“Tomorrow we must bring the apples in, they are big as they shall ever be; already starlings eager to begin, have tasted many a tree.” 'The Load' John Hewitt
The history of apples stretches back over 10 million years.
Whereas wild crab apples are native to Ireland and pre-date humans, cultivated sweet apples are derived from a species that grows in the forests of the mountain ranges of Central Asia.
A large apple believed to date from about 1000 BC has been found in excavations at Navan Fort near Armagh. Legend has it that St Patrick himself planted an apple tree at Ceangoba, an ancient settlement outside Armagh City. Old historical records tell us that monks at the Culdee Monasteries, which were established in Armagh in the 9th century, enjoyed apples as treats during festivals. By the 12th century, apple growing was widespread in County Armagh and orchard planting increased throughout the following years.
The famous Armagh Bramley apple arrived in the area in 1884 and the orchards thrive to this day.
The apple ritual has great significance with the year being dictated by the stages of the harvest – The Wassail, Blossom & the Load.
The Wassail is the wakening of the tree in the dark winter months, The Blossom celebrates the new life of Spring and the Load celebrates a plentiful harvest.
Many apple orchards in the county are still family owned and operated, with many growing our PGA status Bramley apples for generations. Two of our most famous orchards belong to Long Meadow Cider and Armagh Cider Company.
The Armagh Rhymers celebrate the importance of the apple with our Orchard Experience in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Monastic Gardens. This experience will take you through a locked gate into a hidden urban orchard, where we celebrate the seasons of apple growing in local stories, music, and ritual. Click HERE to book now.