Up to the fourth century AD, the effective capital of the kingdom of
Ulster was at Emhain Mhacha, just outside the modern town of
Armagh. The cattle-raiding exploits of the kingdom and its conflict
with the kingdom of Connacht under Queen Maeve are recorded in
the epic Táin Bó Cuailinge, the Cattle-raid of Cooley. The political
significance of the area is doubtless one of the reasons why St
Patrick made it the centre of his mission to convert the Irish in the
fifth century. Armagh is still the ecclesiastical capital of both the
Roman Catholic church and the Church of Ireland. The remains of
Emhain Mhacha are now a major tourist attraction.
In later times, the county formed part of the Gaelic kingdom of Oriel,
which also included parts of the modern counties Louth and
Monaghan. It was colonized by English and Scots settlers at the
start of the seventeenth century as part of the Plantation of Ulster.
Only the rugged (and less fertile) south of the county remained
largely in the hands of the native Irish. The strong nationalist
traditions of south Armagh have become well known more recently.
After Dublin, Co Armagh had the highest population density in Ireland
Surnames associated with the county include O'Neill, O'Hagan,
Heany, Haughey, and McParland (Gaelic Irish origin), Graham,
Sands, Wright (English origin), and Campbell, Donaldson, Lockhart