Ever heard of Northern Ireland? Well, it is actually part of Ireland country; however, part of the land lies in the United Kingdom. In that part of Ireland, there are several cities in which you can spend time and enjoy. Among those cities is the county of Armagh. The latter is actually medium in size; neither large nor small. It has always been referred to as a town; on the other hand, it became officially a city in 1994. Queen Elizabeth II was the one to give the county of Armagh the city status. In fact, the county is famous for being home to two famous cathedrals. Both cathedrals bear the name of Saint Patrick. It is also known for being the fourth smallest city in the United Kingdom. Besides, it is the city in Ireland that is least populated.
The History of County Armagh
The county of Armagh became the dominant site of churches and rituality. Thanks to Navan Fort, it had always been a religious site for the pagans. It sits at the western edge of the county and was used for ceremonies and ritual performance. Mythology claims that this site was among the royal sites of Gaelic Ireland as well as the capital of Ulster. However, it was only a matter of time before the site got abandoned for almost two centuries. It had not remained abandoned forever, for Saint Patrick made use of that site when he began spreading Christianity. He wanted to make sure that the new religion reaches all parts of Ireland. So, he chose a site that was close to the core of pagan Ulster, Navan Fort, and based his powers.
St. Patrick built the first stone of an Irish church in AD 445 on a hill near the site. That building is currently the Church of Ireland Cathedral. On the other hand, before the arrival of Christianity, sources claim that it was a pagan sanctuary. With the arrival of Saint Patrick, things started to be Christianized instead, as part of his mission. Thus, that sanctuary became a church and all of the city became a significant site of monastery and churches.
The Foundation of Ard Mhacha
Saint Patrick happened to found Ard Mhacha near Navan Fort. The literal meaning of the site is Macha’s Height. It was named after the goddess Macha; however, after Christianity, the name changed to Ardmagh, instead. Eventually, it became the county of Armagh as people are familiar with it now.
Daire was the son of Finnchadh. He was the one who granted St. Patrick the land on which he founded the county of Armagh. When the saint received the land, he appointed twelve men to build the town. He started his construction process by building up a church and erecting an archbishop city. In 457, he established his main church there and it became the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland.
He also announced some people to spread the gospel around; however, he limited them to the ones educated in Armagh. Patrick was always making sure that that site would be the meeting point of monks and nuns from all around Ireland. For that reason, he became the Chief of the Churches of Ireland.
The Archbishop of the County of Armagh
When Saint Patrick ordered erecting the archbishop, he wanted to have an archiepiscopacy in two of Ireland’s main Christian churches. Those churches were the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. Apparently, the archbishop is named after the naming of one of Northern Ireland’s prominent counties, Armagh. Starting from the 8th century, or maybe even earlier, the position of Comarba Patraic was introduced.
That position meant “The Successor of Patrick.” The house of the county of Armagh founded it in order to hire abbots or bishops after Saint Patrick. Bishops and abbots were two different positions during the medieval times. That was before the foundation of the successor of Patrick. On the contrary, the 12th century was the beginning of the merge between those positions, bishop, and abbot, once again.
The County of Armagh Through the Medieval and Modern Eras
The county of Armagh lived peacefully for a long time. But, in the 9th century, the Vikings raided the monastery. Their main objective was to obtain valuable goods, including silver. It was known that silver was abundantly found in monasteries and churches. Since the county of Armagh was home to Ireland’s significant monasteries and churches, it was a perfect destination to the Vikings. At that time, the monastery of Armagh also held the Book of Armagh.
What is the Book of Armagh?
The Book of Armagh is an Irish manuscript that belongs to the 9th century. It came from the county’s monastery and is now kept in Dublin in Trinity College Library. This book is quite significant since it holds oldest samples of Old Irish that managed to survive. Battles took place due to that rare manuscript.
For example, Brian Boru invaded the island in 990. He believed that the book was buried in St. Patrick Church’s graveyard. However, he became the High King of Ireland back in 1002 and remained so until his death in 1014.
Saint Patrick had made the county of Armagh a religious site as well as an educational center. It remained so for as long as ever. Even people refer to that county as the city of saints and scholars. In 1608, the foundation of the Royal School took place. Besides, the Armagh Observatory in 1790.
By then, the educational tradition was still going on. It also remained till 1834, when St. Patrick College was founded. Archbishop Robinson was the one who founded the Observatory. He established it as part of having a university in the city. However, in the 90’s, Queen’s University of Belfast opened a centre in a building that was formerly a hospital.
The Murder Mile
At some point in history, people referred to the county of Armagh as the Murder Mile. That was because there was substantial violence going on in the city. It all starts at the Battle of the Somme during the First World War. At that battle, three brothers passed away; their names were unknown. However, they all received the honour on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. Some sources claim that they had a fourth brother; however, he was only wounded during the attack, but he survived.
The Irish War of Independence was also another time where life was rough on the county of Armagh. In 1921, the Irish Republican Army assassinated a Royal Irish Constabulary sergeant in the county of Armagh.
Legends have it that the Army threw a grenade at Market Street while he was walking along. His wounds ended up killing him. Those were not the only incidents that took place in the county. Over around twenty years, a lot of different incidents took place.
Places to Visit While in the County of Armagh
The era of the Murder Mile is far behind us and, right now, Armagh is safe and beautiful. In fact, Ireland is one of the countries that possess many tourist attractions. Gladly, many of them are found in the county of Armagh. So, take a stroll around there and figure out some of the world’s worth-visiting places.
4 Vicars is a bistro that looks sophisticated despite its small size. Attached to it is a delightful terrace that you will definitely enjoy spending time at. That little pub exists inside the Georgian building.
If you are looking for a delicious lunch, then it should definitely be your following stop. Besides, they have got comfy rooms made specifically for romantic hangouts. It is one of the finest sites to visit in the county of Armagh.
Are you an art lover? Well, there is surely a bunch of art galleries around the county of Armagh. However, there is also a Neoclassical Manor House that you should not miss out. The Ardress House belongs to the 17th century; it is located Off the B77 near Loughgall.
That house is full of ornate decoration that captures the eyes of the beholder. It also has a collection of attractive paintings. You will find a lot that will captivate you from artistic masterpieces to the wooded grounds of the house.
Armagh City Centre
So, you are out on a journey in the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland? Then, you should totally head to the town’s city centre. There, you will find a lot of buildings to enjoy, including the fascinating churches of Ireland. At that spot of the city, you will find the Robinson Library, Saint Patrick Cathedral, and more.
Not to mention that you will actually enjoy strolling around the blocks, beholding the beauty of the county. Head to any of the buildings there for a further education about the history of the county of Armagh and art.
Armagh County Museum
This museum is the most popular around the county. It holds a great collection of arts that exemplifies how life in the city has been through the centuries. The museum has a lot of displays that narrate stories about the lives of people. You will come across fascinating displays like rural crafts, wedding dress, and military uniforms as well.
All aspects of life are mingled within the walls of that museum and that is the most interesting part. Many human stories linked to the displayed objects that make it hard for you to ever get bored. If you enjoy music, the museum provides a venue for stirring music of the pipes as well as contemporary arts.
The Planetarium is attached to the famous Observatory of the county of Armagh and it’s another interesting place to visit. The Planetarium happens to offer the world with one-of-a-kind experiences. It will awe you with the digital theatre that teaches you a lot about galaxies, planets, and other natural phenomena.
Bard of Armagh Festival
Unfortunately, this place does not work anymore. It used to host an annual event that shows the most intelligent Irish stories and verse. The festival was supposedly humorous and it took place in November each year. But, it came to an end in 2016 when they performed their final show. That festival used to gather performers from all around Ireland in the county of Armagh. They entertained their audiences with sarcastic and funny stories throughout their working years.
Benburb Valley Park
The county of Armagh has more than a few parks. But, this park is a great destination to spend your day at, for it is beyond just a regular park. Through the Benburb Valley Park, the Blackwater River used to run. That river was known to be very popular for fishing salmon. However, the fishing practice stopped after a pollution came to pass, causing the death of the fish. Besides the river, the park has the Benburb Castle that Shane O’Neill founded in the 17th century. There is also the Benburb Valley Heritage Center.
Brownlow House and Lurgan Park
Lurgan Park is the second largest public park all over Ireland. The first one is actually the Phoenix Park that exists in Dublin. Being the second largest park, it surrounds a lake that reaches around 59 acres. It also contains paths that are well-maintained and suitable for walking. On the other hand, the Brownlow house lies at the end of the park. Sources claim that the house has about 365 rooms.
The Scottish architect William Henry was the one to have built the house with an Elizabethan Style back in 1836. He built if for Charles Brownlow whose name is given to the house. That house played significant roles in the First and Second World War. In World War I, the Battalion Royal Irish Rifles used it as their headquarters. On the other hand, it was the station of the British and the American troops.
Want to spend a fun day full of activities? There is a lot of things of do in the county of Armagh. Head to Craigavon Watersports Center and spend the day by the facilities of the Craigavon Lakes. There, you can participate in many activities including canoeing, banana boating, water-skiing, sailing, and windsurfing as well.
Gosford Forest Park
Forest parks are among the places that offer great entertainment with a variety of activities in the county of Armagh. Head to Gosford Forest Park for a day of ultimate fun. It is located near Market Hill off the A28. The Park has forest trails, picnic area, a mock Norman Castle, and a poultry zoo.
Up for amazing sceneries and natural views? Spend a day out beholding the splendor of Lough Neagh. It is a wide lake at which you can watch birds and walk for long miles while enjoying the scene. There is also a restaurant to enjoy a delicious meal and a play area for your kids.
Milford House Collection
Milford House Collection sits proudly in the county of Armagh. It is the first building in Ireland to use hydroelectricity for producing light. The house belongs to the 19th century and is deemed to be the most advanced on a technological level.
hat place will also educate you about the first telephone system that the county ever used. Besides all of the technical stuff, you will enjoy amazing work of arts by prominent artists. Not to mention that the interior design of the house is a symbol of elegance and beauty.
The Moody Boar lies in an interesting place in the county of Armagh where it opens to a vast courtyard. It also plays a nice music on the afternoons. Besides, this restaurant serves the best dishes for vegetarians; their food is gluten-free as well. Interestingly, the restaurant has gardens in which they grow their own vegetables as well as herbs. You can find it at the Palace Demesne Public Park.
Navan Center and Fort
The Navan Center reveals all you need to know about the most significant ancient monuments in the county of Armagh. Those monuments include the Navan Fort, the seat of the Kings of Ulster, and the Ancient Capital. Visitors get to observe a lot about the history of that area through the exhibition that the Navan Center offers. The exhibition provides activities for all member of all ages and displays artefacts. You’ll be amazed by all you will get to learn about the Irish mythology and the most significant Celtic characters.
There are other fun activities that the Navan Center provides. Those activities include experiencing life as a Celt by dressing up their own attires and costumes. It is like experiencing a Celtic Halloween. This activity is suitable for children and adults alike. You can also win prizes by completing a trail of the Navan Fort. There is also an Archaeology Discovery Room for you to explore along with an outdoor play area for extra fun.
It is commonly known as the Orange Order Museum. However, people of the county of Armagh usually refer to it as the Orange Museum. You can find this small museum in Loughgall Village where the building was formerly a pub. Inside the museum, you will find a lot of banners, weapons, old sashes, and armbands. You will enjoy it there if you happen to have a thing for battles and history.
Well, it is more of a peninsula of land rather than an island in spite of its name. It is located on the southern edge of Lough Neagh. Oxford Island happens to be a nature reserve that shields an array of living organisms. The habitats include wildflower meadows, shallow lake margins, reedy shoreline, and woodland. You can also watch the birds hide or just spend quality time with your loved ones at the café there.
Palace Demesne Public Park
The Palace Demesne was actually home to the archbishops of Ireland for two whole centuries, starting from 1770 to 1970. It surrounds about 121 hectares and houses the council of the city. The palace is no longer open to the public, but the visitors are able to spend time in the park. This park is the one that houses the classic bistro, Moody Boar. Besides, there are five gardens, known as the Garden of Senses. They give you an amazing experience of tasting all of the five senses.
Palace Stables Heritage Centre
On the grounds of the Palace Demesne stands the ruins of the Palace Stables Heritage Center. Archbishop Robinson built the latter back in 1769. This palace is currently used for different purposes and has different facilities. It is where the council offices lie; besides, the center contains an office for the tourists. Among the facilities, there is a playroom for children, a café, and a craft shop.
The Peatlands Park is the best place where you can know all about the peat bogs of Ireland. In fact, children are the target audience of that place, but adults are welcomed as well. There is a bog garden where there are many rare plants like bog cotton and orchids. You can ride a train for 15 minutes around the park; that track used to transport the peat. The park also holds an orchard, a wood, and two lakes.
Market Street is a very prominent one in the county. Every Tuesday and Friday, the Shambles Market is held. Many stalls get there where there is a lot of stuff to sell, but mainly clothes.
Here is the most picturesque and charming part of all of the county; Slieve Gullion. This mountain has a ring of foothills that surround it. People refer to them as the Ring of Gullion; people usually climb them either from Killevy or Camlough. On the lower slopes of the mountain, there is the Slieve Gullion Forest Park.
You can view the Ring of Gullion from that park and we can guarantee you will like what you see. The meaning of Slieve Gullion is the Mountain of Culainn. The latter was a legendary Ulster warrior; the mythology usually calls him Cuchulainn. On the other hand, Saint Monennna was the founder of a nunnery that was established in the fifth century. Down the slopes, you can find a holy well that is dedicated to her.
St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral
St. Patrick Roman Catholic Cathedral is one of the prominent churches in Ireland. The church is known to be beautiful and detailed with wonderfully amazing ornate decorations. You can have a tour and behold its splendid design, mosaics, and sculptures that are made of a shimmering gold leaf. Besides, the church is covered with stained-glass windows, making it even more awing to the beholders.
The church was built between 1838 and 1873. Its style is referred to as the Gothic Revival as every part of the walls and ceiling are covered in coloured mosaics. In 1981, the church underwent some renovations that make it look a bit more modernized than it used to be.
St. Patrick Trian Centre
Saint Patrick Trian Center is located in the heart of Armagh. It’s a modern complex that allows visitors to get involved in every detail they need to know about the county. The county is also known to be the Motherhouse of Irish Christianity. In that centre, you will observe interesting presentations about the story of the city.
They display the story in a very entertaining and engaging way for every member of the family. You can actually start by that centre where you can learn about the culture of the locals and the history. The centre also contains a café to enjoy sitting at as well as a genealogical service for the visitors. That service enables you to find whether you can any roots to the locals of the city.
Tannaghmore Farm and Gardens
Gardens are always beautiful, but those ones are even extraordinary. Among the gardens lie the amazing Georgian house of Tannaghmore Farm. Interestingly, the place has a spot specified for romantic dates; it is called the Kissing Gate. So, take your beloved one and head over there for enjoying an intimate time together.
According to legends, if you kiss your lover there, you both are destined to get married within the upcoming year. Besides romance, you can watch the trees and visit the Rare Breeds Farm. There is also a barn museum there that you can take a trip to.
The Argory is actually an Irish élite house by which a wooded riverside estate surrounds it. The house was built in 1820 and, currently, the National Trust runs it. In fact, the house is full of attractive furnishings; you can tour the place and explore the grounds. Besides, you can explore the bookshop and gift shop there or just relax at the Coffee Shop.
The Armagh Observatory
Do you love learning stuff about astronomy? Well, there is a place specialized for people who happen to be into this kind of science. The Armagh Observatory is that place; it is a very popular place around the county as well. So, you will get to hear its name a lot. Archbishop Richard Robinson founded that Observatory back in 1790. It became a leading scientific research establish around Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The County Museum
While you are there, you have to visit the County Museum. You can find on the east side of the Mall. Inside that museum, you can observe a great collection of antiques, stuffed animals. And artefacts. There is also a gallery that houses numerous sketches, oil paintings, and pastels. They all belonged to the popular Irish Poet, George Russell.
The Ring of Gullion
Remember that Ring of Gullion? Yes, it surrounds the Slieve Gullion Mountain. It actually dominates the landscape of the southern part of the county of Armagh. The area consists of several facilities for children like an adventure playpark and a story trail. There is also a coffee shop for you to enjoy your time at.
Armagh is full of many great and interesting attractions and historical sites that make it a great places to visit. If you haven’t already been, make sure to add it to your list of places to explore. Also if you have been to Armagh we would love to hear any experiences you had while there!
Don’t forget to check out other great places and attractions around Northern Ireland: Armagh Planetarium and Observatory|The Argory House in County Armagh| Glens of Antrim| Downpatrick Town| Exploring the village of Saintfield| Exploring Holywood Town| Carrickfergus Town