County Armagh Topography

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The northern verge of the county, near Lough Neagh, the north-western adjoining Tyrone, and the neighbourhoods of Armagh, Market-hill, and Tanderagee, are level; the remainder is hilly, rising in the southern parts into mountains of considerable elevation. The highest is Slieve Gullion, rising, according to the Ordnance survey, 1893 feet above the level of the sea; it is about seven miles from the southern border, and is considered to be the loftiest point of land in Ulster, except Slieve Donard, in the neighbouring county of Down. Slieve Gullion sinks on the east into the Fathom Hills, which skirt the Newry water. One of the finest and most extensive prospects in Ulster is obtained from its summit, which commands the bay of Dundalk; and the bold and picturesque features of mountain scenery are confined to this immediate vicinity, including the Doobrin mountains and the neighbourhood of Forkhill. Westward to the Fews the country exhibits a chain of abrupt hills, the greater part of which can never be reduced to a state of profitable cultivation. Further west are the Fews mountains, a subordinate range, lying in a direction from south-east to north-west.

The fertility of the more level districts towards the eastern, northern, and north-western confines is very remarkable, especially in the views from Richhill, the numerous demesnes being sufficiently wooded to ornament the whole country, and the surface generally varied by pleasing undulations. From the shores of Lough Neagh, however, extend considerable tracts of low, marshy, and boggy land. The other lakes are few and small: that of Camlough, romantically situated on the northern verge of Slieve Gullion, is the largest. Lough Clay, in the western part of the county, which gives rise to one of the branches of the Callen river, is the next in size; but neither of them would be noticed for extent or beauty if situated in some of the neighbouring counties.

A chain of small lakes occupying the southwestern boundary of the county is valuable from the supply of water afforded by them to the mills in their neighbourhood. Coney Island, near the southern shore of Lough Neagh, and between the mouths of the Blackwater and Bann rivers, is the only island in the county; it is uninhabited. The climate is more genial than most of the other counties in Ulster, as is evinced by the greater forwardness of the harvests: this advantage has been attributed to the nature of the soil and subsoil, the gentle undulation of the surface, the absence of moor or marshy land, and the protection by mountains from the cooling breezes of the sea. The soil is generally very fertile, especially in the northern part, the surface of which is a rich brown loam, tolerably deep, on a substratum of clay or gravel. There is an abundance of limestone in the vicinity of Armagh, and in Kilmore and other places; and there are quarries near Lough Neagh, but the stone lies so deep, and they are subject to such a flow of water, as to be of little practical use. Towards Charlemont there is much bog, which yields red ashes, and is easily reclaimable; the substratum of this is a rich limestone.

The eastern part of the county consists of a light friable soil. In the south the country is rocky and barren: huge rocks of granite are found on the surface promiscuously mixed with blocks of limestone, as if thrown together by some convulsion of nature. All the limestone districts make good tillage and meadow ground: the natural meadow found on the banks of the rivers, and formed of a very deep brown loam, yields great crops without manure. The hilly district is generally of a deep retentive soil on a gravelly but not calcareous substratum: a decayed freestone gravel, highly tinged with ferruginous ore, is partially found here: the subsoil is sometimes clay-slate. In these districts heath is peculiarly vigorous, except where the judicious application of lime has compelled it to give place to a more productive vegetation. Except near Newtown-Hamilton, there is but little bog among these hills. The valleys which lie between them have a rich and loamy soil, which yields much grain, and does not abound in aquatic plants, although the poa fluitans grows in them in great luxuriance.

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