Once upon a time, back when I was in my twenties, an Australian friend came to visit Armagh. I was surprised at how impressed he was with our little city. He thought the buildings and the architecture beautiful, admired the quaint little streets, loved the lush landscape and the rolling orchards, and of course, thought our Cathedrals magnificent. A few years later, he married an Armagh lass, one of my best friends – so perhaps, I felt he was just a tad biased!
Despite my friend’s enthusiasm for the city, my eyes were closed to Armagh’s possibilities as a tourist destination even though we had the two amazing Cathedrals.
On a recent trip back to Armagh, My Husband and I had “messages” to do in town. We scored a really handy parking spot beside the Armagh Visitor Information Centre and after we had our business done, we decided to pop into, what I dubbed in my head as, the Armagh Tourist Office.
It’s a strange concept to go to a visitor centre/tourist office in your own town, weirder still to play tourist-at-home, but in a place like Armagh, I discovered that it is utterly delightful.
The building that houses the Armagh Visitor Centre is beautiful. In fact, this photo could pass for one I’d take in Paris. Inside, the decor, in calming tones of duck-egg blues and greys, complemented the period of the architecture.
Right away, we were greeted with a friendly welcome and an offer of help. Marion was enthusiastic about the charms of my hometown and not one bit phased when I told her I’d grown up here. Of course, we quickly found some relatives and friends in common since she too was an Armagh native. She immediately put us at our ease and erased my strange sense of being a fraud since we weren’t tourists as such. It didn’t matter to her – her mission is to promote Armagh, and she made it look so easy!
She began by taking out a Map of the City, and right away I was struck by how many things there were to do in Armagh! There were plenty of attractions close enough together for Marion to suggest sending us on a walking tour. She circled places of interest and described, with a wealth of knowledge, what there was to see at each one.
If you’re in Armagh and have a bit of time to spare, local or visitor, pop in to see Marion and the team in The Armagh Visitor Centre and ask them about these guys – you’ll see them secreted in nooks and crannies about the city.
Even if historical monuments are not quite your thing, there are a plethora of great places to eat in Armagh such as the award-winning Mulberry Bistro beside the Catholic Cathedral… every seat guarantees a stunning view, and the food is amazing.
4 Vicars on Vicars Hill beside the Church of Ireland Cathedral also has won awards and you can get a seat overlooking the “old” Cathedral, as it is often referred to in Armagh. They also have a lovely seating area out back with a view over lovely gardens.
If it’s pampering you are after, look no further than Armagh.
Coco Lane is the place to go to relax and unwind with a massage or a beauty treatment. They were finalists in the Ulster Tattler 2016 Awards for the great work they do in their beautifully decorated haven of tranquillity situated near the Shambles.
If your locks need some TCL – Petra and her crew are just back from collecting awards in London for her hairdressing salon, Petra’s House of Color.
Venture outside the city – you are in for a treat with lush landscapes and pretty villages. Tassagh Viaducts are very beautiful, and if you go that way, pop into Basil Sheils for a lovely lunch.
If you enjoy good photography have at look at Patrick Hughes Photography on Facebook – some stunning shots of the city here – very inspiring. I keep wondering how could I incorporate one of his pictures into a book cover someday!
Also, if you’re after culture there’s the Market Place Theatre.
So there’s plenty to see and do in Armagh whether you live there or are just exploring. Either way, do consider popping into The Armagh Visitor Centre where Marion and her colleagues will be happy to answer your questions, and do take a moment to browse the lovely Craftswirl gift store – ah go on – treat yourself!