Derry/Londonderry Things to Do

  • Che Guevara mural
    Che Guevara mural
    by GeoV
  • 'Bloody Sunday' mural
    'Bloody Sunday' mural
    by GeoV
  • Derry, along the River Foyle
    Derry, along the River Foyle
    by Goner

Best Rated Things to Do in Derry/Londonderry

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    Gates to the City

    by starship Updated Nov 9, 2015

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    We enjoyed the strolling tour of Derry's City Walls, and found their elevated position offers some great views into the surrounding area. But within the walled area are other sights as well -- St Columb's Cathedral, St. Augustine's Church, and The Diamond to name just a few and these will be further explored in other tips.

    The gates of the walled city deserve further mention as they are all a bit different and played a role during the Seige of 1689 -- at the time, wooden doors filled the arches of the gates and perhaps usually stood open. It was the Apprentice Boys of Derry who rushed to close the gates against the advancing army of deposed Catholic King James II.

    There were originally only four gates, but several more were later added; the original four -- Butcher Gate, Shipquay Gate, Ferryquay Gate, and Bishop's Gate. At a later time, 3 more gates were added: Magazine Gate, Castle Gate, and New Gate. The more ornate of these gates with stone busts certainly seem more welcoming than the ones topped by sharpened, wrought iron pikes!

    Butcher Gate - Our hotel, The Maldron Derry, was just next to the city wall and this gate. It's one of the four original gates and sustained the most serious damage during the Siege of 1689 from cannonade fire by army of James II. A wall plague there gives this information: "1617. It was initially called the 'Nugate' or King's Gate, later being renamed Butcher Gate after the nearby meat market and slaughterhouse. The gate was nearly destroyed by cannon fire during the 1689 siege. The present gate, built in the 1800s, is nearly twice the height of the original."

    Bishop's Gate - Also one of the four original gates, and the most ornate is Bishop's Gate. The present structure is from 1789 and designed to look like a triumphal arch. This reconstruction marked the 100 year anniversary of the closing of the gates by the Apprentice Boys of Derry. The gate's architect was H.A. Baker; the sculpted heads on either side is represent the River Foyle (external) and the River Boyne (internal) and were designed by Edward Smyth, a noted sculptor. Bishop Gate has, as does Ferryquay Gate, stairs on either side of it which give access to the city walls.

    Ferryquay Gate - Another one of the four original gateways, this is the gate and stairs we used to access the city walls. (Laid out in a cross pattern, it would be possible to see Butcher Gate from the top of the arch if the land were flat.) Appropriately named, it overlooks the ferryquay on the River Foyle. This gate originally had a drawbridge and tower which I believe Butcher Gate had as well; the present day gate is from 1865. Famously, this was the gate closed by the Apprentice Boys of Derry in December 1688 against the Jacobite army of James II. The stone face or headstone on the outside of the gate represents Reverend George Walker, Governor of Derry in 1689, while that of the other side of the gate is of Reverend James Gordon.

    Shipquay Gate - The last of the original four city gates, but the present archway dates from 1805. It is one of the more ornate gates in appearance. The interior face of the gate has a circular stone oval on each side of the arch which serves as a frame. On the left hand side the frame holds a cornucopia and on the right hand side is a caduceus. On the exterior gate face there are similar frames but without any ornamentation -- was something to be added at a later date? The original gate would have had a tower and portcullis since it functioned as the main point of entry from the river.

    The focus of my next tip is St. Columb's Cathedral, another of Londonderry/Derry's famous sights.

    Ferryquay Gate Inside Butcher Gate Butcher Gate Shipquay Gate with Guildhall in background Bishop Gate courtesy of photocafeblog.com

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    St. Columb's Cathedral in the Walled City

    by starship Updated Nov 14, 2015

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    Whether you come upon it while walking the City Walls, or discover it while walking inside the City Walls, St. Columb's Cathedral is one of the most prominent historical buildings in Londonderry/Derry. It is named in honor of the Irish monk who established a very early Christian community here -- St. Columb (St. Colmcille).

    When the city was granted a charter in 1613, plans for the cathedral began to take shape. The church communion silver was ordered from England the same year, and the following year a bell was sent over from London with the inscription: 'Fear God, Honour the King. Re-cast for Londonderry Steeple in 1614'. The present cathedral was constructed (1628-1633) by William Parrot for the "Honourable The Irish Society." Wikipedia states that St Columb's is the first cathedral to be built by the Anglican church after the Reformation in the British Isles and the first non-Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in Europe.

    The outside appearance of the cathedral seems to have architectural elements similar to both a fort and a castle -- turrets, crenellations, and buttressing as well as a soaring steeple but it all seems pleasing to the eye. The interior is very warm, welcoming and colorful thanks to the many fine stained glass windows along the outer walls and above the altar, the colorful rugs and tile down the center aisle, and the warm wood accompaniments. One can see the regimental flags and others hanging above the pews on the center aisle, as well as memorials and a large collection of historical items from the time of the siege. It's said they have the original keys to the city! A complete restoration of the Cathedral was completed in 2011 and we did see the remnants of what looked like scaffolding. If possible, look for the foundation stone in the porch, part of which originally came from the 12th Century Templemore Monastery of the Columban tradition -- It is inscribed:

    "lf stones could speake
    Then London’s prayse
    Should sounde who
    Built tbis Church and
    Cittie from the grounde".

    Some grave stones could be seen around the back portion of the cathedral.

    The Cathedral is open to visitors Monday - Saturday 9am to 5pm.
    To book a tour of the Cathedral, call Tel: 028 7126 7313
    From the website: The Daily Office is said at 10.30 Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (The Litany) in the Baptistery. The Eucharist is celebrated on Tuesdays at 10.30am in The Bishop William Alexander Chapel.

    Next, see St. Columb's charming neighbor, St. Augustine's Church.

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    Historic City Walls Walking Tour

    by starship Updated Nov 15, 2015

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    The most significant historical feature of Londonderry/Derry is its marvelous medieval City Walls. In fact, it is the only remaining, completely intact walled city in Ireland; and furthermore, it is considered one of the finest examples of walled cities in Europe. The high, stone walls and ramparts roughly form an ellipse and run approximately 1.5km (1 mile) in length; they form an elevated promenade around the inner city and provide excellent views (sometimes sweeping views) of the city as it extends beyond the walls particularly into Bogside. The layout of the original town can be observed as the Renaissance style street plan has been preserved. The walls vary in width between 12 and 35 feet.

    The walls also vary in features including watch towers, bastions, cannon, iron gating, crenellations, and of course, the interesting, individual gates themselves. The walls are punctuated by four original gates -- Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate; three additional gates were added at a latter time -- Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate. More on these later.

    Discovernorthernireland.com states that "The city claims Europe’s largest collection of cannon whose origins are known precisely. Many of them thundered in anger over the two seventeenth century sieges." The site goes on to say that 24 cannon have survived and have undergone restoration -- the most famous of these is "Roaring Meg" which sits on the double bastion section of the walls.

    As previously mentioned, shortly after arriving in Londonderry/Derry we were met by our guide, Jarvin, from "Martin McCrossan City Walking Tours," who would be taking us on a walking tour of the historic City Walls which enclose perhaps the oldest party of the city. Jarvin was affable, remarkably entertaining and knowledgeable, and we were immediately entranced by the stories he told, and the history he recounted.

    Our tour lasted an hour plus, and covered only roughly 1/2 of the entire circuit of the walls. This tour was included in our overall tour, but had we been required to pay for it, it would have been worth every penny! Our City Walls Tour had been booked with "Martin McCrossan City Walking Tours" which advertises that it offers tours everyday at 10am, 12noon, 2pm, and 4pm for the unbelievable price of £4 pp (2015 price). Though we did not receive it during our tour, the tour is advertising as including a free cup of tea or coffee when began at the company's office. If you book a tour, be sure to ask for Jarvin -- he is fantastic! Also, inquire concerning what other specific tours may be offered. If I could change one thing for this tour, it would have been to ask Jarvin for a written brochure or pamphlet at least highlighting the history of the City Walls so that it could be studied at a later time. Unfortunately no brochure was forthcoming and I do not remember seeing anything like this at the hotel either.

    Whether you decide to book a walking tour of the City Walls, or walk them independently with a guide book in hand, don't miss having a look at the places and details around you, below you, and sometimes above you which I will mention in my next tip, Gates to the City.

    The Grand Parade Jarvin explaining the history of

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    "Wee Church on the Walls" ~ St. Augustine's

    by starship Updated Nov 14, 2015

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    While walking the City Walls of Londonderry/Derry just after passing St. Columb's Cathedral, you will also pass by "St. Augustine's Church" also known locally as "The Wee Church on the Walls." Nestled in a little plot of trees, and edged by a stone and iron fence, the tiny church has a long walkway edged in lovely tiles from the City Walls to its door. We were lucky at the time when we saw the church as a brief rain shower had just passed, and now the sun was shining on St. Augustine's making it look fairytale-like.

    There is still some question as to whether the spot which St. Augustine's occupies today is the actual site of the fabled monastery founded by St.Columb (Colmcille) when he arrived in Derry. From the saintsandstones.net website: "St. Augustine's is one of two locations in the city that claim to be the site of St. Columba's original monastery. The other site is St. Columb's Church, also known as the Long Tower Church, which has a plaque inside the church that claims to be the site of the altar of St. Columba's original church."

    St. Augustine's is surrounded by many very old graves, some of which predate the Siege of 1689; unfortunately some of the stones are illegible since the engraving has long since disappeared -- a common malady of very old graveyard stones. The oldest gravestone is said to be that of Richard Carrec, an Elizabethan soldier, who died circa 1609 and this can be seen in the Church porch. There is some evidence that this is correct as it is mentioned in a book of genealogy.

    The present church by architect JG Ferguson is of neo-Gothic style and dates only to 1872. We were not able to go inside the church, but photos online show some detail of the interior including some excellent stained-glass windows.

    Opening times:
    May - Oct
    Monday- Saturday: 10.30am - 4.30pm
    Church of Ireland - Anglican Sunday Services 11am
    All welcome free of charge.

    After seeing St. Augustine's, we took a few minutes to learn about and reflect on the events that occurred during "The Troubles" in the predominantly Catholic section of Derry. Murals are an important way of remembering these events and are the subject of my next tip, Bogside and Bogside Murals Tours.

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    City Walls

    by viddra Updated Jun 17, 2007

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    Walk along the top of the walls, admire fine buildings, interesting murals and sculptures...

    The famous 17th-century walls have withstood several sieges.

    There are 4 original gates (Bishop's Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Shipquay Gate and Butcher's Gate) and bastions. Three new gates (Magazine, Castle and New Gate) have been added.

    There are canons throughout the Walls, particularly above Shipquay Gate. These were donated by the Guilds of London in 1649.

    the guildhall
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    The Guildhall

    by viddra Written Jun 17, 2007

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    This interesting building houses some of the finest examples of stained glass windows in Ireland.

    Its name is a reminder of the connection with the London Guilds.

    Opening hours:
    Mon-Fri 9am-5pm

    Admission: free

    the guildhall
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    "Hands Across the Divide"

    by starship Updated Nov 14, 2015

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    Being able to see the sculpture, "Hands Across the Divide" seemed like a fitting end to our time in Londonderry/Derry. Just before leaving the city on our way back to the Republic of Ireland, our route took us to Carlisle Circus where this memorable sculpture is situated in the roundabout. The bronze statues form a sculpture of two men facing each other with their arms outstretched before them in the spirit of reconciliation; their hands are so close but yet not quite touching. Each man stands on an upward sweeping pedestal of rock, but with a chasm between them. To me it seems a perfect representation and a poignant reminder of the two communities who were once embroiled in conflict, but who are now working toward reconciliation and hope for a better future.

    The sculpture can be found at the west end of Craigavon Bridge (in the Carlisle Circus roundabout). It's the work of Londonderry/Derry sculptor, Maurice Harron. It was unveiled in 1992 -- 20 years after the events of "Bloody Sunday."

    I am disappointed in my photos because of the poor light and reflection but they are the best I was able to get -- a good reason to return to Londonderry/Derry to try my hand at it again.

    My last tip will be about a project that also aims at engendering the spirit of reconciliation, the Peace Bridge.

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    The Guildhall

    by Goner Updated Sep 14, 2010

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    This a neo-Gothic style building is the Guildhall. Many concert events and exhibitions are held here during the year, it serves as the civic and cultural center for the people of the Derry. It was built in 1887 by the Irish Society and an English organization to promote the colonization of the County of Londonderry during the Plantation of Ulster. Sadly it was bombed in 1972 but repaired and opened again in 1977. The massive building is made of Drumbrese sandstone and marble with oak paneling and ornate ceilings. The stain-glass windows are considered the finest in Great Britian. The huge organ in the main hall is considered to be the finest in all of Europe.

    Derry Guildhall
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    Murals

    by Goner Updated Sep 15, 2010

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    The Bogside Artists are the mural painters from Derry named Tom Kelly, his brother William Kelly, and Kevin Hasson who are responsible for the outdoor murals called the People's Gallery in the Bogside section of Derry. The murals document events and themes pertaining to the civil rights struggle during the troubles in Northern Ireland. As you walk down Rossville Street in Bogside you can see all the existing murals. There are more photos of the murals and other events in The Bogside Artists Studio at 46 William Street.

    For more information on the murals try the link below.

    Derry Death of Innocence Derry Mural Bernadette Derry Bloody sunday Derry Petrtol Bomber Derry Bloody Sunday Victims
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    Old City Walls

    by Goner Updated Sep 15, 2010

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    The old walled city of Derry lies on the west bank of the River Foyle with the location of old Derry on the east bank, the present city now covers both banks (Cityside to the west and Waterside to the east) and the river is spanned by two bridges.

    Derry, Old City Walls
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    Memorial

    by Goner Updated Sep 15, 2010

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    A "Bloody Sunday" memorial was erected in memory of the 14 Derry residents who were killed on that tragic Sunday, January 30th, 1972. The Memorial is situated in the Free Derry area of the Bogside, where the events of Bloody Sunday took place. Residents of the area regularly place fresh wreathes at the foot of the memorial, making it in important feature of the city.

    Derry Bloody Sunday Memorial
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    Church in Derry

    by Goner Updated Sep 15, 2010

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    I too this picture as we were riding around in the rain, I believe it's the St. Augustine Church. I've searched on line to see if I can match this picture up with someone's pic with no avail. If anyone recognizes it as one with another name, please leave me a message - thanks.

    Church
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    St Columb’s Cathedral

    by viddra Written Jun 17, 2007

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    This is the most historic building in the city, built in 1633. Here you can admire marble monuments and stained glass.

    Opening hours:
    Mon-Sat all year
    Summer 9am-5pm
    Winter 9am-1pm and 2pm-4pm

    Admission:
    £2.00/ €3

    St Columb's
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    • Religious Travel
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    The Diamond

    by starship Updated Nov 14, 2015

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    On the morning of our departure from Londonderry/Derry, I had about a half hour to do a little exploring on my own. And, as previously mentioned, the location of our hotel was great because it was within the City Walls and within walking distance of some important sights.

    About a block or two from our hotel and straight up Butcher Street was "The Diamond and War Memorial". The Diamond is almost at the center of the walled city, and from this vantage point you should be able to see all four of the original gates to the walled city, although I could not see Bishop's Gate very well from here myself. This was once the location of a succession of town hall buildings, the last of which burned down in 1904 when it caught fire from the adjacent Austin's Department store. Finally realizing that perhaps this wasn't the best spot for yet another city hall, a garden was created followed by a moving war memorial now occupying this spot. The war memorial was unveiled to the public in June, 1927, during a very solemn ceremony.

    I very much liked this work designed by brothers, Sydney and Vernon March, especially the detailed figures representing the Navy and the Army which flank a taller center monument topped by the Winged Angel of Victory which represents the Royal Air Force. The cenotaph in the Diamond is now a memorial to all those who died during World War I & II.

    The way this area is designed, The Diamond is almost a roundabout for cars, and there is parking here as well. Just adjacent to The Diamond is Austin's Department Store which is inching towards the 200th year of its founding which is quite amazing.

    War Memorial in The Diamond The Navy Sailor The Army Soldier Winged Victory represents the Air Force

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    Free Derry

    by Goner Updated Sep 14, 2010

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    "You Are Now Entering Free Derry" was painted in January 1969 by John Casey. It’s located on the corner of Lecky Road and Fahan Street in Bogside. The sign remains as an important symbol for Irish Nationalists.

    Derry's Free Derry Sign
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