Guide to Derry Londonderry
Derry is reaping the dividends of 15 years of relative peace in Northern Ireland and the city is poised to become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK and Ireland in coming years. In 2013 Derry will become the first city to be designated UK City of Culture and will also host the Fleadh Ceoil (an international festival of Irish music and culture).
Derry or Londonderry is the second biggest city in Northern Ireland. The city is built in a beautiful river valley along both banks of the broad flowing Foyle. The name ‘Derry’ is preferred by the nationalist community while many unionists still prefer to use its official name ‘Londonderry’. Derry is also known as ‘the walled city’, due to the fact that it is the only city on the island of Ireland to have retained its 17th century fortified walls. The walls are now proving to be a very popular tourist attraction in their own right. Visitors can enjoy a self guided stroll along the walls but taking a guided tour really brings the city of Derry’s fascinating if troubled history alive. The tourist information office on Foyle Street has information on all guided walking tours and most city tours start from there.
One of the pleasures of visiting Derry is that it’s so compact. Many of the city’s main shopping centres, museums, cafés, restaurants and bars are all situated within or close to the historic walls. It’s easy to explore most of Derry on foot. Take a stroll down Shipquay Street and marvel at the Victorian splendour of the Guildhall. Built with red sandstone and adorned with stain glass windows, this architectural gem provides the perfect backdrop for Derry’s popular Christmas Markets.
The nearby Tower Museum explains the recent political conflict in Northern Ireland and its relevance to the city. There is also a wonderful exhibition of artefacts gathered from a 1588 Spanish Armada shipwreck. Other popular attractions relating to the conflict include the Museum of Free Derry located on the Bogside and the Bloody Sunday Memorial. If you, or a member of your group have difficulty walking, then the LegenDerry Road Train is a great way to see the city’s sights in 30 minutes, whatever the weather! The Road Train departs regularly from the Tourist Office on Foyle Street.
Whether you wish to stay near the historic quarter or on the outskirts, Derry City and county offers a great choice of B&B accommodation of a high standard. B&B hosts are only too happy to help you plan your holiday and offer advice on the best places to eat out or enjoy the city’s thriving nightlife.
Peadar O’Donnells and the adjacent Gweedore Bar are the home of live traditional music in Derry and great places to complete a night out. Locals are friendly but renowned for their sharp wit so be forewarned!
There are also a huge range of activities to enjoy in and around Derry City. These include guided walks along the city walls, canoeing down the River Foyle, sailing on Lough Foyle, biking along developed routes, go karting at Campsie Indoor Centre, horse riding and off-road trekking at Faughanvale Stables, or enjoying a round of golf at the Foyle International Golf Centre.
Derry/Londonderry is a compact and vibrant city that is a ‘must visit’ on any tour of Northern Ireland and provides an excellent base from which to explore all that the North West has to offer.