County Armagh

Last updated

County Armagh

Contae Ard Mhacha  (Irish)
Coontie Airmagh/Coontie Armagh  (Scots)
Armagh coat of arms.png
Coat of arms
The Orchard County
Island of Ireland location map Armagh.svg
Country United Kingdom
Region Northern Ireland
Province Ulster
County town Armagh
  Total512 sq mi (1,326 km2)
Area rank 27th
Highest elevation1,880 ft (573 m)
  Rank 11th [1]
Time zone UTC±0 (GMT)
  Summer (DST) UTC+1 (BST)
Postcode area
Contae Ard Mhacha is the Irish name; Coontie Armagh [2] and Coontie Airmagh [3] are Ulster Scots spellings.

County Armagh (named after its county town, Armagh) is one of the traditional counties of Ireland and one of six counties that form Northern Ireland. Adjoined to the southern shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 1,326 km2 [4] and has a population of about 174,792. County Armagh is known as the "Orchard County" because of its many apple orchards. [5] 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.

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.

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


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 °C77.69.712.215.217.719.619.216.6139.57.612.9
Average low °C1.71.72.946.39.111.41196.
Average precipitation mm79.857.564.955.454.455.752.371.967.
Average high °F4545.749.554.059.463.967.366.661.95549.145.755.2
Average low °F35.135.137.23943.348.452.5524844.138.336.342.4
Average precipitation inches3.142.262.562.
Source: [6]


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 regarded by some[ who? ] as unfactual. [13] 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. [14]

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. [15] [16]


The county was administered by Armagh County Council from 1899 until the abolition of county councils in Northern Ireland in 1973. [17]

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. [18]

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.

With the proposed reform of local government in Northern Ireland in 2011, County Armagh would have comprised part of two new council areas, Armagh City and Bann District, and Newry City and Down; however, that reform has not proceeded to date.

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




The M1 near Lurgan M1 Moira (1) - - 195736.jpg
The M1 near Lurgan
Portadown railway station Train, Portadown station.jpg
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. 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. [20] Government Minister for the Department for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy MLA indicates railway restoration plans of the line from Portadown to Armagh. [21]

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.


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.

People associated with County Armagh

See main article: People from County Armagh

Places of interest

See also

Related Research Articles

County Down Place in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

County Down is one of six counties that form Northern Ireland, in the northeast of the island of Ireland. It covers an area of 2,448 km2 and has a population of 531,665. It is also one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland and is within the province of Ulster. It borders County Antrim to the north, the Irish Sea to the east, County Armagh to the west, and County Louth across Carlingford Lough to the southwest.

Portadown Human settlement in Northern Ireland

Portadown is a town in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The town sits on the River Bann in the north of the county, about 24 mi (39 km) southwest of Belfast. It is in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area and had a population of about 22,000 at the 2011 Census. For some purposes, Portadown is treated as part of the "Craigavon Urban Area", alongside Craigavon and Lurgan.

Armagh County town of County Armagh in Northern Ireland

Armagh is the county town of County Armagh and a city in Northern Ireland, as well as a civil parish. It is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland – the seat of the Archbishops of Armagh, the Primates of All Ireland for both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. In ancient times, nearby Navan Fort was a pagan ceremonial site and one of the great royal capitals of Gaelic Ireland. Today, Armagh is home to two cathedrals and the Armagh Observatory, and is known for its Georgian architecture.

River Bann Longest river in Northern Ireland, passing through Lough Neagh

The River Bann is the longest river in Northern Ireland, its length, Upper and Lower Bann combined, being 129 km (80 mi). However, the total length of the River Bann, including its path through the 30 km (19 mi) long Lough Neagh is 159 km (99 mi). Another length of the River Bann given is 90 mi. The river winds its way from the southeast corner of Northern Ireland to the northwest coast, pausing in the middle to widen into the enormous Lough Neagh. The River Bann catchment has an area of 5,775 km2. The River Bann has a mean discharge rate of 92 m3/s. According to C. Michael Hogan, the Bann River Valley is a settlement area for some of the first human arrivals in Ireland after the most recent glacial retreat. The river has played an important part in the industrialisation of the north of Ireland, especially in the linen industry. Today salmon and eel fisheries are the most important economic features of the river. The river is often used as a dividing line between the eastern and western areas of Northern Ireland, often labelled the "Bann divide". Towns, councils and businesses "west of the Bann" are often seen as having less investment and government spending than those to the east. It is also seen as a religious, economic and political divide, with Catholics and Irish nationalists being in the majority to the west, and Ulster Protestants and unionists in the majority to the east; and with the financial and industrial capital of Greater Belfast to the east with the west of the Bann being more agricultural and rural.


Ulaid, or Ulaidh, was a Gaelic over-kingdom in north-eastern Ireland during the Middle Ages made up of a confederation of dynastic groups. Alternative names include Ulidia, which is the Latin form of Ulaid, and in Cóiced, Irish for "the Fifth". The king of Ulaid was called the rí Ulad or rí in Chóicid.

Craigavon Borough Council Human settlement in Northern Ireland

Craigavon Borough Council was a local council in counties Armagh, Down and Antrim, in Northern Ireland. It merged with Armagh City and District Council and Banbridge District Council in May 2015 under local government reorganisation in Northern Ireland to become Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council.

Ring of Gullion

The Ring of Gullion is a geological formation and area, officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, (AONB) located in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The area centres on Slieve Gullion, the highest peak in County Armagh, measures roughly 42 by 18 kilometres and comprises some 150 km² defined topographically by the hills of an ancient ring dyke. Parts of the area have also been officially listed as Areas of Special Scientific Interest.

Camlough Human settlement in Northern Ireland

Camlough is a small village five kilometres west of Newry in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The village is named after a lake, known as Cam Lough, in the parish, which is about 90 acres in extent. South of the village is Camlough Mountain which is part of the Ring of Gullion. The Ring of Gullion is a geological formation and area and is officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, (AONB).

Ó hAnluain Family name

The Ó h-Anluain family was an agnatic extended family comprising one of a string of dynasts along the Ulster-Leinster border. Depending on the advantage to the sept, the named leader—The O'Hanlon—supported either the Earl of Tyrone or authorities within the English Pale. During the 15th century, ties were close with the famed Earls of Kildare. Frequently, members of the sept would be on either side of a rebellion. Some would be outlawed; others pardoned; some ending up on the winning side.

Slieve Gullion Mountain in Armagh, N. Ireland

Slieve Gullion is a mountain in the south of County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The mountain is the heart of the Ring of Gullion and is the highest point in the county, with an elevation of 573 metres (1,880 ft). At the summit is a small lake and two ancient burial cairns, one of which is the highest surviving passage grave in Ireland. Slieve Gullion appears in Irish mythology, where it is associated with the Cailleach and the heroes Fionn mac Cumhaill and Cú Chulainn. It dominates the countryside around it, offering views as far away as Antrim, Dublin Bay and Wicklow on a clear day. Slieve Gullion Forest Park is on its eastern slope.

McGann is an Irish surname, derived from the Gaelic Mac Cana clan, meaning "son of Cana". The Cana particle is a personal name meaning 'wolf cub'.

Coney Island, Lough Neagh

Coney Island is an island in Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland. It is situated approximately 1 km from Maghery in County Armagh, is thickly wooded and of nearly 9 acres (36,000 m2) in area. It lies between the mouths of the River Blackwater and the River Bann in the south-west corner of Lough Neagh. Boat trips to the island are available at weekends from Maghery Country Park or Kinnego Marina. The island is owned by the National Trust and managed on their behalf by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council. Coney Island Flat is a rocky outcrop adjacent to the island. Although Samuel Lewis called Coney Island the only island in County Armagh, Armagh's section of Lough Neagh also includes Croaghan Island, as well as the marginal cases of Padian and Derrywarragh Island.

Oneilland Place in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Oneilland is the name of a former barony in County Armagh, present-day Northern Ireland. It covers the northern area of the county bordering the south-eastern shoreline of Lough Neagh. At some stage the barony was divided into Oneilland East and Oneilland West.

Oneilland West Place in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Oneilland West is a barony in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. It is also called Clancann, after the Mac Cana clan. It lies in the north of the county on the south-western shore of Lough Neagh and the border of County Tyrone. Oneilland West is bordered by five other baronies: Armagh to the west; Dungannon Middle to the north-west; Oneilland East to the north-east; Orior Lower to the south-east; and Kinelarty to the south.

Oneilland East Place in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Oneilland East is a barony in the north-east of County Armagh, Northern Ireland. It is also called Clanbrasil. It lies in the north-east corner of the county, on the south-eastern shore of Lough Neagh and the boundary with County Down. Oneilland East is bordered by three other baronies: Oneilland West to the west; Iveagh Lower to the east; and Orior Lower to the south.


Poyntzpass is a small village on the border between southern County Armagh and County Down in Northern Ireland. It is situated in the civil parish of Ballymore and the historic barony of Orior Lower within the Armagh City and District Council area. It had a population of 614 people in the 2011 Census. It was a part of the South Armagh constituency and is now part of the Newry and Armagh constituency, and was one of the places in South Armagh where the Ulster Covenant could be signed.

Saint Ailill the Second b. c.480 - d. 1 July 536, was the Bishop of Armagh, Ireland from 526 to 536.

The Mac Cana clan were an ancient Gaelic tribe who held the title of Lords of Clanbrasil and held lands in Clancann and Clanbrasil in modern day County Armagh, and held townlands in what is now County Tyrone and County Meath.


  1. Census figures are no longer released detailing returns for Counties but rather Parliamentary Constituency, Local Government District, Electoral Ward and Output Area. This figure is based on a tally of all persons resident in the wards comprising County Armagh on 29 April 2001, i.e. all electoral wards of the Newry & Armagh Parliamentary Constituency (minus St. Mary's, St. Patrick's and Windsor Hill from County Down) combined with the 17 wards in the Upper Bann Parliamentary Constituency from County Armagh (i.e. Derrytrasna, Birches, Bleary, Drumgask, Taghnevan, Court, Annagh, Brownstown, Ballybay, Ballyoran, Corcrain, Edenderry, Killycomain, Kernan, Drumgor, Mourneview, Church, Knocknashane, Parklane, Woodville, Drumnamoe, and Tavanagh). "Area Profiles". Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  2. Tourism Ireland: 2007 Yearly Report in Ulster Scots Archived 17 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. North-South Ministerial Council: 2006 Annual Report in Ulster Scots Archived 27 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  4. County Armagh, Land Area
  5. "Your Place And Mine - Armagh -". Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  6. "Met Office" . Retrieved 4 October 2008.[ dead link ]
  7. For 1653 and 1659 figures from Civil Survey Census of those years, Paper of Mr Hardinge to Royal Irish Academy 14 March 1865.
  8. Census for post 1821 figures. Archived 9 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  9. Archived 7 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  10. NISRA – Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (c) 2013 Archived 17 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine . (27 September 2010). Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  11. Lee, JJ (1981). "On the accuracy of the Pre-famine Irish censuses". In Goldstrom, J. M.; Clarkson, L. A. (eds.). Irish Population, Economy, and Society: Essays in Honour of the Late K. H. Connell. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
  12. Mokyr, Joel; O Grada, Cormac (November 1984). "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700–1850". The Economic History Review. 37 (4): 473–488. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1984.tb00344.x. hdl: 10197/1406 . Archived from the original on 4 December 2012.
  13. "Myth of Bandit Country". Armagh: Iarchimi Ard Mhacha Theas. 16 May 2014. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  14. Norwitz, Jeffrey, ed. (2009). Pirates, Terrorists, and Warlords: The History, Influence, and Future of Armed Groups Around the World. Skyhorse Publishing. p. 107. ISBN   978-1-626-36987-0.
  15. "Continuity IRA shot dead officer". BBC News. London. 10 March 2009. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  16. "Continuity IRA claims PSNI murder". RTÉ News and Current Affairs. 10 March 2009. Archived from the original on 11 March 2009. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  17. "Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972". Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  18. See the Northern Ireland (Lieutenancy) Order 1975 (SI 1975 No. 156)
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Statistical classification of settlements". NI Neighbourhood Information Service. Archived from the original on 17 February 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  20. The Ulster Gazette. 16 May 2013
  21. "Kennedy has hopes for Armagh line restoration – Portadown Times". Archived from the original on 21 August 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  22. Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607–1896. Marquis Who's Who. 1963.
  23. Ibid.
  24. "Pennsylvania State Senate - John J McCreesh Biography". Retrieved 8 February 2019.

Coordinates: 54°21′00″N6°39′17″W / 54.3499°N 6.6546°W / 54.3499; -6.6546