Discover the city
In the city of Armagh, two magnificent cathedrals gaze at each other across a valley. Hundreds of years ago, this is where St Patrick chose to establish his original church, and ever since Armagh has served as the ecclesiastical centre for the island. The two cathedrals, one Church of Ireland and one Roman Catholic, are magnificent structures that are well worth the climb to admire – plus, you'll get to enjoy fantastic views over this glorious pocket-sized city.
During the Home of St Patrick Festival in March, the city is alive with events celebrating Ireland's patron saint. But there's more to Armagh than Patrick. The Armagh County Museum boasts a range of prehistoric artefacts from the city’s long history, as well as cultural gems from some of it’s most eminent artists. Nearby, the Armagh Public Library hosts a collection of rare books and manuscripts, including a first edition copy of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, complete with notes by the author in his own handwriting.
Beyond the city
As you move out of the city, you'll notice that the very landscape of County Armagh is tied to its ancient legacy. Navan Fort, a short jaunt outside the city, is the site of an ancient pagan ceremonial site dedicated to the Celtic goddess Macha. Court cairns and dolmens, used by Neolithic people as burial markers, can be found dotted across the land. The largest of these is the Ballykeel dolmen, a tomb constructed from giant stones hauled from the earth.
In the present day, Armagh comes alive with colour every May, as the Apple Blossom Festival strikes up in celebration of the Bramley apple. This venerable variety of fruit covers the Armagh countryside – about 6,000 acres of trees, centred around the village of Loughgall, produce about 40,000 tonnes of apples each year. These are used in baking, apple sauce, juices and ciders. The festival itself is a lively affair with music, orchard tours and food and drink flowing freely.
Close to nature
Striking out for the wilds of County Armagh, find a haven in Peatlands Park. This area, near the shores of Lough Neagh, is a conglomeration of woodland, bogs and orchards, complete with fascinating flora and fauna. Traverse the boardwalks as dragonflies and butterflies whirl around your head – and keep your eyes peeled for the insect-eating plants that call the marshes home! If you're here in the summer make sure you catch the quirky sport that takes place here – bog snorkelling, where people pit themselves against the challenging waters of the bog.
Before you leave the Orchard County, make sure that you get yourself to Slieve Gullion, a part of the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Take a drive to the summit of this extinct volcano, and be rewarded with exquisite scenery. Along the way, you can discover a hidden lake on the mountainside and the highest surviving passage tomb on the island. It goes without saying that for a small county, Armagh sure packs in the surprises!