County Armagh

Original Official Site of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board

The spiritual capital of Ireland for 1,500 years and the seat of both Protestant and Catholic archbishops, Armagh is the most venerated of Irish cities. St Patrick called Armagh 'my sweet hill' and built his stone church on the hill where the Anglican cathedral now stands.

The popular Armagh game, road bowls, is played only in the leafy lanes round here and in county Cork. The iron bowls weigh 28 ounces and are hurled by the players along a course of several miles in the fewest possible throws. The excitement is contagious - the betting heavy - and spectators have to keep their eye on the bowl as it comes hurtling along the road, cutting corners, or flying over hedges. Armagh men have often won the Irish championships.

Often to be seen is hurley (properly called 'hurling') which looks like the worlds most dangerous game. The sticks are whirled around the players' heads like wooden battle-axes and the ball flies from end to end of the field. Cuchelain, the warrior played this game and it's a great spectator sport.

Navan Fort: a royal fortress

Two miles west of the city is the great mound of Navan Fort, stronghold of the kings of Ulster from 700 BC. It occupies a key place in Heroic Age legend, notably in tales about Cuchulain. Whenever King Conor had a problem with Queen Maeve, the rather fierce ruler of Connaught, Cuchulain came to the rescue. The story is told in the visitor centre. In addition to detailing the mythology of the Ulster Cycle and the techniques used by archaeologists to uncover the fort, Navan Centre explores Celtic culture, rituals and beliefs of pre-Christian Ireland.

The rich fruit growing country to the north-east of Armagh is known as the Orchard of Ireland. Apple Blossom Sunday is in late May when the trees are a mass of pink and white flowers. Many of the 17th-century settlers here came from Worcestershire and they laid out the orchards on the same pattern as those in the Vale of Evesham.

Gosford Forest Park At Markethill, this is the former demesne of Gosford Castle, a mock-Norman battlemented extravaganza. Arboretum, walled garden, two raths, nature trail, a camping and caravan site and Dean Swift's Well and Chair.

Blackwater River Park The Blackwater is one of the best fishing rivers in Ireland, famous for its big bream. The river park extends for 3 miles, opposite Benburb (with ancient castle and priory). There is canoeing over the weirs a deep pool for subaqua training and a fossil-hunting area.

Clare Glen is a beautiful winding river vale of 4 miles, from the pretty village of Tandragee (with castle and golf course) to Clare old bridge and cornmill

Ardress House is a lovely 17th-18th century manor (National Trust) with elegant plasterwork by Michael Stapleton in the drawing room, good furniture and a picture gallery. A magnificent 18th century pink-cobbled working farmyard contains a piggery, blacksmith's shop, chicken houses, and a well in the middle.

The Argory (National Trust). Set in 200 acres of wooded countryside overlooking the Blackwater river, this 1820 neoclassical house contains its original furniture and is lit by its own acetylene gas plant, one of the very few surviving examples in the British Isles.

Camagh Forest is truly natural woodland with fishing lakes, and an anglers' inn. The Fews Forest is wonderful wild walking territory, where roads lead up to picnic sites on the heights of Dead Man's Hill and Carrickatuke and you can hike for miles on forest and moorland tracks.

Seagahan Dam is a large artificial lake partly surrounded by woodland, with a scenic shore drive.

Loughgall is the centre of the apple orchard area and the village where the Orange Order was founded in 1795: the house in the main street in the village has a collection of regalia etc. The former demesne now contains an important horticultural research centre.

County Armagh Overview | The City of Armagh | The Armagh Villages

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