
On the south west edge of the 'island' is the artificial mound on which stands Clough Castle, built by John de Courcy, guarding the entrance to the area. Just outside the north eastern boundary of the 'island' is the Cistercian abbey of Inch, also founded by John de Courcy.
On the southern coast are several unspoiled sandy beaches, including Dundrum Bay and Tyrella. The rest of the coastline, from Minerstown round St John's Point, with its now automated lighthouse, and Ardglass, to Strangford, is rocky and stony. Ardglass Harbour, now with an extensive new marina, is still a fishing port, but to a much lesser extent than in the past.
The entrance to Strangford Lough forms a deep maelstrom fast flowing water, estimated to be 350 cubic metres per second four times daily. The incoming and outgoing tides, the currents, eddies and whirlpools are spectacular when viewed from the shore when they can be seen to sweep boats by at a high rate of knots.