A city of walls, worship and wonder: Derry

If you have not walked the ancient walls of Derry, sort it out with a trip away this Winter.

Fiona Heavey


Fiona Heavey

Just 2.5 hours up the road stands a medieval and modern city so enchanting it has two names: Derry- Londonderry.

The controversial city which has been a scene for so many battles through history from the Siege of the city walls to Bloody Sunday and everything in-between, has been transformed into a modern and exciting city, open for business and ready to entertain all the family.

If you have yet to walk Derry City Walls, stand at Free Derry Corner or marvel at the Guildhall's majestic windows, then you are missing out and need to rectify that now.

Derry is the only city in Ireland whose medieval city walls have survived largely intact, and completing the 1.5km circuit of the parapet is a highlight of any visit for the views.

If you think you know your history, allow Martin McCrossan City Walking Tours to set you straight (for just £4pp). These guys give a balanced tour and allow you to see Derry and Northern Ireland's troubles through both sides of the divide.
The Walking Tour will allow you to see St Columb's Cathedral, the first cathedral built in the British Isles after the Reformation. It is the City's oldest building and it towers above all else. After the tour make sure you return to visit in side and see the artefacts from the Siege of 1689. If you have any questions, the guides will answer them - all the family will enjoy this.

Close under the wall is the Fountain housing estate, the last significant Protestant community on the western bank of the Foyle, who still display the 'No surrender' banner.
The striking, neo-gothic Guildhall, more than a hundred years old is now famous for its magnificent stained glass windows. You will be awe struck.
An exhibition inside explains the 17th-century Plantation of Ulster, a seminal event that has shaped the history of Ireland ever since. The Guildhall is a landmark to base your visit around, at weekends and for Christmas the Walled City Market will be displayed in front of it. Just a few steps from the impressive building is the Peace Bridge to the Erbington square.

The Riverside walk along the Foyle is very romantic by night, and by day you see the amount of work and construction that has gone into this transformative city of hope.

Allow an hour to fully appreciate the Tower Museum, whose exhibits lead you through the city’s history aswell as the Armada Shipwreck display, which showcases the treasures found on the remains of a Spanish galleon that was wrecked off the Antrim coast in 1588.

You can't leave Derry without seeing the Bogside murals and standing at Free Derry Corner, Bogside History Tours by Paul Doherty give you an informative and entertaining hour for just £5pp. Paul's father was shot by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday and so Paul gives a personal account explaining the role of nationalists in Derry's troubled history. The tour usually lasts one hour, but Paul is so passionate about what he is doing he will stay longer to answer questions and to discuss issues. Again, if you think you know your history or indeed the troubles, think again - this tour will send you away with a new understanding.

Don't think Derry is all about the troubles, this city will show you a good time! There is award winning food to enjoy in a large range of eateries. We recommend Browns on the Waterside for some exquisite fine dinning. This is the place to celebrate a special occasion or to get a taste of local cuisine. The restaurant hosts unique food events throughout the year - booking is essential. or the Walled City Brewery for a taste of something different!

There are bars to be entertained in, too many to mention - just head to Waterloo Street!

And there are shops, from Foyleside Shopping Centre , Richmond shopping Centre and Quayside along with boutiques and don't forget the Walled City Market!

The enclosed city centre is small enough to allow you to explore all the important sites on foot, but big enough to provide a large range of quality restaurants, bars, shops and accommodation!

We stayed at Bishops Gate Hotel, which just opened this year and is stunning. Located within the walls on a famous street, the hotel blends Edwardian architecture with contemporary desires. The breakfast was delicious and hearty and the staff outstanding. B&B starts at £100 per room, keep an eye on their offers throughout the year. This is the perfect place to whisk your other half away to!

The Leitrim Observer was invited by Northern Ireland Tourism to experience the world famous Halloween Festival in Derry.
The festival was truly spectacular with Halloween festivities around every corner. The walls were awakened with fire, theatrics and Halloween events, and the whole city played a part in the spooky atmosphere which astonished every age.
If you like to be organised make sure you book your Halloween holiday in the city next year.

If you are looking for something a little more short term, then Derry is gearing up for an enchanting Christmas.
The Christmas lights will switch on November 17.
A 'Sound of Light' Trail & Procession will dazzle your eyes on November 24 and 25.
The Christmas Walled City Markets are a real family treat and will run from December 16-23.
Looking for an excuse to wear that horrible Christmas Jumper? A world record attempt take place on December 18.

The Sterling - Euro rate will also help to entice you a little further north this Winter!

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