Historic and fertile Co Armagh offers hidden gems to explore, together with the best of local produce.
Here's eight ways to revel in the Orchard County's top pickings.
1. Stay in a charming cottage that has been converted from a listed stone barn by the award-winning Ballydougan Pottery. Set within an enclosed courtyard, the cottages still have many of their original features and are as comfortable as they are unique.
The bright and spacious accommodation is styled as a “home away from home”, with traditional fine oak furnishings.
2. Venture to the historic Bloomvale House, which is home to the Ballydougan Pottery workshop. It is here that each piece of pottery is thrown and decorated by the hands of skilled artists to produce a stunning range of kitchenware and giftware.
Watch the potters at work and be inspired. Try hand-building or throwing for yourself at a pottery class and potentially uncover a new talent! Tutors will guide you to create your own masterpiece, which will be fired and glazed for you to return and collect, a lasting keepsake of your visit.
3. Meander through the gift shop to the restaurant and coffee lounge. Friendly staff will welcome you to enjoy a tasty lunch or afternoon tea, served on beautiful Ballydougan Pottery. The quaint coffee lounge has a homely atmosphere and you can enjoy your dining al fresco in the courtyard garden by your cottage residence.
4. Take a twenty-minute drive to Ballinteggart House, where the Troughton family have been growing apples for generations and established the Armagh Cider Company.
The bespoke drink is leading the way amongst traditional hand-crafted ciders in Northern Ireland, right in the heart of the Orchard County. Enjoy a guided tour from blossom to bottle at the home farm, where you will witness the cider and apple juices being made and of course have the opportunity to wet your tastebuds.
5. On the nearby banks of the River Bann, a converted linen mill houses the Pot Belly Restaurant.
The mill dates to the 1800s and the restaurant is rich in historic atmosphere. The recently updated menu consists of old favourites alongside tempting new dishes, created using the finest locally sourced ingredients.
Savour bruschetta served with Fivemiletown goat’s cheese followed by Mourne lamb, or fresh seafood from Irish waters. Relax with a glass of wine supplied by award-winning local merchant JN Wine, before returning to your cosy cottage dwelling.
6. Situated above Alexanders Markethill giftshop, enjoy breakfast, lunch or a delicious afternoon tea at The Market House Restaurant in Markethill. The lunch menu changes daily with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and a wealthy variety of tantalising produce. Dedicated pastry chefs also prepare delectable desserts and cakes to treat yourself.
7. Within walking distance of shops and restaurants in Armagh City, Courtyard Mews offers luxury self-catering accommodation.
The charming Courtyard Mews consist of the Oak Tree Lodge, Cherry Lodge and The Loft, with each residence including a full equipped kitchen and living room to make you feel right at home.
8. At the Palace Demesne Park you can stroll through formal gardens, ramble along the back meadows or relax in the Garden of the Senses – a quiet escape in the middle of Armagh City.
The Demense is a vast parkland and perfect for peaceful walks. During the Summer, costumed interpreters will recreate the grandeur and squalor of the Georgian Period through the Living History interpretation.
9. You can’t leave Armagh without visiting the beloved Yellow Door Deli, with shelves offering a “who’s who” of local artisans.
The Portadown premises is the flagship venue of the family-run business, with quality, local suppliers and the best of Northern Ireland produce at its heart.
Speciality breads, patisserie and much more help to ensure you enjoy a tasty breakfast accompanied by an aromatic coffee, for a delightful start to any day.
For more of the best local gems in Co Armagh, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com.