Armagh is a city break destination with a difference

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh

The city of Armagh is a great blend of culture, cathedrals and craic, plus great pubs, a pretty tree-lined Mall and elegant museums

It’s hard not to be impressed by Armagh’s heritage – after all, the place has been the religious capital of Ireland for over 5,000 years. Only an hour’s drive from Belfast, this ancient city packs in the history, and the hilly streets and lanes, elaborate doorways and extravagant architecture give it an air of intrigue that’s hard to beat.

Interested in St Patrick? Welcome to Armagh – Ireland’s patron saint reputedly had a stone church built here back in 445AD. And at the very spot where St Patrick’s Church of Ireland now stands, you can descend to a crypt from the Middle Ages, with sacred music, stone heads and animal carvings.

Of course, the title “religious capital” doesn’t exactly make Armagh sound like an urban metropolis… But don’t be fooled: 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; a rich cultural scene; and a massive St Patrick’s Day Festival keep things buzzing all year long

Walking is the best way to explore what the city has to offer, from the handsome collection of buildings in the Mall lined with beautiful sycamore, lime, beech and chestnut trees, to the elegant main streets of English Street, Scotch Street and Irish Street.

Spend a few days here 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.”