The Orchard County
|• Total||512 sq mi (1,326 km2)|
|Highest elevation||1,880 ft (573 m)|
|Time zone||UTC±0 (GMT)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+1 (BST)|
|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 thirty-two counties of Ireland and one of six counties of Northern Ireland. Adjoined to the southern shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 1,326 km2 and has a population of about 174,792. County Armagh is known as the "Orchard County" because of its many apple orchards. The county is part of the historic province of Ulster.
The name "Armagh" derives from the Irish word Ard 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.
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.
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.
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|
|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|
|Average 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|
|Average high °F||45||45.7||49.5||54.0||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|
|Average precipitation inches||3.14||2.26||2.56||2.18||2.14||2.19||2.06||2.83||2.64||3.19||2.84||3.28||29.90|
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 southern part of the county has been a stronghold of support for the IRA, earning it the nickname "Bandit Country". South Armagh is predominantly nationalist, with much of the population being opposed to any form of British presence, especially that of a military nature. The most prominent opposition to British rule was the Provisional IRA South Armagh Brigade.
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.
The county was administered by Armagh County Council from 1899 until the abolition of county councils in Northern Ireland in 1973.
County Armagh remains officially used for purposes such as a Lieutenancy area – the county retains a lord lieutenant who acts as representative of the British Monarch in the county.
Currently the county is covered for local government purposes by four district councils, namely Armagh City and District Council, most of Craigavon Borough Council, approximately the western third of Newry and Mourne District Council and a part of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, centred around Peatlands Park.
Armagh ceased to serve as an electoral constituency in 1983, but remains the core of the Newry and Armagh constituency represented at Westminster and the Newry and Armagh constituency represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly. County Armagh also remains as a district for legal and property purposes; however, its baronies no longer have any administrative use.
The -XZ suffix is currently used on vehicle registration plates for vehicles registered in County Armagh. Other suffixes have been -IB and -LZ. These marks are followed by up to four numbers, e.g., JLZ 6789
Main article: List of places in County Armagh
(population of 18,000 or more and under 75,000 at 2001 Census)
(population of 10,000 or more and under 18,000 at 2001 Census)
(population of 4,500 or more and under 10,000 at 2001 Census)
(population of 2,250 or more and under 4,500 at 2001 Census)
(population of 1,000 or more and under 2,250 at 2001 Census)
Small villages or hamlets
(population of fewer than 1,000 at 2001 Census)
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. Armagh has numerous local roads connecting settlements in the county.
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.
County Armagh is traversed by the Ulster Canal and the Newry Canal which are not fully open to navigation.
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.