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
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.