48 Hours in Derry

a weekend in derry

A Weekend in Derry

Derry, Londonderry, Stroke City are some of the many names that Northern Ireland’s second largest city is known as but my favourite is the local’s choice of “Legenderry” which is very appropriate for Northern Ireland’s hidden gem! While Londonderry is the official name, Derry is just as widely used and you will not offend anyone by using whatever name you choose throughout the city.

Derry is a cosmopolitan city steeped in history and culture but it’s the warm welcome extended by the people of Derry on every turn is what sets it apart. There is a real sense of community and pride in the people of the city and no where you will feel a more genuine welcome to the many tourists now flocking to its shores. Derry was one of those places that we really connected with and in my opinion it very much gets overlooked in favour of Belfast but is starting to come of its shadow as it is an ideal base to tour Northern Ireland from.

derry city break

Things to Do in Derry

You cannot visit Derry without walking it’s City Walls. Derry is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of Walled Cities in Europe. The Walls were built during the period 1613-1618 by the honourable, the Irish Society as defences for early seventeenth century settlers from England and Scotland. 

The Walls, which are approximately 1.5km in circumference, form a walkway around the inner city and provide a unique promenade to view the quaint architecture and pretty streets which still preserves its Renaissance Style street plan to this day. 

City Walls Derry

I would highly recommend taking a walking tour which is approx. an hour and 15 mins long. We thoroughly enjoyed our walking tour with McCrossan Tours and as family we came away with a much deeper understanding and appreciation for this city and how it stands not only tall and proud but so beautiful in the face of many years of strife and troubles. The tour itself was quite engaging for the children in that you were constantly moving and there were many tactile components such as canyons and ramparts that kept them captivated. Our tour guide welcomed their many questions and the explanations never went over their heads. Regarding the history of the troubles it was an education for us all!

The tour company’s we would recommend are Martin McCrossan Tours and Tours and Trails.

Derry Girls

Derry Girls

Any city would be proud to be associated with a smash-hit comedy like Derry Girls. But there can’t be too many places in the world that would eulogise it with a giant mural on the side of a building. The Derry Girls Mural, on the end wall of Badgers Bar and Restaurant, perfectly captures the cheek and charm of Derry-Londonderry’s famous five.

Take the obligatory selfie with Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and the ‘wee english fella’ James. Ever where you turn you will be reminded about these girls as the people of Derry are fiercely proud of them and if you are a fan of the show you will easily locate the popular spots featured in the show as you walk around this compact city.

 

Derry City Break

Boom Boards

Another unique way to tour the city is on Boom Boards which is a new slow adventure experience which is a first for Derry-Londonderry and Ireland. The 2 hour tour starts with a lesson in St Columb’s Park. Then it takes you to the streets and winds up at the famous Walled City Brewery in Ebrington Square. Teenagers in particular get a lot out of the experience. It is not only immensely fulfilling, but a street-based skill that mimics surfing a wave.

boom board tour derry

Scoot Tours

Scoot Tours are another fun way to explore the city especially for the younger members of the family. Scoot-Tour is the newest, and only Scooter Tour in the North-West, and probably far beyond! This tour is a zip through the woodland park and into the city-scape, bringing you past the most iconic sights along the River Foyle and the Walled City.

 

Derry Peace bridge

Peace Bridge

My kids were very keen to visit the Peace Bridge after the walled tour as its symbolism was explained to them during the tour. Just a short walk from the Guildhall the Peace Bridge is a visual treat and since its launch in 2011 has become an integral part of the City’s infrastructure, held in high regard by locals and visitors alike.

The elegant snaking curves of the cycle and foot bridge represents the windy road to peace while the two structural hands heading in opposite directions symbolises a handshake.

 Guildhall

If you get a chance make sure to stop by The Guildhall. Sitting within reach of the famous 400-year-old Walls is one of the City’s most recognisable – and arguably one of the most stunning – landmarks!

guildhall derry
balfes restaurant Dublin

Family Hotel in Derry

While in Derry we stayed in the beautifully restored Bishops Gate Hotel which was once  two Georgian townhouses which were home to a Gentleman’s Club. The Bishop Gate Hotel is perfectly positioned within the historic city walls in the heart of Derry City’s Cathedral Quarter. Built in 1899, the Hotel blends stunning Edwardian architecture, original features with luxury in a sensitive restoration to paying homage to the rich heritage of the building.
bishops gate hotel derry

With 30 rooms Bishopsgate is an intimate boutique hotel offering families a choice of accommodation with family rooms that sleep four and for larger families they have a number of newly refurbished apartment rooms that have their own front door out onto the cobbled streets of Derry, giving great independence.

 

bishops gate hotel derry

Family Apartment Derry

We stayed in one of the hotel’s apartments which we a life saver as it rained heavily while we were in Derry so it was great to have plenty of space to spill out and a separate sitting room area from the bedrooms. The apartments do not have cooking facilities but yu do have dining and coffee making facilities.

bishops gate hotel apartment

We received such a warm and inviting welcome here by the team that we choose to dine in The Wigs Bar for dinner which was once the old billiard’s room. Not only was the food exemplary but there was a beautiful and relaxed atmosphere. We did notice dining out was not cheap across Northern Ireland but in The Wigs is was very reasonable as dining out goes and the children’s menu was superb and excellent value.

If you do happen to stay make sure to ask one of the team to show you the ancient well dated from the 16th centuary lovingly preserved within the refurbished hotel!

halloween in derry

Halloween in Derry

Apparently, Halloween is the best time to visit Derry as their great Samhain Gathering is the biggest Halloween Festival in Europe with the city walls illuminated coming to life with festive fun characters in a family fun experience. We are hoping to return for Halloween as we have so much about it from families around Northern Ireland

Summary

Derry for me is the ideal base to explore Northern Ireland as it is just over an hour from Belfast and The Causeway Coast in the other direction as well as a hop skip and a jump into Donegal. It is a beautiful city for a holiday and in my opinion offers much more culture and history than the capital of the North.

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Summary