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Population: 141,000
Area: 1,254 sq km
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County Armagh - 5 places to stay

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Known as the Orchard Country, because the land is so fertile for apple-growing, and the smallest of the six counties that make up Northern Ireland, County Armagh has had the huge responsibility of being the spiritual capital of Ireland for over 1,500 years and is also home to the seats of both Protestant and Catholic archbishops. Its main town is Armagh, the oldest and least populated city in Ireland, with Lurgan, which has the larger population, at the extreme north-east of the country. St Patrick called Armagh 'my sweet hill' and built his stone church on the hill where the Anglican cathedral now stands. People first came to Armagh in 4,500BC and have been arriving ever since.

As with many of Irelandís other beautiful counties, thereís no shortage of scenic walks, excellent biking terrain and fishing facilities, as well as the obligatory helping of history and heritage. Key places to visit are St Patrickís Cathedral, The Navan Centre & Fort - stronghold of the kings of Ulster from 700 BC, Gosford Forest Park At Markethill and Blackwater River Park. The Blackwater is one of the best fishing rivers in Ireland, famous for its big bream and thereís canoeing over the weirs for the brave-hearted, a deep pool for sub aqua training and a fossil-hunting area. In addition there are also some great modern attractions such as the modern theatre and Armagh Planetarium, as well as a great selection of restaurants and bars.

Itís definitely worth timing your trip to when the apple blossom comes out in late May Ė itís a breath-taking sight where the pink flowers of the apple trees cover the deep green landscape with an array of pinks ranging from delicate soft pinks to bright vibrant fuchsia. And if the weatherís good you might just get the chance to play road bowls with some of the locals. The popular Armagh game is played only in the leafy lanes round Armagh and in county Cork. The iron bowls weigh 28 ounces and are hurled by the players along a course of several miles in the fewest possible throws.

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