Hi everyone. Great to have your company once more as our Virtual Tour of Ireland continues. This week we drive into County Armagh and in particular the city of Armagh. This small but charming city is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland with both the Roman Catholic and the Church of Ireland cathedrals dominating its skyline. So let’s start there!
County Armagh Highlights
1. St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral
The Church of Ireland Cathedral perches majestically on the hill from which the city and county takes its name. Armagh comes from the Irish Ard Mhacha meaning the height of Macha. Macha is the name of the ancient Irish Goddess, largely associated with mythological tales of Ulster. It was here that St.Patrick founded his first stone church in 445 AD. The original church would have been Roman Catholic until the Protestant Reformation. It has been destroyed and reconstructed some 17 times!
2. St. Patrick’s RC Cathedral
On a neighboring hill standing equally majestically is the Roman Catholic Cathedral. It was built in stages starting in 1840 in the wake of Catholic emancipation in 1829. The current structure was completed in 1904. It holds a treasure trove of stunning mosaics, gold leaf sculptures and stained glass windows.
3. Apple Orchards
County Armagh is also know as the “Orchard County”. The history of apple growing in Armagh dates back some 3000 years and it is said St. Patrick himself planted an apple tree in the ancient settlement of Ceangoba in the east of the city. 6000 acres of the Armagh countryside is covered in orchards producing an impressive crop of 40,000 tonnes. Best to visit in May when the blossom is in full bloom.
4. Slieve Gullion
Armagh’s highest peak stands at 573 meters and the name comes from the Irish Sliabh gCuillinn, meaning “hill of the steep slope”. At the top there are two lakes and the highest surviving passage grave in Ireland Slieve Gullion also features highly in Irish mythology and is the location of tales featuring Finn Mc Cool and Cú Chulainn.
5. Armagh Palace Demense
This week’s last stop brings us to the tranquil beauty of the Demesne at Armagh Palace. The palace refers to the Primates Palace which was home to the Archbishops of the Church of Ireland from 1770 until the 1970s. It is now the office of the Lord Mayor. The grounds are now a public park covering some 300 acres and are a walkers wonderland. Featuring large open grasslands, woodland trails, an ice house and a 19th century glasshouse. A real must-see on any trip to County Armagh.
That’s all for this trip. See you next week as we head back over the border into County Louth.
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Slán go fóill!