The short Lady’s Mile walk guides you through a peaceful belt of woodland surrounding Ardress. Pause for a moment and through the gaps in the trees you can glimpse charming views of the white-walled farmhouse with its quiet apple orchard nestled in pastoral farmland.
Travel from the car park towards the main gates of the property. This area at the gates was a turning circle. Take left and follow the lane. On the left is an old house called ‘Frizzell’s’ cottage while on your right you’re able to enter the North side of the Lady’s Mile. You’ll be travelling downhill, so take care with exposed roots underfoot. Passing over a bridge you’ll arrive at a lane leading to farmland.
This is an old-fashioned roundabout. Before the creation of the main avenue through the orchard at Ardress House, a horse and cart would come up lane on your left and turn around again to go back the same way.
Cross lane and on your right just beside the second wooden fence is a crab apple tree hugging an ash. You will now be travelling uphill and will have an option of taking a little path on your left through trees. Take this path if you want as it joins the main one again soon. You will soon turn a corner and pass a gate on your left leading to nearby road while on your right is a seat, a former viewing point.
The crab apple is the ancestor of our modern apple. Of the 100 acres at Ardress, 20 acres are set in orchard. Armagh is known as the Orchard County and the famous Bramley apple is the favourite variety. It was introduced to the area in 1884 by CJ Nicholson of nearby Cranagil House. The apple industry employs 1500 people and Ardress orchards are farmed by the MacNiece brothers nearby, a family who have dealt with apples for five generations. They produce pressed apples for the food industry but now are diversifying into artisan ciders as there are a lot of producers in the area.
You’ll now be travelling downhill and will pass over a bridge. Turning the corner you’ll see on your right an unusual bent pine tree. This area is particularly wet in rainy weather. You will come to a corner with a seat on your left.
This Scots pine was obviously seeking out the light. Mature trees can reach 35 metres and live up to 700 years. As this tree matures it loses its’ lower braches and forms a flatter, spreading crown. The cone takes three years to mature. The wood is suitable for furniture making, fencing and telegraph poles. The Scots Pine was once a major source of turpentine, resin and tar.
Turning this corner leads you onto the south side of the walk. On the right are new plantations of willow, birch and alder. Between two wooden bridges are snowberry hedges. After the second bridge you’ll reach a corner.
Willow, birch and alder
These trees grow well in this area and their pliability makes them particularly useful for basket making.
This final part of the mile has the oldest trees of ash and oak. One old oak tree is thought to be nearly 400 years old. You’ll reach a lane so cross over and go through the stile. This brings you into woodland plantations beside the house.
Old oak tree
This tree would predate the original house at Ardress which was built in 1660. The durable oak was widely used in construction and the oldest part of Ardress still has its original roof and staircase both made from oak.
Take a slight left and shortly on your right you’ll see a set of steps to climb which will bring you past a rose garden on your left. At the top of these you’ll reach the south side of Ardress House with its Irish Yew tree on the lawn. At the front of Ardress House you must now travel down the lime tree lined avenue to return to your car. This is the main car park all year round. During opening times at the property you have the option of parking up at the house.
Irish yew tree
The yew tree on the south lawn is at least 200 years old. It was propagated from the original Irish Yew at Florence Court which is the source of most yews in Ireland. In 1740 a local farmer retrieved two saplings from Cuilcag Mountain and gave one to the First Earl of Enniskillen to plant. The specimen flourished and attracted attention from visitors and the horticultural community.
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