Ap­ples at the core

Au­tumn brings out the lush­ness of the Ar­magh coun­try­side, and sees a num­ber of har­vest- re­lated events tak­ing place, writes Mimi Mur­ray

The Irish Times Magazine - - TRAVEL -

It’s the sea­son of mel­low fruit­ful­ness, and as such it’s a great time to visit Ire­land’s Or­chard County, Ar­magh. The Bram­ley ap­ple was first brought to Co Ar­magh by the an­ces­tors of John Ni­chol­son, owner of Cran­na­gael, a charm­ing grade two listed Ge­or­gian house in Lough­gall.

The fruit re­mains the ba­sis of the county’s ap­ple and cider in­dus­tries, and out of this has sprung an an­nual food and cider fes­ti­val, and Cran­na­gael, along with sev­eral other ar­ti­san food and drink pro­duc­ers, get in­volved over four days ev­ery au­tumn.

On a re­cent whis­tle stop tour I got to see first hand how a net­work of lo­cal pro­duc­ers have taken a sim­ple prod­uct, the ap­ple, and grown it into a thriv­ing in­dus­try. But they have also cre­ated some­thing more around this hum­ble fruit, ( the Ar­magh Bram­ley was re­cently awarded the cov­eted pro­tected ge­o­graph­i­cal in­di­ca­tion/ PGI sta­tus) and are now hop­ing to at­tract more vis­i­tors to Ar­magh be­cause of it.

If your stay is short you could base your­self in Ar­magh city, which is also the ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal cap­i­tal of Ire­land, and, with its dis­tinc­tive Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­ture and two cathe­drals, is worth a visit. We based our­selves fur­ther north in New­forge House, just out­side the vil­lage of Maghera- lin, which is an ex­cel­lent spot for tak­ing in the many sea­sonal ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer.

Au­tumn is one of the best times of the year to visit Ar­magh, not only due to the lush­ness of the coun­try­side, with its low- hang­ing fruit and bur­nished colours, but also be­cause a num­ber of har­vest- re­lated events take place, in­clud­ing the fes­ti­val.

You can’t go very far in Ar­magh with­out the dis­tinc­tive smell of ap­ples waft­ing on the air, and the McKeever fam­ily, own­ers of Long Meadow Cider Com­pany, was ea­ger to show us the tra­di­tional method of mak­ing the drink – ap­ples pressed, fer­mented the nat­u­ral way, with no ad­di­tives or colour­ings, and sim­ply bot­tled.

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