There are two Armaghs. The City of Armagh is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland. Like Rome it is built on seven hills. It’s also known as the city of saints and scholars because in early Christian Ireland it was the prime seat of learning. The county of Armagh is known as the Orchard County and in the rolling hills are filled with apple blossom come April. The combination of rural landscape and county town and cathedral city make Armagh a great destination for visitors with plenty of things to see and do while in Ireland. I’ve been visiting this county since 1984 and these are my top recommendations. Here are my top seven things to do and see in County Armagh.
1) The Cathedrals – Okay, technically there are two St. Patrick’s Cathedrals. The Church of Ireland Cathedral is older and has the grave of Brian Boru as well as pre-Christian artefacts. One known as the Tandragee Idol is thought to depict Nuada of the Silver Arm, a king of the Tuatha de Danaan. There is also the donkey-eared carving of Labhraidh Loingseach. This cathedral is also host to the Centre for Celtic Spirituality.
The twin spires of the Roman Catholic St. Patrick’s Cathedral dominate the horizon of the cityscape. Begun ion 1840, this Gothic Revival cathedral had to suspend construction during the hard Famine Years. There is an amazing blue mosaic vaulted ceiling and the Lady Chapel displays the caps of every cardinal.
This You Tube Clip starts out at the Church of Ireland St. Patrick’s Cathedral and shows the Armagh Rhymers make their way through the town to the St. Brigid’s Well near the Palace Stables to celebrate St. Brigid’s Day on 1st February.
2) The Mall – Rhyme that with Pal rather than say it like the long mile that is home to many of the Smithsonian’s Museums in Washington, D.C. This elegant green space began life as the town’s racecourse. It is edged by some of the finest examples of Georgian architecture outside of Dublin. It also is home to the County Museum , the Courthouse and the Cricket Club.
3) A short walk heading out the Portadown Road will lead you to Armagh’s Observatory and Planetarium. If you are at all star struck or have inquisitive children then you are sure to while away your time full of wonder.
4) Retracing your steps back past The Mall and heading out the Killylea Road you have the Palace Stables. Originally Archbishop Robinson’s Residence the Palace Stables now house a Heritage Centre, which brings Georgian era Ireland to life. Archbishop Robinson, also a Baron, was the guiding force that shaped how Armagh looks today by creating the Mall, endowing and building the library, renovating the Cathedral and other public buildings. With a playground and woodland walks as well as guided tours and special events this is a very family friendly venue with a wide choice of things to see and do to please all age ranges.
5) Carry on a bit further along this road and you will find the amazing Navan Fort or Emain Macha. This is the Height (Ard) of Macha, the goddess who gave her name as this was her seat of power. Archaeology studies have created an amazing exhibit with plenty of everything you might want to know about Celtic Ireland. There are guided tours but there is a really good self-guided exhibit. And then you get to walk up the giant earthwork that is Macha’s Height. Learn about how the early Irish before St. Patrick lived with the reenactments of Early Irish life.
6) Now it’s time to head out the Markethill Road for a bit of outdoor activity. Gosford Castle Forest Park offers camping and caravan berths, a stunning arboretum, mountain bike trails, woodland walks, a walled garden and deer park. In the 240 hectare demesne you can even rent a self-catering apartment in the Castle! So there is no need to rough it if that is not your style.
Rather you can imagine how the landed gentry who created this amazing country seat lived. Jonathan Swift, who was Dean of Dublin for a time, used to vacation here and one of the woodland walks takes you to a favourite resting spot, Dean Swift’s Seat. The current castle was constructed in the 1800s after Dean Swift’s holiday with the aristocratic owners and has been converted into private homes.
I’m on my last recommendation of things to see and do in County Armagh. I’ve covered the ecclesiastical side, the early Christian and pre-Christian aspect as well as the Georgian period. My jaunt around has also offered you outdoor activities, the opportunity to see castles and cathedrals and to learn about heritage. So what is left? Well, entertainment.
7) The Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre offers not just theatre, music concerts and art exhibition space. It also have an ongoing programme of workshops and activities. But I’ll let their YouTube explain all that’s on offer to see and do at this amazing arts space.
Bee Smith created Irish Blessings Tours to serve travelers to Ireland who want the unique and inspirational packaged for their group’s desires and needs. Bee seeks the source to manifest your dream Irish vacation according to your budget and time scale. She has a special interest in Fairy folklore, Celtic Spirituality and the Natural Heritage of northwestern Ireland and Northern Ireland. In 2011 Bee became one of the first trained tour guides that act at ambassadors for the UNESCO designated Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. Send her your dreams for your Ireland vacation package to firstname.lastname@example.org.