The Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre, a cultural and conference facility designed by Glenn Howells and inaugurated in 2000, won the Stirling Prize for Architecture and a high commendation in the British Construction Industry Awards. Built on a sloping site previously occupied by a cinema destroyed by terrorists, the elegantly Spartan edifice contains a 400-seat auditorium and a smaller Studio theatre, where drama, comedy, music, dance and variety performances are programmed, while workshops and visual art exhibitions are held all year round, and late-night entertainment is provided in the excellent Stage Bar / Bistro on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Market House, erected in 1815 on the site of the previous session house and gaol, was converted into a Technical School with the addition of a floor in 1912, and is now occupied by the well-equpped Armagh City Library.
The C11th Market Cross in the steeply sloping square marked the centre of civic life in Armagh for many centuries.
The Market Square is overlooked by an attractive terrace of restored houses dating from the mid-C18th.
The Armagh Observatory & Planetarium
The Armagh Observatory, founded by Primate Robinson as part of his scheme to found a university, was designed by Francis Johnston in 1789, but remained unfinished till 1825, when Archbishop Lord JG De La Poer Beresford furnished the necessary instruments and equipment at the then astronomical cost of nearly £3000, but died before the work was complete.
Over the year the Observatory has been run by a number of distinguished directors, and has made valuable contributions to the field of astrophysics. The specialist library, archives and collections of scientific instruments and artefacts connected with the development of modern astronomy make the Observatory one of the most important centres of its kind.
Nowadays Armagh Observatory is one of the leading astronomical research establishments in the British Isles, with 25 scientists studying stellar astrophysics, the sun, our Solar System and meteorology. Guided tours of the main building can be arranged by appointment only.
Situated on a gentle eminence, the Observatory has beautifully landscaped grounds and gardens featuring historic telescopes and telescope domes, a Weather Station, a Nature Trail, two sundials, and a Human Orrery.
The Astropark, opened in 1994, is a 14-acre “scale model of the Universe”, including a stainless steel Solar System, a Hyper-Cube, a Hill of Infinity and a Stone Calendar.
The Armagh Planetarium was founded in 1968 by Observatory Director Dr Eric Mervyn Lindsay, and constructed under the supervision of Dr Patrick Moore (who wrote an interesting history of the older institution). It pioneered the use of video in its dome and commissioned the world’s first completely interactive planet show in the 1980s . Renovated in 2006, the building now contains a splendid digital Space Theatre, the Lindsay Hall of Astronomy, and Ireland’s largest public telescope. A school outreach programme uses an inflatable planetarium.
The Eartharium gallery focuses on Earth Sciences, with displays examining the Earth’s core, surface and atmosphere.
The Cardinal Tomás O’Fiach Memorial Library, housed in a modern building, covers not only ecclesiastical affairs and theology but also sports, particularly GAA, Irish history, the Irish Gaelic language, the Irish Diaspora and many other subjects. Roman Catholic donors often prefer to deposit collections here rather than with the Public Records Offfice in Belfast.
St Patrick’s Trian
St Patrick’s Trian, a visitor complex located in three C18th and C19th buildings in downtown Armagh, is named for the city’s historic division into three districts, and incorporates 3 exhibitions:
The Armagh Story uses illustrated wall panels, audiovisual displays, sound effects and narrative explanations to explore the evolution of belief, focusing on ancient times, Patrick’s arrival to Armagh, the Viking invasions of Ireland and contemporary society.
Patrick’s Testament takes a more in depth look at Saint Patrick through The Book of Armagh, a C9th manuscript from the monastery, now held by the TCD Library. It contains some of the earliest surviving specimens of Old Irish Gaelic.
The Land of Lilliput is based on Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, who spent much time in Armagh, and features scale models of Gulliver and the tiny Lilliputians.
The Trian is located at 40 English St, also the address of Armagh Tourist Information Centre.
The Armagh Murder Mystery Trail, very favourably reviewed on the Internet, is a novel form of family entertainment run by an outfit called Treaure Trails.