History tour_ county londonderry, northern ireland

In the majority-Catholic community of Bogside in Derry, Northern Ireland, people walk past one of the many politically-motivated murals on building exteriors in the neighbourhood. American food restaurants near me Photo: iStock

On a scale of difficulty, walking backwards in sandals atop a slippery wall in lashing rain so your tour group can hear you expound creatively on 1500 years of Irish history, might just win the most challenging guiding award.

Our Derry guide for our city walls tour, John McNulty, might contend however that given the historic circumstances, walking backwards in lashing rain is the least of his (or Derry’s) concerns.

This gorgeous city of 149,000 in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, has had to endure long years of struggle, siege and skirmish, and has, remarkably, emerged as a picture-perfect place, enhanced rather than diminished by its hardship.


Derry, also known as Londonderry (though you sometimes see the “London” crossed out on street signs – nationalists generally favour Derry while unionists prefer Londonderry) is strategically positioned on the River Foyle. Restaurants and fast food near me It’s one of Ireland’s longest inhabited places dating back to the sixth century and is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland.

It’s also regarded as one of the finest examples of a European walled city – high praise given the Europe’s abundance of picturesque walled cities such as Carcassonne, Dubrovnik, Tallinn, Toledo, Saint-Malo and York.

If you do nothing else in Derry (which would be hard given its resurgent fine restaurants, music scene, regenerated historic places, late Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture and excellent hotels), do the wall walk.

As with many such walls, this one is a solid stone memorial to a people’s metaphysical condition, as well as simply an elevated promenade from which to view the city, both within and without.

We have been swept into Derry on a rain front that is rushing north into Donegal and, windscreen wipers working overtime, have arrived at the enchanting sounding Bishop Street Within (inside the walled city).

Our destination is the lovely Edwardian Grade B1-listed Bishop’s Gate Hotel in the heart of Derry City’s Cathedral Quarter, just awarded “Hideaway of the Year 2017” at Dublin’s Georgina Campbell Awards after a sympathetic restoration.

Every instinct begs us to enjoy a hot shower and curl up in our elegant bedroom, watching the rain pounding our long sash windows. What fast food restaurants are open today However, hotel general manager Ciaran O’Neill, who is charmingly handing out umbrellas at the concierge desk, urges us on to the walls, torrential rain or not.

We join a group huddled outside Ferryquay Gate and head off, wondering why everyone is speaking German. What fast food restaurants are open right now We’ve joined the wrong group – more than a few tours depart from this spot.

Second time around we find Martin McCrossan’s City Tours’ No.1 guide, the be-sandalled John, gathering his bedraggled herd, kindly letting the nearby busker know we’ll be gone in a sec.

Walking backwards, John, taking no sides in the many conflicts, apart from the express desire for lasting peace, explains Derry and Irish history with empathy and humour.

Derry, we learn, derives from the old Irish word Daire meaning oak grove on an island. List of fast food restaurants near me It’s said the Irish saint Colmcille founded a monastery on a River Foyle island in 546AD, creating an important centre for Christianity in medieval times.

The stone and earthen walls are 3.6-metres to 10.6-metres-wide and about 1.5 kilometres in circumference, built between 1613 and 1618 as a defence for English and Scottish (Ulster Plantation) settlers during the early 17th century.

They’ve been a constant in Derry life, witnessing events both celebratory and tragic and have never been breached, withstanding all besieging armies.

With every step, John brings history alive, his stories adding colour to historic buildings and adjacent areas along the wall. Chinese food restaurants around me We stop to hear about the “Londonderry West Bank Loyalists No Surrender” mural in the Ulster loyalist enclave, Fountain Estate, outside the walls, whose provenance goes back to the 1688 Siege of Derry.

During the time of the siege, when the walled city was a Protestant stronghold, half of Derry died from starvation or injury before the relief. Food restaurants that deliver The siege began when 13 apprentice boys shut the gates against Catholic King James II, who was greeted with the cry of “No Surrender”.

The Protestant Apprentice Boys of Derry still march annually in commemoration – the parades still prompt discomfort. Restaurant food waste The Apprentice Boys Hall and its related stories is a stop on the wall walk.

We gaze down at the traditionally majority Catholic/Irish republican area of Bogside with its 12 People’s Gallery murals decorating houses near Free Derry Corner, depicting events surrounding the sectarian violence during The Troubles, which severely affected Derry.

It is said that the violent, 30-year conflict over Northern Ireland’s constitutional status began in Derry in 1968 with the Battle of the Bogside. Fast food restaurants open christmas day Derry also suffered the 1972 Bloody Sunday incident where British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians. Chinese food restaurants that deliver near me Former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, issued a formal apology in 2010.

During The Troubles, the walls separated communities and were refortified with military watchtowers.

In the 1600s, Derry was the jewel in the crown of Ulster Plantation, laid out according to best Renaissance town planning principles, imported from continental Europe. Fast food restaurant coupons That elegance is evident today. Healthy food restaurants near me From the central Diamond, you can see the four original city gates – Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Restaurants that deliver food near me More have been added.

Derry also has Europe’s largest collection of cannon displayed throughout the city walls. Food restaurants that deliver near me Twenty-four survive – many used during the two 17th-century sieges. Chinese food restaurants that deliver John introduces us to Roaring Meg on the double bastion.

All too soon, the tour is over and John collects the modest fee, looking sadly at the five cheapskates who skive off without paying.

His tales have inspired us to continue our explorations. Fast food restaurants open late near me We head down the precipitous Shipquay Street to the 1890 Guildhall outside the walls, to see its magnificent stained glass windows, before crossing the 2011 Peace Bridge.

The Michelin-recommended Browns is tempting for dinner, but the rain and a welcoming hotel convince us to repair to the hotel’s packed restaurant, The Gown.

It’s a charming place with its restored original wall panelling. Fast food restaurants hiring near me A salt and chilli squid salad followed by Greencastle cod with peas, crispy bacon and a red wine sauce is a fine way to end a day in a city that easily earns a happier tag, “Legenderry”. Fast food restaurants close to me TRIP NOTES MORE

Emirates and Qantas codeshare from Sydney and Melbourne to Dublin via Dubai. Best fast food restaurants in america See qantas.com.au STAY

The Bishop’s Gate Hotel has doubles from ?96 with breakfast. Coupons fast food restaurants See bishopsgatehotelderry.com TOUR

Martin McCrossan’s City Tours have a guided, one-hour wall walk (includes tea or coffee) departing at 10am, noon, 2pm and 4pm from 11 Carlisle Road. Fast food restaurants in usa No booking needed. Fast food restaurants hiring ?4 includes tea or coffee. Soul food restaurants near me that deliver See derrycitytours.com/

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