County Armagh

A fearsomely strong IRA presence in Armagh (from the Irish, Ard Mhacha) is to fault for its threatening nickname, “Bandit Country.” The county also goes by the pleasant “Orchard County,” which both counters that threat and defines the wavering contradiction it involves. It is further known as “The Christian Capital,” a title in which Armagh takes great pride.

The history and geography of the place reflect both its staunch nationalism (Saint Patrick, who is widely celebrated by Catholics during the annual festival bearing his name, took seat here in Armagh) and its rich natural environment (the Ring of Gullion, formed in the aftermath of an ancient volcanic eruption spanning 59 square miles, comprises an Area of Special Scientific Interest that includes Slieve Gullion Forest Park and the Camloch and Cashel Lakes). An unheralded cluster of islands amass in the southern quarter of Lough Neagh, north of the county. This doesn’t include Oxford Island, which is widely heralded.

The city of Armagh, the smallest in Ireland, has its roots in the unwedded religious affairs of Celtic paganism and early Christianity, while the Navan Fort monument carries the untold weight of its largely mythological prehistory. The city was eventually delivered on the prayers of Saint Patrick, which by decree was made the ecclesiastical centre of Ireland. Two cathedrals continue his churchly efforts: St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Protestant), centre of the Church of Ireland and its younger, unhelpfully titled counterpart, St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic).

Roches Castle

Roches Castle

The oldest of the two, St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Protestant) in the south of the city, dates to the 13th century. It is claimed (on good authority) to have been constructed upon the site of St. Patrick’s legendary house of worship (AD 445). The body of legendary Irish King, Brian Boru, rests within its grounds.

Constructed in 1873, St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic), in the north of the city, is much younger than its Protestant counterpart. The mighty exterior of the Cathedral is a dominating sight and the extraordinary, mosaic interior an alternatively exquisite one. The cathedral’s futuristic granite sanctuary, however, is much harder to place.

They might represent opposing faiths, but as history and as furniture, these two faithful monuments to St. Patrick really tie the city together; sternly adorning adjacent hilltops, their authority over the town then gives way to a lively shopping, pub and arts scene.

Unmissable Attractions County Armagh

1. St. Patrick’s Trian Visitor Complex (Opening Times: Monday to Saturday from 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.)

2. St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. in summer / Monday to Sunday from 9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. in winter)

3. St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday. Mass is held at 10.00 a.m.)

4. Slieve Gullion Forest Park (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. – sunset)

5. The Killevy Churches at the foot of Slieve Gullion date between the 5th and 15th centuries

6. Armagh Public Library (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 10.00 a.m. – 4.00p.m.

7. Armagh County Museum (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. and Saturday from10.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. and from 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.)

8. Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 10.00 a.m. – 12.30 pm. and 1.30 p.m. – 4.00 p.m.)

9. Armagh Planetarium (Opening Times: Monday to Saturday from 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.)

10. Derrymore House (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from dawn till dusk)

11. Navan Centre and Fort (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m. in summer / Monday – Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. in winter) Prices: Prices vary from season to season.

12. An unheralded cluster of islands amass in the southern quarter of Lough Neagh, north of the county. This doesn’t include Oxford Island, which is widely heralded.

13. Oxford Island (Opening Times: Monday to Saturday from 10.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. and from 2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m.)

14. Bagenal’s Castle and the Newry Mourne Museum (Opening Times: Monday to Saturday from 10.00 a.m. – 4.30 p.m. and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.)