On Saturday and Sunday, September 13 and 14, some of Armagh’s finest properties will throw open their doors for a weekend celebration of history and heritage as part of Northern Ireland’s European Heritage Open Days (EHOD).
Organised by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), European Heritage Open Days are designed to encourage people of all ages to discover Northern Ireland’s rich and diverse architecture and legacy.
In Armagh City and District, free access has been arranged to 30 properties; giving visitors a unique opportunity to visit some of Armagh’s most fascinating buildings and uncover a captivating insight into local history. Among those properties participating is the newly refurbished Archbishops Palace and Primate’s Chapel which will be open from 12noon to 5pm each day, with guided tours running at regular intervals. Music will also be provided from 3pm to 5pm, adding to the atmospheric setting. Within the greenhouse in the grounds of The Palace Demesne there will also be a decorative installation entitled ‘Somewhereto-’, reflecting the grounds and history of the site.
As one of Ireland’s most important archaeological sites, Navan Centre & Fort [Emain Macha] are offering condensed tours taking in the exhibition hall, a visit to the Iron Age dwelling and a guided tour of Navan Fort from 11am to 4pm each day. The centre will also be open to visitors from 10am – 6.30pm.
The popular Armagh Gaol, which is normally closed to the public but opened this summer as a pop-up tourist attraction, is once again unlocking its doors for the weekend. The building, which opened in 1819 and closed in 1988, operated as a prison for over 150 years and is one of Northern Irelands most historical buildings.
During European Heritage Open Days, guided tours will allow visitors to explore this notorious former prison and will include the history of the Gaol as well as recounting some of the stories which have emerged from its long history. Tours will take place each hour from 12pm to 4pm and last approximately 30 minutes. Tours must be pre-booked at www.armaghgaoltours.com/booknow.html or by calling 028 9035 7527.
Armagh’s two iconic Cathedrals are also taking part in European Heritage Open Days. Saint Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral is open each day, with pre-booked guided tours available. Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral will have guided tours at 11.45am and 3.15pm on Saturday 14th September plus a children’s tour at 12.30pm.
The Cathedral will also be open to the public on Sunday. Visitors to the Cathedrals can also download the free ‘Armagh Cathedrals’ app on Android or Apple and explore the many evocative spaces, stories and symbols within the app.
Other sites open across the weekend include the Cardinal Tomás O Fiaich Library & Achieve which houses important collections relating to Irish history, Armagh Public Library, which boasts over five hundred years of books in a magnificent Georgian setting, Ireland’s leading centre for Astronomical education, Armagh Planetarium, which will have free shows on Saturday 13th September and the former Armagh Diocesan Registry, No 5 Vicars’ Hill, to name a few.
Commenting on Armagh’s European Heritage Open Days, Lord Mayor of Armagh City & District, Cathy Rafferty said: “European Heritage Open Days are an ideal time to visit Armagh’s many attractions and heritage sites. Throughout the weekend, there is a wide range of free and family friendly activities, giving visitors the perfect chance to learn more about Armagh and all that we have to offer. With a host of attractions, restaurants, cafes, boutique shops and much more, Armagh City is well worth a visit at any time of the year”.
Commenting on EHOD, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “Our historic environment is hugely beneficial to our cultural and economic wellbeing, and these are wonderful days out for people of all ages. This year over 400 properties and events will be open, including over 100 opening for the first time. Many will have living history and cultural activities helping to bring heritage alive for visitors.
“My Department recognizes and supports the excellent contribution that our built and cultural heritage makes to our environment and economy. We have invested over £4.6 million in Listed Building Grant Aid in 2013/14, and a further £1m in historic monuments through conservation, outreach and public participation.”
“EHOD gives everyone the chance to satisfy our natural curiosity about many of our historic buildings, be they churches, castles, or private homes. Many owners and groups have volunteered to open their doors to this event.”
A free shuttle bus will run throughout Armagh City Centre on both Saturday and Sunday to encourage people to get about and about and unveil of this fantastic opportunity. Full details of all participating properties can be found at www.armagh.co.uk or by contacting Armagh Visitor Information Centre on +44 (0) 28 3752 1800.
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