48 hours in Derry/Londonderry

The Guildhall/Derry/Londonderry
The Guildhall in Derry/Londonderry

Following its tenure as a UK City of Culture, Derry/Londonderry has reinvented itself as a city of artistic note.

The Guildhall/Derry/Londonderry
The Guildhall in Derry/Londonderry. Credit: Matthew Logue

Following centuries of upheaval and political unrest, today Derry is a city reborn, with a thriving music and theatre scene. Following its tenure as a UK City of Culture, now the rest of the world knows about its attractions, too,  from its spectacular walls, to the traditional music the city is renowned for. Its location as a border city is a boon too, and now the checkpoints are down you can cross carelessly into Donegal – which is home to some of the best beaches we’ve ever seen.

Day 1: Delve into Derry’s past

You can’t come to Derry/Londonderry and not visit Free Derry Corner, where the iconic ‘You are now entering Free Derry ‘ reminds visitors of this Republican stronghold, which played a pivotal role in the events of Bloody Sunday on 30 January 1972. Also here are some colourful morals – some better than others – that depict key moments in the Troubles, a popular form of political expression in this corner of Britain. While here visit the nearby Museum of Free Derry, just off Rossville Street.

Free Derry Corner, Derry/Londonderry/Northern Ireland
Free Derry Corner, Derry/Londonderry/Northern Ireland. Credit: Superstock

Next walk the walls – Derry is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and is one of the best preserved walled cities in Europe. Your walk will take you past St Columb’s Cathedral, the first cathedral built in the British Isles after the Reformation, and you should factor in a coffee or lunch stop at Blooms Café.

Cross over the  £14 million Peace Bridge, which spans the River Foyle, to the Waterside part of Derry. Here you will find the newly restored Ebrington Barracks, originally designed for military use during the Siege of Derry in 1689, but now a public art space and venue.

Once back across the river head to the craft village for dinner at Café-del-Mondo and finish your day off with some traditional music at Peadar O’Donnells on Waterloo Street.

Day two: Get a taste of Ireland

The Irish centre Culturlann Ui Chanain is a great place for a tasty but well priced lunch and you could even try your hand at the fiddle, pipes or tin whistle, at one of the drop-in music classes.

Our suggestion is to use today to explore the nearby delights of Donegal, which lie just outside the city. Just 10km west of Derry is the ancient fort of Grianan of Aileach,  which stands high above the surrounding counties, or you can visit the fishing town of Greencastle, or the sandy beaches of Culdaff or Stroove where the chances are you’ll be the only ones there, whatever the weather.

Back in Derry, catch a concert at the Millennium Forum.

Read our full feature on the transformation of Derry/Londonderry in the BRITAIN 2014 Guide.

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