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County Armagh

Coordinates: 54°21′00″N 6°39′17″W / 54.3499°N 6.6546°W / 54.3499; -6.6546
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County Armagh
Contae Ard Mhacha (Irish)
Coontie Airmagh/Armagh (Ulster-Scots)
The Orchard County
Location of County Armagh
CountryUnited Kingdom
RegionNorthern Ireland
County townArmagh
 • Total512 sq mi (1,327 km2)
 • Rank27th
Highest elevation1,880 ft (573 m)
 • Rank10th[2]
 • Density380/sq mi (146/km2)
Time zoneUTC±0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
Postcode area
Contae Ard Mhacha is the Irish name; Coontie Armagh[3] and Coontie Airmagh[4] are Ulster Scots spellings.

County Armagh (Irish: Contae Ard Mhacha) is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland and one of the traditional thirty-two counties of Ireland. It is located in the province of Ulster and adjoins the southern shore of Lough Neagh. It borders the Northern Irish counties of Tyrone to the west and Down to the east. The county borders Louth and Monaghan to the south and southwest, which are in the Republic of Ireland. It is named after its county town, Armagh, which derives from the Irish Ard Mhacha, meaning "Macha's height". Macha was a sovereignty goddess in Irish mythology and is said to have been buried on a wooded hill around which the town of Armagh grew.[5] County Armagh is colloquially known as the "Orchard County" because of its many apple orchards.[6]

The county covers an area of 1,327 km2 (512 sq mi), making it the smallest of Northern Ireland's six counties by size and the sixth-smallest county on the island of Ireland. With a population of 194,394 as of the 2021 census,[7] it is the fourth-most populous county in both Northern Ireland and Ulster. It is the 10th most populous of Ireland's 32 traditional counties, as well as the fifth-most densely populated. In addition to the city of Armagh and the western portion of the city of Newry, notable towns in the county include Lurgan, Portadown and Craigavon.


The name Armagh derives from the Irish Ard Macha, meaning Macha's height/Macha's high place. Macha is a mythological figure who is mentioned in The Book of the Taking of Ireland. Macha 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) and is believed to be the high place from which the county takes its name.

Geography and features[edit]

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

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 counties 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.

On 22 July 2021 the record for highest outside air temperature ever measured in Northern Ireland was set in Armagh City when a reading of 31.4°C was registered at Armagh Observatory's weather station.[8]

Climate data for County Armagh
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °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
Mean daily minimum °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
Mean daily maximum °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
Mean daily minimum °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
Source: [9]


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 clans of the county were descendants of the Collas, the O'Hanlons and Mac Cana, 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 Gullion near Newry also became home to a large number of the Clan McGuinness as they were dispossessed of hereditary lands held in the County Down.

St. Patrick is considered the first bishop of the Diocese of Armagh. 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.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, County Armagh was a major center of guerrilla warfare, cattle raiding, and brigandage by local Rapparees; including Count Redmond O'Hanlon, Cormacke Raver O'Murphy, and Séamus Mór Mac Murchaidh.[16]

The Troubles[edit]

The southern part of the county has been a stronghold of support for the IRA, earning it the nickname "Bandit Country".[17] 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.[18]

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.[19][20]


The county was administered by Armagh County Council from 1899 until the abolition of county councils in Northern Ireland in 1973.[21]

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.[22]

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


Religious Background in Armagh (2021)
Religion Per cent
Protestant and Other Christian
Other faiths

As of the 2021 Census, County Armagh recorded a population of 194,394.[7] It is one of four counties in Northern Ireland with a Catholic majority, with 58% of the population coming from a Catholic community background. Around 10% of the population was born outside the United Kingdom and Ireland, mainly immigrants from the European Union and concentrated in the Craigavon urban area (Lurgan, Portadown and Craigavon).

Community background and religion[edit]

Religion or religion brought up in (2021 Census)[7]
Religion or religion brought up in Number (%)
Catholic 113,093 58.2
Protestant and Other Christian 66,021 34.0
None (no religion) 13,018 6.7
Other religion 2,262 1.2
Total 194,394 100.0
Religion (2021 Census)[7]
Religion Number (%)
Christian 166,538 85.7
Catholic 107,058 55.1
Church of Ireland 24,437 12.6
Presbyterian 17,560 9.0
Methodist 4,194 2.2
Other Christian (including Christian related) 13,290 6.8
Protestant and Other Christian: Total 59,481 30.6
Other 2,037 1.0
Islam 882 0.5
Hinduism 168 0.09
Other religions 986 0.5
None/not stated 25,820 13.3
No religion 22,944 11.8
Religion not stated 2,876 1.5
Total 194,394 100.0


Ethnic groups (2021 Census)[7]
Ethnic group Number (%)
White: Total 188,347 96.9
White: British/Irish/Northern Irish/English/Scottish/Welsh
(with or without non-UK or Irish national identities)
172,923 89.0
White: Other 14,542 7.5
White: Irish Traveller 675 0.3
White: Roma 207 0.1
Asian or Asian British: Total 2,445 1.3
Asian/Asian British: Indian 615 0.3
Asian/Asian British: Chinese 589 0.3
Asian/Asian British: Filipino 405 0.2
Asian/Asian British: Pakistani 192 0.01
Asian/Asian British: Arab 107 0.055
Asian/Asian British: Other Asian 537 0.3
Black or Black British: Total 1,597 0.8
Black/Black British: Black African 1,086 0.6
Black/Black British: Black Other 511 0.2
Mixed: Total 1,480 0.8
Other: Any other ethnic group: Total 522 0.3
Total 194,394 100.0

Country of birth[edit]

Country of birth (2021 Census)[7]
Country of birth Number (%)
United Kingdom and Ireland 175,548 90.3
Northern Ireland 162,213 83.4
England 5,931 3.1
Scotland 1,071 0.6
Wales 234 0.1
Republic of Ireland 6,099 3.1
Europe 14,440 7.4
European Union 13,946 7.2
Other non-EU countries 494 0.2
Rest of World 4,406 2.3
Middle East and Asia 2,356 1.2
Africa 921 0.5
North America, Central America and Caribbean 649 0.3
Antarctica, Oceania and Other 250 0.1
South America 230 0.1
Total 194,394 100.0

Languages spoken[edit]

Main language of all usual residents aged 3 or over (2021 Census)[7]
Main language Usual residents aged 3+ (%)
English 171,713 92.0
Polish 3,818 2.0
Lithuanian 2,860 1.5
Portuguese 1,745 0.9
Bulgarian 1,575 0.8
Romanian 725 0.4
Irish 564 0.3
All other languages 3,677 2.0
Total (usual residents aged 3+) 186,677 100.0

Knowledge of Irish[edit]

Ability in Irish of all usual residents aged 3 or over (2021 Census)[7]
Ability in Irish Number (%)
Speaks, reads, writes and understands Irish 9,803 5.3
Speaks and reads but does not write Irish 1,206 0.6
Speaks but does not read or write Irish 4,952 2.7
Understands but does not read, write or speak Irish 13,150 7.0
Other combination of skills 2,553 1.4
Has some knowledge of Irish: Total 31,665 17.0
No ability in Irish 155,012 83.0
Total (usual residents aged 3+) 186,677 100.0

Knowledge of Ulster Scots[edit]

Ability in Ulster Scots of all usual residents aged 3 or over (2021 Census)[7]
Ability in Ulster Scots Number (%)
Speaks, reads, writes and understands Ulster Scots 1,653 0.9
Speaks and reads but does not write Ulster Scots 723 0.4
Speaks but does not read or write Ulster Scots 1,795 1.0
Understands but does not read, write or speak Ulster Scots 8,813 4.7
Other combination of skills 1,310 0.7
Has some knowledge of Ulster Scots: Total 14,294 7.7
No ability in Ulster Scots 172,383 92.3
Total (usual residents aged 3+) 186,677 100.0

National identity[edit]

National identity (2021 Census)[23][24][25][26]
National identity Number %
Irish only 75,841 39.0%
British only 48,076 24.7%
Northern Irish only 32,569 16.8%
British and Northern Irish only 11,039 5.7%
Irish and Northern Irish only 3,327 1.7%
British, Irish and Northern Irish only 1,521 0.8%
British and Irish only 773 0.4%
Other identity 21,248 10.9%
Total 194,394 Total
All Irish identities 82,057 42.2%
All British identities 62,771 32.3%
All Northern Irish identities 49,424 25.4%




The M1 near Lurgan
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. Other major roads in the county include the A3 and A29.

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.[28] Government Minister for the Department for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy MLA indicates railway restoration plans of the line from Portadown to Armagh.[29]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Places of interest[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Northern Ireland General Register Office (1975). "Table 1: Area, Buildings for Habitation and Population, 1971". Census of Population 1971; Summary Tables (PDF). Belfast: HMSO. p. 1. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 July 2019. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  2. ^ "County". NISRA. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  3. ^ Tourism Ireland: 2007 Yearly Report in Ulster Scots Archived 17 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ North-South Ministerial Council: 2006 Annual Report in Ulster Scots Archived 27 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas". ucd.ie. Retrieved 29 April 2024.
  6. ^ "Your Place And Mine – Armagh -". www.bbc.co.uk. Archived from the original on 16 October 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Build or find Census 2021 tables | NISRA Flexible Table Builder". build.nisra.gov.uk. Retrieved 18 July 2023.
  8. ^ "NI temperature record broken for third time in a week". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 22 July 2021. Archived from the original on 22 July 2021. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  9. ^ "Met Office". Retrieved 4 October 2008.[dead link]
  10. ^ For 1653 and 1659 figures from Civil Survey Census of those years, Paper of Mr Hardinge to Royal Irish Academy 14 March 1865.
  11. ^ Census for post 1821 figures. Archived 9 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Histpop – The Online Historical Population Reports Website". www.histpop.org. Archived from the original on 7 May 2016.
  13. ^ NISRA – Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (c) 2013 Archived 17 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Nisranew.nisra.gov.uk (27 September 2010). Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Tony Nugent (2013), Were You at the Rock? The History of Mass Rocks in Ireland, Liffey Press, Dublin. Pages 32–39.
  17. ^ "Myth of Bandit Country". Armagh: Iarchimi Ard Mhacha Theas. 16 May 2014. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "Continuity IRA shot dead officer". BBC News. London. 10 March 2009. Archived from the original on 13 April 2021. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972". Legislation.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 30 October 2019. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  22. ^ See the Northern Ireland (Lieutenancy) Order 1975 (SI 1975 No. 156)
  23. ^ "National identity (person based) - basic detail (classification 1)". NISRA. Retrieved 18 August 2023.
  24. ^ "National Identity (Irish)". NISRA. Retrieved 18 August 2023.
  25. ^ "National Identity (British)". NISRA. Retrieved 18 August 2023.
  26. ^ "National Identity (Northern Irish)". NISRA. Retrieved 18 August 2023.
  27. ^ a b c d e f "Statistical classification of settlements". NI Neighbourhood Information Service. Archived from the original on 17 February 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  28. ^ The Ulster Gazette. 16 May 2013
  29. ^ "Kennedy has hopes for Armagh line restoration – Portadown Times". Archived from the original on 21 August 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  30. ^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607–1896. Marquis Who's Who. 1963.
  31. ^ Ibid.
  32. ^ "Pennsylvania State Senate – John J McCreesh Biography". www.legis.state.pa.us. Retrieved 8 February 2019.

External links[edit]

54°21′00″N 6°39′17″W / 54.3499°N 6.6546°W / 54.3499; -6.6546