Day 1. Exploring Derry, Northern Ireland

This is the first in a series of posts on our recent 10 day road trip across Ireland – starting in Derry/ Londonderry before travelling along the Causeway Coast and then down the Wild Atlantic Way – I hope you enjoy reading.

Clan Macduff Loganair Plane at London Stansted
Our plane from Stansted to Derry

We arrived into City of Derry Airport the previous evening, flying with Loganair from London Stansted.  The flight took just 85 minutes, passing quickly with light refreshments handed out by the cabin crew.  Arriving into Derry was a pleasant contrast to the hectic Stansted and we’d soon collected our bags and were in a taxi to the city centre.

Derry Girls Sign, Derry Airport
City of Derry Airport

The airport lies nine miles north east of the city centre with taxi fares averaging £12 for the 20 minute journey.  A Translink bus service (No.234) operates between the airport and Foyle Street bus station several times a day (£4 single) but as schedules vary it’s best to check before travelling.

Holiday Inn Express, Derry
Our room in the Holiday Inn Express, Derry

We were staying at the Holiday Inn Express located on Strand Road in the heart of the vibrant city centre.  Our spacious room was well equipped boasting a stylish bathroom and had everything needed to ensure a relaxing stay.

After settling in and having a bite to eat we just had time for a short walk along the river past the Peace Bridge and to the Guildhall to give us a flavour of the city before returning to the hotel.

Visit Derry Tourist Information Centre
Visit Derry Tourist Information Centre

The next morning we were up bright and early to enjoy a buffet breakfast in the hotel before setting out for the day.  The Visitor Information Centre was located just around the corner on Waterloo Place so we popped in there to pick up some maps and leaflets.  The building is newly constructed with state-of-the-art interactive displays, close up views of the city walls and helpful staff.  There’s also a small theatre where we sat down to view a short film about the story of Amelia Earhart and her epic solo flight across the Atlantic in 1932.

Apprentice Boys Banner in the Siege Museum, Derry
Apprentice Boys Banner in the Siege Museum, Derry

Leaving there, it was then just a short walk to The Siege Museum on Society Street (standard admission £5).  The museum’s galleries cover three floors and relate the history of the Siege of Londonderry and of the Associated Clubs of the Apprentice Boys of Derry.

Marching drum on display in the Siege Museum, Derry
Marching drum on display in the Siege Museum, Derry

We viewed artefacts, banners and other memorabilia relating to the Siege which took place between 1688-89 when 13 young apprentice boys closed the city gates on the Catholic King James and a bitter 105 day siege followed with a great loss of life.  The Protestant battle cry of ‘No Surrender’ during the Siege remains a loyalist cry to this day.

St Columb's Cathedral, Derry
St. Columb’s Cathedral, Derry

From there it was just a few steps to St. Columb’s Cathedral on London Street (free admission but donations welcome).  This cathedral, designed in Gothic style was the first in the British Isles to have been built after the Reformation.  There was little change to the building from 1663 to 1776 when the Bishop of Derry added 21ft to the tower plus a very tall spire.  Unfortunately, 20 years later the additions showed signs of giving way and needed to be taken down and rebuilt leaving what we see today.

The Nave, St. Columbs Cathedral, Derry
The Nave, St. Columbs Cathedral, Derry

The cathedral’s interior is a joy to behold from its ornate entrance hall and staircase to its marble pillars and intricately carved pews and choir stalls.  There are many fine stained glass windows which have recently been restored, a selection of regimental flags, memorials and a large collection of historical items from the time of the Siege.

The High Altar St. Columb's Cathedral, Derry
The High Altar St. Columb’s Cathedral, Derry

The Cathedral overlooks the city walls where we were heading next and we were just in time to join a Martin McCrossan City Walking Tour which take place daily at 10.00, 12.00, 14.00 and 16.00.  Tours depart from outside Level 4 of the Foyleside Shopping Centre on Carlisle Road with no pre-booking necessary (£4).

Martin McCrossan City Walking Tour, Derry
Martin McCrossan City Walking Tour, Derry

Derry is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe.  Our tour guide Charlene was very knowledgeable and clearly passionate about her home city giving an unbiased view of Derry’s political and religious troubles.  As we made our way along the walls landmarks were pointed out with their historical significance explained.

Derry City Walls
Derry City Walls

Seven gates surround the original town with Derry being one of only a few cities that never saw its fortifications breached from their construction in the early part of the 17th century, with cannons still in place to this day.  From the top of the walls we enjoyed some splendid views of the city skyline.

Panoramic views from the Derry City Walls
Panoramic views from the Derry City Walls

I would highly recommend joining one of these tours as they are very enjoyable and such good value for money.  There were around 30 people on our tour and everyone agreed that it was one of the highlights of visiting the city.

Derry City Walls
Derry City Walls

Following the walk we were ready for something to eat and being fans of the award winning Channel 4 comedy, a themed ‘Derry Girls’ afternoon tea was an absolute must.  These take place at the Everglades Hotel just a short taxi ride out of town (journey £4 approx) where the cast and film crew stay when filming locally.

Mural of the Derry Girls viewed from the City Walls
Mural of the Derry Girls viewed from the City Walls

The popular television comedy is set in the 1990’s and follows the lives of five teenagers living their lives amidst the backdrop of the Troubles.  The first series aired in 2018 with the second the following year.  The final series was delayed due to the pandemic but is being filmed at present.  Whilst walking around the city walls we had seen the Derry Girls mural portraying the show’s stars on the side of Badger’s Bar on Orchard Street.

Derry Girls Afternoon Tea
Enjoying my Derry Girls afternoon tea at the Everglades Hotel

The afternoon tea menu takes inspiration from the series with its cream horns, cone of chips, the famous Derry sausage roll bap and even a cheese and onion crisp sandwich.  Alongside these specialities are the usual afternoon tea favourites of dainty finger sandwiches, warm scones with cream and jam, desserts and a selection of cakes and macaroons.  Unlimited pots of tea or coffee and a delicious Derry Girls cocktail are also included.

Pianist accompanying Derry Girls Afternoon Tea at Everglades Hotel
Pianist accompanying Derry Girls Afternoon Tea at Everglades Hotel

It’s a very relaxing experience seated in either the hotel’s restaurant or lounge bar and diners each get to take home a souvenir Derry Girls Michelle plastic duck which now has pride of place at the side of my bath.  Boxes are provided to take away anything remaining on the cake stand and with such a large and varied selection I defy anyone to manage to finish it all there and then.  (Afternoon tea pre-bookable at £30 with accompanying walking tours of filming locations operating at certain times of year (additional charge). Derry Girls Afternoon Tea

Free Derry Corner, Derry
Free Derry Corner

Feeling very full after gorging on sausage roll baps, scones and cakes we took a taxi to the Bogside district so that we could visit the Museum of Free Derry to learn about the other side of the story from The Siege Museum which we had visited earlier in the day.  Standard admission £7, open Tuesday-Saturday 10.00-16.00.  The museum is located near Free Derry Corner, a historical landmark in the Bogside area.

Civil Rights posters on display in the Museum of Free Derry
Civil Rights posters on display in the Museum of Free Derry

Awarded Northern Ireland’s Authentic Experience of the Year in 2018, the museum tells the story of what happened in the city during the period 1968-1972, known as ‘The Troubles’ from the perspective of the Catholic Bogside area.  Galleries cover the civil rights era, Battle of the Bogside, Internment, Bloody Sunday and Operation Motorman and include film footage, photographs, letters and personal artefacts.

Attractive independent shops in the Derry Craft Museum
Attractive independent shops in the Derry Craft Village

On leaving the museum we walked back up the hill to the city centre and then spent the next hour looking around the shops and visiting the Craft Village tucked away off Shipquay Street with its quaint small shops selling locally produced handmade products alongside cosy little cafes.

Derry Craft Village
Derry Craft Village

We then returned to our hotel for a short rest before walking across the Peace Bridge to enjoy dinner at the Walled City Brewery in Ebrington Square, a former army barracks that has been transformed into an attractive public space.  Stepping indoors, we were impressed by the gastro-pub’s stylish design from chandeliers fashioned out of beer bottles to its wall murals depicting some of its craft beers.

Walled City Brewery,, Derry
Walled City Brewery, Derry

The selection of craft beers on offer changes frequently in groups of nine, these being displayed on a blackboard, numbered from light to dark.  Rather than choosing a pint, we opted for flights giving us the opportunity to sample a wider selection.  I’m not normally a beer drinker but with guidance from Catherine who was looking after us at our table, we both enjoyed our varied selection.

Interior of Walled City Brewery, Derry
Interior of Walled City Brewery, Derry

The food is reasonably priced at £23 for two courses or £28 for three.  We opted for Vietnamese style chicken wings and soup of the day for starters, moving on to a Thai chicken curry and pork with black eyed peas and smoked bacon for mains.  Each dish tasted delicious and portions so generous that we had to skip desserts.  Spending the evening at the Walled City Brewery had been a perfect end to our first full day exploring Derry and the short walk back across the Peace Bridge to our hotel was just enough exercise before settling in for the night.

 

If you have enjoyed reading this post, you may also like:

Derry Guildhall & Bogside

Belfast – Top things to see and do

 

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Exploring Derry, Northern Ireland

 

41 thoughts on “Day 1. Exploring Derry, Northern Ireland

  1. Pingback: Day 4. Giant’s Causeway & Boat Tour, Northern Ireland – Love Travelling Blog

  2. Pingback: Day 3. Hiking & Chocolate Making, Northern Ireland – Love Travelling Blog

    1. I’m so pleased we chose to spend the weekend in Derry as it’s a fascinating small city with such welcoming people. We had to dodge the showers a bit on the trip but thankfully the weather turned out to be much better than we’d anticipated. Thanks for your interest Shane. Have a good weekend. Marion

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  3. What a great trip. Brings back such great memories of our long stay in Northern Ireland a while back. Think you had better weather than us as it did seem to rain pretty much every day for a while. Derry is a great city though, so much history. Great photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jonno for taking an interest in this, the first of my series of posts on Ireland. The forecast for when we were away was awful with rain and gales each day but luck was on our side and our October visit turned out to be relatively dry with just the occasional shower passing through. I’d not visited Derry before but really took to the city and its friendly people. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s a pleasure to see you describe an island where I lived for over 9 years, I can’t wait to see what’s new along the way. As for Derry, I have been there several times, but in my days it was still a bit uneasy to visit. I’m so glad to see that it’s better now. I hope it’s for good.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh I am so excited to follow along on your series through Ireland!!! I visited Derry years ago and thought it was such a beautiful city, sadly the majority of my pictures from there were ruined. I loved seeing the city again through your post. I had never heard of Derry Girls until just recently when I saw them on The Great British Baking Show for their holiday episode. They were so funny and so entertaining that we then started watching the show. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. 24 hours is a whirlwind of a time in a place, but with such a condense amount of time, it really motivates you to really plan and maximize your time there. Never heard of Derry, but it looks to be a calm and atmospheric place, despite being a sizable city. PS that Loganair plane is tiny, almost the size of a bus! I flew in one (easyJet, I believe) a few years ago, and found it so small and amusing! At least it gets you over in a cinch!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your welcome thoughts Rebecca. We were actually in Derry most of the following day as well but I just titled this post 24 hours to cover the first part so there will be more to come of the city in part two. Derry is a great city and yes, the plane was small, two passengers in one side and only one on the other but ideal to be able to fly direct rather than into Belfast.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Really interesting post Marion. Derry looks a great start to the trip and I can’t wait to follow along with your roadtrip. Northern Ireland has long been on our list – for the cities, the causeway coast and to learn about the history as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Hannah, Visiting Derry was indeed a great start to our roadtrip. It’s such a fascinating and easily walkable city with such friendly and welcoming people. I hope you enjoy these rest of my series and it perhaps inspires you to think of visiting. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A great reminder of our 2017 visit Marion. Despite being reassured all was safe in Derry, there were still places, where we did not feel safe. Feelings and tensions still run deep as the city population struggles to coexist. I can’t say enough about the quality of the Martin McCrossan walking tour. We had a real character leading the way, who made it very entertaining while detailing the conditions during the roubles. He explained the phrase the city is trying to live by these days Legen-Derry. Long may peace last. Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s great to hear that you have visited Derry and also took one of the walking tours. Hopefully times have changed as we walked the streets day until late evening and felt perfectly safe wherever we wandered. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series and it will be fun to discover if you visited more of the places on our road trip bringing back fond memories. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve watched Derry Girls on Netflix and very much enjoyed that show. Derry looks and sounds fascinating. The walking tour seems to be a good way to learn more fun facts about the area. Afternoon tea looks delightful. That’s a lovely picture of you as well.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s great that you have also enjoyed watching Derry Girls and it was so good to finally have an opportunity to explore this fascinating city filled with such friendly and welcoming people. Thanks so much for taking an interest. Have a lovely relaxing weekend. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Now here’s a city I knew very little about. A wonderful overview Marion of a place and indeed country I should get around to seeing one day. Love the panoramic shot from the city walls, makes the place look rather cosy. Had never heard of Derry Girls, but I do like the mural. And you know, anything that leads to afternoon tea! Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for your interest in this post on Derry. It’s a wonderful city with friendly welcoming people and easy to reach with an increased number of flights. Derry Girls is such a great comedy series and I’m sure you would enjoy watching it sometime on catch up. The afternoon tea was different but so nice! Have a great weekend. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I’ve not been back to Derry since hitch-hiking around Ireland in 1982 (it was a very different atmosphere then!). Recently, I’ve seen a number of people putting it on their tourist map. Thanks for this, it’s a good guide of what to expect. I can see myself popping over soon to have a look. It could make a good long-weekend break this winter.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Oh, what a great day! I think these city walking tours are wonderful – a great way of getting to know the place! The city walls are quite impressive (as were you panoramic view). A lovely photo of you at the Everglades Hotel Marion … and quite a spread at the afternoon tea (looks so yummy)!
    I am definitely looking forward reading more about your recent trip! Have a great weekend 🌸. Corna

    Liked by 3 people

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