For those looking to soak up landmark sights and attractions, alongside rich culture, a compelling history and a tremendous food scene, Armagh is never going to disappoint.
And as the Christmas season begins to get into gear this outstanding destination is simply throbbing with things to see and do. So there’s no better time than right now to head away to enjoy the Cathedral City in all its glory.
1. It will be well worth timing your getaway to coincide with the much-loved Armagh Georgian Festival (November 22–25), one of the key markers of the start of the festive season in Northern Ireland. Partly a tribute to Archbishop Richard Robinson, the man responsible for transforming Armagh into a city of stunning Georgian architecture, the festival brings the era’s literature, fashion, arts and food fully to life.
You’ll find everything from a Georgian banquet, artisan markets, horse and carriage rides, a gin school, wine tasting, afternoon teas, hidden gems bus tours, ghost and walking tours and much more. Look out also for Georgian Day (November 24) when the streets will overflow with animated characters, traditional music and theatre, carol singers and horse drawn carriages.
2. To enjoy it to the full, the best plan is to check into the Armagh City Hotel, which is offering special packages over the festival weekend. The hotel’s deluxe rooms offer luxurious furnishings and fantastic views over the city, while there is a range of mouth-watering menus to savour in its bar and restaurant. State of the art health and fitness facilities are complemented by a spa sanctuary for revitalising and indulging mind, body and spirit. This ideal location for exploring all that Armagh has to offer also has its own programme of entertainment.
Armagh City Hotel is also an excellent base for exploring the area’s hidden gems, which, in the Orchard County, must include a tour of one the local cideries. Armagh Cider Company is owned by the Troughton family, who have grown apples in the county for four generations. Take a ‘blossom to bottle’ tour here for an entertaining insight into the family orchards and for the opportunity to see first-hand where the cider and apple juices are made. After checking out the cidery and bottling hall, taste and compare some of the delicious produce.
3. Then you can relax back at the hotel, shop like mad, check out Armagh’s great nightlife or indulge in some quality food and drink in an area recently crowned one of the top five foodie destinations in the whole of Ireland. For a true taste of Armagh, try the 4 Vicars restaurant, serving up the superb local produce simply and deliciously. It’s situated in one of the oldest streets in the city, Vicar’s Hill, also home to the amazing Armagh Public Library and the No.5 Vicar’s Hill museum.
4. For those who want to delve into some more culture, the Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre offers plenty of shows and workshops, or you can explore one of the regular art exhibitions. And in the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, don’t miss the two fine cathedrals bearing the name of St Patrick.
5. Afterwards, you might be in the mood to explore the oldest county museum in Ireland, set in Armagh's beautiful tree lined Mall. With local history, fine art, archaeology and natural history collections to explore, Armagh County Museum is the ideal place for digging into the Orchard County’s fascinating back story.
6. Alternatively, a long walk or romantic stroll in the undulating parkland of Armagh Palace Demesne will let you absorb the splendour of the city’s Georgian heritage and beautiful green spaces.
Find more ideas for exploring Northern Ireland at: www.discovernorthernireland.com
7. Armagh Planetarium
From stargazing nights to live science shows, the chances of an ‘out of this world’ experience are always high in Armagh Planetarium. Experience Earth and beyond in the digital domed theatre or explore the exhibition areas to learn more about the cosmos. Take a trip into the Mars room or touch the largest meteorite on display in Ireland. At an unbelievable 4.6 billion years old, is probably the oldest thing you will ever touch.
8. Ballydougan Pottery
Be inspired at this picture-postcard pottery not far from Lurgan, County Armagh. The beautifully restored thatched linen barn and outhouses feature a restaurant, giftshop, courtyard cottage accommodation and the chance to throw your own piece. View the potters at work or try it yourself at the pottery workshops and classes which are available all year round.
9. Navan Centre and Fort
Not far out of Armagh city, the ancient ceremonial monument of Navan Fort was once the seat of the Kings of Ulster. The Navan Centre nearby brings this rich Celtic history to life in exhibitions of artefacts, weaponry and the myths and legends of the era. You can meet Celtic characters who will transport you back in time. Enjoy helping them prepare and cook their meals, or get your hands dirty in the garden and herb beds.