It's hard not to be impressed by Armagh's lineage. After all, this ancient city packs in the history, and the hilly streets and lanes, elaborate doorways and extravagant architecture give it a distinct air of intrigue. Plus it's only one hour from Belfast city.
Interested in St Patrick? Then you'll love Armagh where the saint's legacy is still strong. Patrick reputedly had a stone church built on a hill here back in 445AD. And at this very spot, where St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral now stands, you can descend to a crypt dating from the Middle Ages to discover treasures including stone carvings of people and animals.
Atop a hill on the other side of the valley is the twin-spired Roman Catholic Cathedral also dedicated to St Patrick. And you can discover even more about Armagh's sacred history when you venture outside the city limits. Visit the place from which Ulster's ancient kings once ruled: Emain Macha (Navan Fort), which boasts a fascinating visitor centre.
Exploring a pocket-sized city
Don’t be fooled by Armagh’s serene surface: look around and you’ll feel the energy of the place. Think quirky pubs such as The Hole in the Wall, McCrum’s Court and Red Ned’s; family-run shops such as Emerson’s Supermarket and TG Hawthorne’s; and delicious artisan food from the 4 Vicars bistro and The Moody Boar, located in the converted stables of the Palace Demesne Public Park. Armagh also boasts a rich cultural scene and glorious open spaces – a stroll around the gracious tree-lined Mall is a must. Add in the Home of St Patrick Festival each March and you’ll be well fed, well walked and ready for more exploring.
Knowledge is power
Where next? To the Planetarium, perhaps, to travel through the constellations or touch a 4.6 billion-year old meteorite. To Armagh Gaol where the tales of former inmates make for gripping stories. To the lovely little museum at No 5 Vicars Hill or to the Armagh Public Library – established in 1771 – with its leather-bound first editions lining walls from floor to ceiling.
Spend a few day in Armagh and 1930s travel writer Richard Hayward’s description of the city will echo in your ears: “The beauty of Armagh is the beauty of an old woman who has aged gracefully.”