6 places to explore tasty offerings across Co Armagh this harvest season
Northern Ireland’s fertile farmlands are bursting with natural goodness at this time of year, and there is nowhere better to taste the fruits of our superb local harvest than in the Orchard County of Armagh. As the apple harvest gets into full swing, the beating heart of Northern Ireland’s burgeoning food scene is ripe with authentic culinary experiences.
1. Settle into the peaceful Armagh countryside near the village of Scarva, where the afternoon tea at Blackwell House will get your harvest-time odyssey off to a delicious start. This award-winning five-star guest house is the perfect rural base for discovering Armagh. Run personally by owners Joyce and Steve Brownlees, there are three opulently decorated super-king bedrooms to choose from, all with uninterrupted views over the rolling green countryside. The welcome, the breakfast and sumptuous luxury are second to none.
2. With Armagh’s EU-protected Bramley Apple at its centre, one of the ways the region celebrates its fantastic local produce is with a huge harvest-time festival. This year, the food and drink spectacular that is Armagh Apple Harvest Banquet unfolds over four days, from September 20 – 23.
Offering everything from harvest suppers, pop-up food hubs, a beef baron’s dinner and foraging for your own lunch, there are food experiences to whet every appetite. You could be dining on the lawns at a stunning orchard, meeting artisan producers and chefs or following food tours and trails on foot or by coach.
Many events take place in the picturesque orchards, where you can sample food and drink inspired by the local apple, and there are tastings that combine art, film, writing and even a new cider launch. Delve into the foodie events as the mood takes you, wander to your heart’s content through markets groaning with quality artisan produce and enjoy the best of the harvest to the full.
3. Armagh’s state-of-the-art Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre has a series of restaurant deals with some of the city’s award-winning restaurants, so it is worth pairing up your dining experience with a night at the theatre at any time. However, the combo will be particularly apt on the closing night of the harvest festival when George Egg: DIY Chef is set to serve up a rousing evening of stand-up, live cooking and belly-bursting comedy.
4. A tour of one of Armagh’s orchards will let you hear some great stories and provide a unique sensory journey through the area’s history and heritage. At Long Meadow Cidery, guests can relish a walk through the orchard, learning about the different apple-growing systems and trying their hand at the art of picking apples. After checking out the cider press and apple storage and blending facilities, it will be time to sample some of the delicious produce. Take home some Long Meadow rhubarb and honey craft cider, a bottle of still or sparkling apple juice and maybe a little apple cider vinegar.
5. Alongside its amazing foodie credentials, County Armagh is also ideal for exploring Celtic and early Christian history, literature and great Georgian architecture. In Armagh city, visits to the two cathedrals dedicated to St Patrick are a must.
6. But for one last novel culinary experience, enjoy a side trip to the Tayto Factory in Tandragee for a behind-the-scenes look at how this legendary Northern Irish potato crisp is made.
Other nearby attractions
Known in the Armagh area as ‘Lurgan Castle’, this large, picturesque and distinctive mansion oozes character and individuality. Two museums reveal an array of interesting stories about local history and the American and British troops stationed there during World War II. A long walk amid the beautiful parkland and lake surrounding the house will leave you ready to take advantage of the excellent tea room.
Navan Centre and Fort
The ancient ceremonial monument of Navan Fort was once the seat of the Kings of Ulster. The Navan Centre close by brings its rich Celtic history to life. An exhibition reveals artefacts, weaponry and the myths and legends of the era and you can meet Celtic characters who will transport you back in time. Watch demonstrations of ancient farming, weaving and cooking practices, or try your hand at making a clay pot, like those the Celts would have used.
This designated national nature reserve on the southern shores of Lough Neagh is a place of great beauty. Teeming with wildlife and with fantastic views over the waters, there are four miles of all-access woodland trails, bird watching hides, unique bogland, wildflower meadows and ponds to explore. Stop for a coffee or lunch at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre and make sure to browse the artisan craft shop. Inspirational.
For more of what’s happening in the food heartland of Armagh, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com/about-northern-ireland/counties/co-armagh/county-armagh/
Belfast Telegraph Digital