Belfast & Northern Ireland

South Armagh

27 Sep 2020
Known as The Gap of the North, South Armagh has a culture and beauty all of its own.

Now emerging from decades of conflict, the area is increasing its tourism potential and establishing itself as a new highlight for visitors keen to explore beyond the obvious.

To fully embrace the area and understand its people - both past and present - stay overnight in somewhere central like the market town of Crossmaglen and take time to chat to the locals.

It is only by listening to the folklore, history and work of the well-known Gaelic poets that you will fully appreciate the surrounding countryside and its historic sites.

Local tour guide Barbara Ferguson shares her Top Ten Highlights of South Armagh.

Slieve Gullion - 'The Holy Mountain'
With its hidden mass rocks and summit cairn, this is where where Archbishop Oliver Plunkett sought refuge. A 573m hike to the top reveals Calliagh Berra's Lough.

Creggan Graveyard and Poet's Glen - 'The Rocky Place'.
This Celtic Christian site is situated near the wooden banks of the Creggan River. The Church of Ireland graveyard contains the burial vault of the Ulster chieftain family, the O'Neills, as well as the graves of local 18th century Gaelic poets including Art McCooey and Patrick MacAliondain.

Moyry Castle
Built on a rocky height by Lord Mountjoy in 1601 to command the vital 'Gap of the North', this tall square tower features gunloops and an inside bawn wall.

Kilnasaggart Pillar Stone
The stone marks the site of an ancient cemetery on one of Early Christian Ireland's great main roads running from Tara to Dunseverik, Co. Antrim through the Moyry Pass. A long Irish inscription records a dedication by Tenroc, son of Ceran Bec, placing the site under the patronage of Peter the Apostle. Thought to be a local of some importance, Ternoc's death is recorded as 714 or 716, dating the stone at around AD700 and making it Ireland's earliest dated cross-carved stone.

Killeavy Old Churches
One of Ireland's most important early convents, the site was founded by St. Monenna in the 5th century. Although plundered by the Vikings in 923, monastic life continued and the site was occupied by Augustinian Nuns until 1542. A large granite stone in the tree-lined graveyard marks the grave of this devout saint  a site to which many pilgrims come and pray for the sick.

Hearty's Folk Cottage
Set in the heart of the countryside, this restored old thatched cottage is a welcome traditional pub/restaurant providing some evening entertainment and a chance to catch up on local stories and folklore.

Annaghmare Cairn
This fine example of a 20ft long megalithic court grave is situated in an isolated forest area close to the small village of Cullyhanna. Known locally as The Black Castle, the Cairn has been the site of many ghostly apparitions.

Ballykeel Dolmen (pictured)
Lying at the western foot of Slieve Gullion, this well preserved portal tomb with three upright stones and a cap stone has inspired many legends of fairies, witches and hags. Locals refer to it as 'The Hag's Chair', and poet and scribe Art Bennett was inspired to contest: "There is more Irish history in the rocks of Ballykeel than ever there was possessed in Belfast."

Camlough Lake - 'The Crooked Lake'. This 'ribbon lake', surrounded by a ring of hills and traditional farmland, reveals the area's natural beauty. Designated picnic areas make it an ideal place to rest for lunch.

Forkhill Village
Set on the Forkhill River between Croslieve and Slievebrack mountains, this small village once played a significant part as a trade centre en route to Armagh.

To find out more about the area, including activities, entertainment and places to stay, click visitarmagh.com.

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