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County Armagh

Contae Ard Mhacha  (Irish)
Coontie Airmagh/Coontie Armagh  (Scots)
Coat of arms of County Armagh
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): 
The Orchard County
Motto(s): 
In Concilio Consilium  (Latin)
"In Council is Wisdom "
Location of County Armagh
Country United Kingdom
Region Northern Ireland
Province Ulster
Established 1584/5
County town Armagh
Area
 • Total 512 sq mi (1,327 km2)
Area rank 27th
Highest elevation 1,880 ft (573 m)
Population
 (2011)
174,792
 • Rank 11th
Time zone UTC±0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+1 (BST)
Postcode area
Contae Ard Mhacha is the Irish name; Coontie Armagh and Coontie Airmagh are Ulster Scots spellings.

County Armagh (named after its county town, Armagh) is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland and one of the traditional thirty-two counties of Ireland. Adjoined to the southern shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 1,327 km2 (512 sq mi) and has a population of about 175,000. County Armagh is known as the "Orchard County" because of its many apple orchards. The county is part of the historic province of Ulster.

Etymology

The name "Armagh" derives from the Irish word Ard meaning "height" and Macha, together meaning "height" (or high place) and Macha. Macha is mentioned in The Book of the Taking of Ireland, and is also said to have been responsible for the construction of the hill site of Emain Macha (now Navan Fort near Armagh City) to serve as the capital of the Ulaid kings (who give their name to Ulster), also thought to be Macha's height.

Geography and features

From its highest point at Slieve Gullion, in the south of the County, Armagh's land falls away from its rugged south with Carrigatuke, Lislea and Camlough mountains, to rolling drumlin country in the middle and west of the county and finally flatlands in the north where rolling flats and small hills reach sea level at Lough Neagh.

Orchard, Grange Road, County Armagh, July 2013 (02)
An orchard near Drummannon

County Armagh's boundary with Louth is marked by the rugged Ring of Gullion rising in the south of the county whilst much of its boundary with Monaghan and Down goes unnoticed with seamless continuance of drumlins and small lakes. The River Blackwater marks the border with County Tyrone and Lough Neagh otherwise marks out the County's northern boundary.

There are also a number of uninhabited islands in the county's section of Lough Neagh: Coney Island Flat, Croaghan Flat, Padian, Phil Roe's Flat and the Shallow Flat.

Climate

Despite lying in the east of Ireland, Armagh enjoys an oceanic climate strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream with damp mild winters, and temperate, wet summers. Overall temperatures rarely drop below freezing during daylight hours, though frost is not infrequent in the months November to February. Snow rarely lies for longer than a few hours even in the elevated south-east of the County. Summers are mild and wet and although with sunshine often interspersed with showers, daylight lasts for almost 18 hours during high-summer.

Climate data for County Armagh
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F 45 45.7 49.5 54 59.4 63.9 67.3 66.6 61.9 55 49.1 45.7 55.2
Average low °F 35.1 35.1 37.2 39 43.3 48.4 52.5 52 48 44.1 38.3 36.3 42.4
Precipitation inches 3.142 2.264 2.555 2.181 2.142 2.193 2.059 2.831 2.642 3.193 2.839 3.283 29.898
Average high °C 7 7.6 9.7 12.2 15.2 17.7 19.6 19.2 16.6 13 9.5 7.6 12.9
Average low °C 1.7 1.7 2.9 4 6.3 9.1 11.4 11 9 6.7 3.5 2.4 5.8
Precipitation mm 79.8 57.5 64.9 55.4 54.4 55.7 52.3 71.9 67.1 81.1 72.1 83.4 759.4

History

Ancient Armagh was the territory of the Ulaid (also known as Voluntii, Ultonians, Ulidians, Ulstermen) before the fourth century AD. It was ruled by the Red Branch, whose capital was Emain Macha (or Navan Fort) near Armagh. The site, and subsequently the city, were named after the goddess Macha. The Red Branch play an important role in the Ulster Cycle, as well as the Cattle Raid of Cooley. However, they were eventually driven out of the area by the Three Collas, who invaded in the 4th century and held power until the 12th. The Clan Colla ruled the area known as Airghialla or Oriel for these 800 years.

The chief Irish septs of the county were descendants of the Collas, the O'Hanlons and MacCanns, and the Uí Néill, the O'Neills of Fews. Armagh was divided into several baronies: Armagh was held by the O'Rogans, Lower Fews was held by O'Neill of the Fews, and Upper Fews were under governance of the O'Larkins, who were later displaced by the MacCanns. Oneilland East was the territory of the O'Garveys, who were also displaced by the MacCanns. Oneilland West, like Oneilland East, was once O'Neill territory, until it was then held by the MacCanns, who were Lords of Clanbrassil. Upper and Lower Orior were O'Hanlon territory. Tiranny was ruled by Ronaghan. Miscellaneous tracts of land were ruled by O'Kelaghan. The area around the base of Slieve Guillion near Newry also became home to a large number of the McGuinness clan as they were dispossessed of hereditary lands held in the County Down.

Armagh was the seat of St. Patrick, and the Catholic Church continues to be his see. County Armagh is presently one of four counties of Northern Ireland to have a majority of the population from a Catholic background, according to the 2011 census.

The Troubles

The southern part of the County has been a stronghold of support for the IRA, earning it the nickname "Bandit Country" though this is widely regarded as an untrue media label that has resulted in the vilification and demonisation of the local community. South Armagh is predominantly nationalist, with most of the population being opposed to any form of British presence, especially that of a military nature. See Provisional IRA South Armagh Brigade for further information.

On 10 March 2009, the CIRA claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting of a PSNI officer in Craigavon, County Armagh—the first police fatality in Northern Ireland since 1998. The officer was fatally shot by a sniper as he and a colleague investigated "suspicious activity" at a house nearby when a window was smashed by youths causing the occupant to phone the police. The PSNI officers responded to the emergency call, giving a CIRA sniper the chance to shoot and kill officer Stephen Carroll.

Settlements

Subdivisions

Transport

M1 Moira (1) - geograph.org.uk - 195736
The M1 near Lurgan
Train, Portadown station
Portadown railway station

County Armagh is traversed by two major highways – the M1 linking Belfast to Dungannon crosses the north of the county whilst the A1/N1 from Belfast to Dublin runs in the far south east. Other major roads in the county include the A3 and A29.

Armagh once had a well-developed railway network with connections to, among others, Armagh City, Culloville, Goraghwood, Markethill, Vernersbridge, Tynan (see History of rail transport in Ireland ) but today only Newry (Bessbrook), Portadown, Poyntzpass, Scarva, and Lurgan are served by rail.

There is a possible railway re-opening from Portadown railway station to Armagh railway station in the future. Government Minister for the Department for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy MLA indicates railway restoration plans of the line from Portadown to Armagh.

Ulsterbus provides the most extensive public transport system within the county, including frequent bus transfers daily from most towns to Belfast. Northern Ireland Railways / Iarnród Éireann's Enterprise service provides connections to Dublin in little over an hour and Belfast in little over forty minutes, several times daily.

Inland waterways

County Armagh is traversed by the Ulster Canal and the Newry Canal which are not fully open to navigation.

Places of interest

  • Armagh Observatory, founded in 1790 & Armagh Planetarium, a modern working astronomical research institute with a rich heritage
  • Armagh Public Library on Abbey Street in Armagh City, especially rich in 17th and 18th century English books, including Dean Jonathan Swift's own copy of the first edition of his Gulliver's Travels with his manuscript corrections
  • Navan Fort, now a tree ring mound which once housed the rulers of Ulster with modern interactive visitor centre
  • Saint Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral, founded 445, seat of the Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, containing the grave of Brian Boru
  • Saint Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral, commenced in 1838, seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, stands on a hill and dominates the local countryside
  • Gosford Castle, mock medieval 19th-century castle with substantial grounds
  • Slieve Gullion, extinct volcano with crater lake, highest burial cairn in Ireland, views of 9 counties, with visitor centre at its foot
  • Bagel Bean, Armagh's most celebrated breakfast and lunch spot. Found at two locations in the small city centre. Founded 10 years ago on Lower English Street and now also open on Market Street.

Surnames

Most common surnames in County Armagh at the time of the United Kingdom Census of 1901, by order of incidence:

  • 1. Murphy
  • 2. Hughes
  • 3. Wilson
  • 4. McCann
  • 5. Kelly
  • 6. Quinn
  • 7. Donnelly
  • 8. Campbell
  • 9. Robinson
  • 10. Johnston

Gallery

Sport

In association football, the NIFL Premiership, which operates as the top division, has one team in the county: Glenavon, with Portadown, Annagh United, Armagh City, Dollingstown, Loughgall and Lurgan Celtic competing in the NIFL Championship, which operates as levels two and three.

The Armagh County Board of the Gaelic Athletic Association or Armagh GAA organises Gaelic games in the county.

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