Let's Visit Londonderry-Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, also known as Londonderry, is a city of full of compelling ancient and recent history, fabulous food, Georgian architecture and a fun cultural vibe. Divided in two parts by the River Foyle in Northern Ireland, it is the oldest walled city in the country and was the site of the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre.

The name of the city has been under dispute between Irish nationalists and unionists. Generally, Londonderry is the choice of unionists while Derry is the choice of nationalists. The official name is Londonderry but in common use both names are used with a hyphen as a way to link the two communities. I will refer to the city as Derry.


Derry feels peaceful. The locals are still separated into Protestant and Catholic neighbourhoods but there are no tall fences or closed gates between them.

I chose to stay in the Bogside District, a neighbourhood outside the walls. Bogside is a majority Catholic area near the Protestant district of Fountain. I stayed at Serendipity House where I had a beautiful room that overlooked the city.

The entire home was full of whimsical Pinnochio surprises and stunning photographs of the city. The breakfast was generous and tasty. I thoroughly enjoyed the comfort and amenities.

Walk the Walls

Every visitor to Derry will want to visit and take a walk on the 17th-century walls which surround the only intact city walls in Northern Ireland. The 1.6 km (1 mile) walkway goes all around the city and provides excellent views of the surrounding neighbourhoods. I recommend taking a tour. I had a fabulous guide, Billy, who provided excellent history and a wealth of information in a passionate and exciting tour.

The early history begins with a siege and the most recent history includes the separation of the Loyalists and the Nationalists. It was from these walls that the first shots were fired on Bloody Sunday.

The wall includes seven gates, which are no longer closed and locked every night.

Check out Bogside

The Bogside is a neighbourhood outside of the city walls where many of the events of The Troubles, including Bloody Sunday, happened. Tours visit the key areas involved in The Troubles, including the Free Derry Corner commemorating Free Derry.


The People's Gallery is a collection of large wall murals by Bogside artists that tell the events during The Troubles.


Museum of Free Derry

The museum of Free Derry tells the story of the events that happened between the years of 1968 and 1972 covering the civil rights era, the Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday as told by those who were involved and most affected by the Troubles. It provides a insider's view that deeply touched me. Entry costs £4.

St. Columb's Cathedral The spired St. Columbs's Cathedral includes an interesting collection of artefacts from the 1688-1689 seige of Derry. It is slightly younger than the walls and is the oldest building in the city.

St. Columb was a Scottish female Christian Saint who fled her homeland to avoid marrying a pagan prince. She is credited with the founding of Derry.

Tours can be booked by emailing the Cathedral, but walking on the grounds does not require a ticket. Tours are not offered during the winter season.


The Peace Bridge

The Peace Bridge is a fairly new (2011) and lovely pedestrian and cyclist's bridge that spans the River Foyle, linking Guildhall Square to Ebrington Square. It was built to connect the Catholic and Protestant communities on each side of the river and serves as a monument to the work done by residents to heal the city from The Troubles, symbolizing a handshake of peace across the river.

The Guildhall

The Derry Guildhall is where elected officials meet. Inside is an exhibition about the British colonization (the Plantation) of Ulster. This neo-Gothic red sandstone building has huge stained-glass windows which make a visit here a must-see. It's open daily with free entry.

Ebrington Square

Ebrington Square was where the British Army barracks were until 2002. The site was originally used for military purposes during the Siege of Derry (1689) when King James II bombarded the walled city. In 1939, Viscount Ebrington began building and the base was opened in 1841. It is well worth visiting the original soldiers' quarters in the Clock Tower and the military hospital.

The former Parade Ground is now a multi-purpose event area. When visiting Derry, be sure to check out the events planned during your stay.


The Tower Museum

The award-winning Tower Museum is another essential visit to truly understand Derry's history. There are two permanent exhibits. One is The Story of Derry, telling the history of the city from prehistoric times to today.

The second exhibit is the Armada shipwreck. One of the largest ships in the Spanish Armada fleet, La Trinidad Valencera sank in the bay at County Donegal in 1588 and was discovered in the late 1900s by divers from the Derry Sub Aqua Club. The exhibit tells the story of those aboard and the divers and archaeologists who found and worked to bring it to the museum. The museum is open every day and costs £4 ($6 CAD). Audio guides are available.


The Siege Museum

The Siege Museum is dedicated to the history of the Siege of Derry and the Apprentice Boys of Derry, The Apprentice Boys of Derry is a brotherhood founded in 1814 to remember and celebrate the events and end of the Siege.

Every year the Apprentice Boys stage two marches along the city walls. In the past, these marches were regarded as provocation and riots were common. As the two communities healed their rifts, most of the marches no longer cause any incidences. The museum is closed on Sundays. The entrance fee is £3.


Derry Craft Village

The Derry Craft Village is an absolutely delightful Dickensian complex with amazing craft shops, residential apartments with balconies, restaurants and coffee shops. This reconstructed street and square is the ideal spot for meandering around artisan shops, a nice meal or a drink in one of the pubs.

I enjoyed my too-short visit to Derry and learned much about the history of the area -- a part of my education that either had been missed or (more likely) that I hadn't paid attention to in school. Derry seems to have been successful in healing many of the wounds of their troubled history between nationalists and unionists. When visiting Northern Ireland, a visit to Londonderry-Derry is well-worth adding to your itinerary.

 

Thanks for meandering with me! Let me know in the comments if you've been to Derry and what your favourite activity was. Share the link with a friend. Become a member to get notifications of new content, access to our members' forum, and a monthly newsletter full of chatty behind-the-scenes news, useful travel links, plus more!