County Armagh (named after its county town, Armagh) is one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland and one of six counties of Northern Ireland. Adjoined to the southern shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 1,326 km2 and has a population of about 174,792. County Armagh is known as the "Orchard County" because of its many apple orchards. The county is part of the historic province of Ulster.
Armagh is Northern Ireland’s smallest county but it offers quite a bit to the visitor.
Here are some of the things you will experience when visiting County Armagh
Discover the Heartland of St. Patrick
According to local legend, St. Patrick built a church here back in 44 5AD. Today, in the Cathedral City, you’ve two impressive options to choose between. The twin-spired Roman Catholic Cathedral stands on a hill above the city. St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral faces it across the valley, resting on the site of the original stone church.
St. Patrick was a missionary to Ireland in the 5th century and is one of the patron saints of Ireland.
You’re never alone in Armagh City
Hiding in plain sight are a whole community of gargoyles, angels and fantastical creatures. They are the work of artist Holger Christian Lönze and a tribute to the city’s sacred past, with 22 of them spending their days lurking behind drainpipes or hanging out at the library.
Beyond the city, you’ll find the legendary Emain Macha (Navan Fort), dedicated to Macha, the ancient goddess of war and fertility. The stronghold of the hero Cuchulainn and home to the famous Red Branch Knights, it’s now an interactive experience that takes you right back to life in the Iron Age.
A walk on Slieve Gullion 573m.
Slieve Gullion is a mountain in the south of County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The mountain is the heart of the Ring of Gullion and is the highest point in the county, with an elevation of 573 metres (1,880 ft). At the summit is a small lake and two ancient burial cairns, one of which is the highest surviving passage grave in Ireland
The walk starts from Slieve Gullion Forest Park which is run by the Northern Irish Forestry Service. The forest park offers an 8 mile high-level scenic drive which offers views of the Ring Of Gullion .
An apple a day
You can’t come to Orchard County without meeting the famous and much-loved Bramley Apple. And hearing about its journey from blossom to bottle. The Armagh Cider Company will be delighted to welcome you
From Blossom to Bite The Armagh Cider Company story
From their website:
Armagh Cider Company is owned by Philip and Helen Troughton of Ballinteggart House, outside Portadown. The Troughton family have been growing apples there for five generations since 1898, though the family farm has also been home to a hugely successful sport horse breeding and stud business for over 20 years.
Philip’s father, ‘TG’ Troughton, had often talked about starting up his own cider business, but never got around to it, concentrating instead on the then healthy market for fresh cooking apples to the retail trade and his contract to supply apples to a large commercial cider maker.
In recent years, the market for apples in Ireland has changed beyond all recognition, becoming much more commodity driven, with the inherent loss of margin that entails. Given these factors, Philip and Helen revisited the long-held idea of making their own top quality, hand-crafted cider that would outshine in terms of taste and quality its mass-produced rivals and appeal to discerning drinkers looking for something more authentic and naturally flavoursome.
While they knew they had a great raw ingredient – their own apples – they initially didn’t know much about cider making, so enlisted the services of master cider maker Keith Knight in England, who used Ballinteggart apples and worked closely with them to produce our own bespoke cider.
There is a history of cider making in Northern Ireland. In 1682, the Rev W Brooke wrote from Portadown that cider was being sold at 30 shillings a barrel and that some people were making 20 to 30 barrels per season. In fact King William sent his cider maker to Portadown to make cider for his army!
The first cider from Armagh Cider Company was introduced to the market in January 2006 as ‘Carsons Cider’, but the company has evolved over the past years and its product range has been substantially enhanced in response to consumer demand.
Cider, of course, has enjoyed a massive revival in recent years, but the market for traditional hand-crafted ciders in Northern Ireland is still in its infancy and Armagh Cider Company has been leading the way with its development.
Such was the immediate popularity of Carsons Cider that Armagh Cider Company was inundated with requests to introduce a non-alcoholic pure Armagh Apple Juice, which the company duly did in 2007.
Helen and Philip have now brought production of their cider and apple juice home to Ballinteggart. This was always the intention but they wanted to learn the skills and techniques first, as producing a consistent product is not a simple matter of following a strict recipe. Instead it’s all based on taste – a skill that takes time to develop!
The family always felt it was a great shame that County Armagh, the home of the apple business in Northern Ireland, was the only apple growing area in the UK without its own cider producers and they are pleased to have led the way. With their ciders, apple juice and cider vinegars, they offer consumers authentic, hand crafted, completely natural apple products with genuine provenance and heritage behind them and that deliver on quality and taste.
Gosford Forest Park
Gosford Castle is a 19th-century country house situated in Gosford, a townland of Markethill, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, close to the border with County Down. It was built for Archibald Acheson, 2nd Earl of Gosford, and designed in the Norman revival style by London architect Thomas Hopper. It is a Grade A listed building, and is said to be Northern Ireland's largest. The Earls of Gosford occupied the castle until 1921, and the estate was later purchased by the Ministry of Agriculture to form Gosford Forest Park. The building subsequently deteriorated and in 2006 was sold to a development company who converted the castle into private dwellings.
Lough Neagh & Its Waterways can be found in the heart of Northern Ireland, the largest freshwater lake in Ireland & Britain, measuring over 300 sq km. Lough Neagh captivates visitors with its tranquil atmosphere, un-spoilt scenery, secluded bays and skyward views. It is a haven for wildlife with many viewpoints around the shoreline.
The flat terrain make its Route 94 Cycle Trail and walking routes extremely popular, it has a rich cultural heritage and is home to many historic sites including three round towers and one of the finest high crosses in the whole of Ireland, The Ardboe Cross.
Lough Neagh has two main Islands and there are numerous boat trips available from April - Sept, it can also be explored by canoe or kayak and boasts one of the best canoe trails in the UK & Ireland. The destination is the birth place of Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney and is also famous for producing the world's finest Eels!
It would just be wrong to leave Armagh without having lunch at Portadown’s beloved Yellow Door Deli, Bakery and Café. Owner Simon Dougan bakes some of Northern Ireland’s finest bread and his shelves of specialty foods are a who’s who of star local artisans, from Broighter Gold rapeseed oil to Abernethy butter to Glastry Farm ice cream.
Behind the scenes At Yellow Door