Derry is located in Northern Ireland which is apart of the United Kingdom and it occupies the top an island that is also home to the Republic of Ireland.
The first thing you will notice when you are heading into Derry is that a lot of the road signs have been graffitied. This is because although pretty much everyone living here calls it Derry, its legal name is Londonderry. This is a good example of the divide in Derry. Protestant vs Catholic. Nationalists vs unionist. Thankfully a lot of that conflict is not very visible to the public eye and the locals tend to live very peaceful lives these days. The end of the Troubles has created a city with a long, diverse history with many points of view that are all worth investigating.
The Walled City
It is the only city in Ireland (Northern or the Republic) left with its walls intact which are the best way to view the city in my opinion. You can walk around the top of them giving you good views of landmarks such as the Bogside murals, the Foyle River, the Guildhall, St Columb’s Park, St Eugene’s Cathedral and St Columb’s Cathedral. It is well worth taking a guided walking tour of them and I highly recommend Martin McCrossans (£4 per person) City tour which leaves from outside the Foyleside Shopping Centre everyday at 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm. They give you a great perspective on the history of the city without turning it into a boring lecture.
As mentioned above there are shopping centres within the walls, the main two being the Foyleside Shopping Centre and the Richmond Shopping Centre. They are within 200 metres of each other so a convenient place to start if you want to have a day of splurging your hard earned pennies! On the corner of a roundabout called The Diamond is a very old department store called Austins which boasts as being Irelands first department store. Its your traditional Harrods-like department store with all sorts of high priced items. They do have some really great sales so if you are in the city when you see the red sale signs hanging in the window you might just bag yourself a bargain!
Places that are worth eating at within the walls for dinner are The Lyric Bar which has traditional pub food usually with a bit of a gourmet twist and live music every night between 8pm and 10pm. Just outside the walls is a cafe called Primrose which has food that is to die for and an amazing selection of cupcakes. They also just opened a bistro a little further out of the city which sits right on the Foyle River giving you gorgeous views over to St Columb’s Park. If you prefer to eat healthier then there is a cafe called Slym Gyms which offers lighter, more nutritious options with great taste but lower in calories.
The Bogside Murals are basically a selection of different painted murals on houses along Lecky Road and up around some of the side streets. They each tell their own story and often have signage nearby for you to read. Some of them are heartbreaking stories, others make you feel sick that such indecencies can even occur in a modern world. They are a great insight into the people of Derry’s life during a time often referred to as the Troubles. It is also the home of the Free Derry Corner which is an essential photo stop on your trip to Derry. There is a fabulous Free Derry Muesem tucked in beside some of the houses with murals on them. This is an area where it might make you feel a little uncomfortable as its a residential ara but don’t worry the locals are entirely used to tourists trotting up and down taking photos of the side of their houses. If you would like a guided tour of the murals then the Bogside History Tours are your best bet.
This is on the otherside of the Foyle River from the Walled City. It tends to be considered the Protestant side of Derry but apart from the occasional blue, white and red painted curbs you wouldn’t know its any different! Ebrington Square is a must and you can access it via the Peace Bridge from the city centre. It has the remains of an old 19th century fort and the old British Army parade grounds with 19 different buildings still standing such as the army barracks. Its still really getting developed so in terms of activities there are few unless a planned even is on but its a nice place to wander around.
Right next to the Ebrington Square is St Columb’s Park which has a multitude of activities to partake in. There is an adventure, obstacle style playground, many tracks for walking or cycling, a gorgeous manor house with beautifully kept gardens, all sorts of statues and monuments scattered around and the brand spanking new Foyle Arena which hosts a pool, rock climbing wall and more! If you have kids, or are a kid at heart, you can easily spend a day exploring all the different activities.
The train station that connects Derry to Coleraine and Belfast sits near the Craigavon Bridge (more commonly known as the blue bridge!) on the Waterside. This train journey was described by Michael Palin as ‘one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world’. Despite it taking longer then a bus trip the views and historic sites you pass are worth the extra time. You can also get off at Coleraine and use the bus networks to visit places such as the Giants Causeway, Bushmills Distillery, Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and Dunluce castle.
Places to Stay
The Maldron Hotel is the only hotel situated inside the walled city although the City Hotel is very close by with a reputation for good food and service. If you want a more authentic experience stay in a rented terraced house such as Cathedral Cottage. The wonky staircase, slightly uneven floor boards, ‘dungeon’ bedroom and a mix of spaces make it an exciting place to stay. It is situated right by St Columb’s Cathedral and a two minute walk to both shopping centres. If you prefer your space then BT48 Apartotels are large apartments near the Foyle River and about a 15 minute walk into town.
Derry is one of those places where the people are friendly, there is always a music session in a pub somewhere, there is always something happening and the likelihood of you having a good time is pretty high! It has such passion and character that sucks you in making you feel like a local in no time.
Location: 4 out of 5
Cleanliness: 3 out of 5
Expensiveness: 2 out of 5
Activities: 3 out of 5
Food: 4 out of 5
People: 5 out of 5