THE Hill of Armagh offers a welcome to visitors to spend a morning or an afternoon at the heart of the City of Armagh.
Visitors have the opportunity to visit one, two, three or four buildings, as time allows.
This year a visit to St Patrick’s Cathedral (Church of Ireland), where Patrick established his church in the fifth century, includes the recently restored Cathedral Crypt which was opened to the public this summer. Access to the Crypt helps to turn back the centuries for visitors, while the pre-Christian statues give an insight into bronze-age civilisation in Armagh.
Banbridge man, Leigh Vage, who is the Cathedral Steward says: ‘The Crypt enhances the visitor experience by letting people see a section of the Cathedral, relatively unchanged since the thirteenth century.’
The Cathedral grounds are also worth viewing, with their walled gardens, newly planted flowers and shrubs and magnificent views of the surrounding City and countryside.
The row of eighteenth century buildings in Vicars’ Hill disguises the former Diocesan Registry at No 5 Vicars’ Hill. Owned by Armagh Public Library, No 5 was opened to the public in 2011 and, in addition to its own surprising interior, it has added much needed space for the Library to display examples of its print, coin and gem collections.
A three dimensional model of Armagh shows the architectural development of the city during Archbishop Robinson’s time. There are interactive activities to suit a range of ages, including more images of the collections on touch screens.
Armagh Public Library, the oldest library in Northern Ireland, is another beautiful building on the Hill, holding collections of books, manuscripts, prints, maps and artefacts. One of the most popular reasons to visit the Library is to look at the first edition of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Published in 1726, it became an immediate best seller. The Library holds the copy with handwritten changes made by the author, in preparation for a later print run.
This year has seen the opening of a tea shop at No 4 Vicars’ Hill. Called 182 on the Hill, a menu is offered from breakfast through to a dainty afternoon tea.
Free parking is available in the Cathedral grounds. While visitors are welcome to visit any one of these buildings within their advertised opening hours, they are encouraged to book group visits for the Cathedral, Library and No 5 via Armagh Public Library, on 028 3752 3042 and to book for lunch at 182 on the Hill, on 028 37525523.
Normal admission to the Library is free, with donations welcome, and admission charges are requested to the Cathedral and No 5.
Visitors’ contributions help with the running costs for all these buildings and support the Hill of Armagh as a strong cluster of visitor attractions.