Belfast Telegraph

Plan your perfect summer in Armagh

All you might want or need for a jam-packed summer of art, culture, food, fun and family friendly events can be found right on your doorstep in Armagh.

With a bumper calendar of over 50 events over the coming months, an unrivalled tourism offering and world class attractions, Armagh and the surrounding region is set to be the place to be for locals, visitors and tourists alike this summer.

The festivities are already underway with plenty to enjoy. Armagh County Museum is celebrating its 80th anniversary since opening in 1937 as the first dedicated county museum in Ireland. The museum is currently hosting a remarkable exhibition until the end of August which tells the stories of people who have lived, worked and been associated with the Orchard County over the past 9,000 years.

Armagh city is truly becoming a must-visit destination in its own right as part of any visit to the island. For those new to the city, enjoy a guided walking tour exploring its rich history from pre-Christian times through its unmatched Georgian heritage to modern day Armagh built against a rich backdrop of historic buildings and open spaces.

Taking place every Wednesday-Saturday until the end of August, the walking tours reveal the city’s rich history through stories and anecdotes while learning about the renowned architecture and unearthing hidden gems along the way.

The ancient traditions of the area are remembered at the Summer Solstice at Navan Centre and Fort on 22 June when Celtic celebrations will bid farewell to the longest day of the year with song, dance and stories of years gone by as the sun sets.

Throughout July and August, Lazy Sundays at The Argory will provide laidback tunes and relaxation while the kids are entertained and the whole family can enjoy the summer BBQ.

Undoubtedly one of the major draws for the summer, the John Hewitt International Summer School at Armagh’s Market Place Theatre from 23-28 July continues to offer an attractive programme of readings, talks, workshops, discussions and evening shows featuring well-known writers, performers and speakers from throughout Ireland, the UK and beyond.

Step further back in time at Navan Centre and Fort with The Wickerman Festival on 4th August for the annual celebration of the Celtic Sun God Lugh. The festival’s 30ft Wickerman proudly oversees the many and varied activities taking place during this evening of music, dance, crafts and displays of ancient Celtic traditions and customs.

Armagh’s iconic 7 Hills Blues Fest returns for an eighth summer from 9-12 August, bringing world class talent to more than 30 venues and locations across the celebrated Cathedral City. Firmly established as one of the great blues and roots music events in the UK and Ireland, this year’s line-up promises another unmissable weekend of music.

Helping to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Armagh Planetarium, an Astronomy Exhibition running at Armagh’s Robinson Library until the end of June will showcase works printed between 1579 and 1810 by astronomers from England, Scotland, France and Germany, including rare works by Sir Isaac Newton from 1702.

Whatever the time of year you choose to visit Armagh, the Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre provides a plethora of activities and events to keep you busy and entertained. From top quality new, original theatre to comedy nights, children’s shows and opera, from ballet to professional pantomime, the calendar of performances will satisfy even the most discerning culture vulture.

Outside of the city, the rest of Armagh county and borough continues to enchant and enthral visitors with its natural beauty, cultural hotspots, award winning hospitality and warm welcome.

A major retrospective exhibition of work by the much-loved Northern Irish artist Neil Shawcross is at the FE McWilliam Gallery and Studio in Banbridge from June to mid-September. Featuring work from the 1970s to the present, the exhibition includes portraits, still life and Neil’s recent ‘Letter’ series, and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Prof. Liam Kelly of Ulster University.

On June 23rd the streets of Banbridge will welcome back established and upcoming musicians to 2018’s Buskfest, an international busking festival which attracts in excess of 6,000 people from across the globe to the town. Now in its 15th year, the festival celebrates the talent on show with its own awards ceremony that evening in the town’s Solitude Park, with gongs for best individual, best band, best junior, best performance and the overall winner.

The Sham Fight at Scarvagh House on 13th July is a symbolic re-enactment of the 1690 Battle of the Boyne and provides one of the region’s most colourful and well attended events.

The sound of local concert bands will fill the air around Scarva village each Sunday throughout July and August for the Scarva Band Concerts performing at the village green’s magnificent Victorian bandstand.

Of course, as the Food Heartland of Northern Ireland, the county and borough of Armagh is fast gaining a global reputation as a foodie’s favourite. Armagh boasts three unique foodstuffs including the Armagh Bramley apple, Lough Neagh eel and Lough Neagh pollen, a local fish species found on many discerning menus of the local award-winning restaurants.

As the Orchard County of Ireland, soak up the history and heritage of apple growing in Armagh as you journey the meandering lanes through thousands of acres of apple orchard. Meet local producers and sample the world class produce, whether apple juice and cider, oils, fruit, vegetables, bread and meat, that is revered internationally for quality and taste.

Wherever your interests lie, whether found in history books, cookery books or tomes of poetry by the masters, Armagh has all, and more, you would want or need to satisfy your cultural curiosities this summer.

For more info on places to explore this summer visit - www.visitarmagh.com

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