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
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
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
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
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.
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