Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Londonderry, known to its inhabitants by its original Irish name of Derry, is Northern Ireland's second largest town. Situated where the River Foyle opens out into the sea-lough of the same name, the town has been robbed of part of its natural hinterland of Donegal by the division of Ireland. Nevertheless it remains an important port and industrial center with a traditional textile industry, but also chemical and mechanical engineering plants and ceramics factories. With its attractive surroundings it is a popular tourist center and a good base for trips into the Inishowen peninsula and Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. The town itself has an almost completely preserved circuit of medieval walls and a number of interesting old buildings.
The name Derry is derived from the Irish word "daire", which means oak wood. It is thought that an abbey was founded on the hill in Derry by the missionary, St Columba (St Colmcille; 521-597), who was also founder of other important monasteries and abbeys throughout Ireland and Great Britain, including Durrow, in the interior of Ireland, and Iona. The abbey was taken over by the Augustines at the end of the Middle Ages. Both it and the settlements thereabouts were attacked and destroyed by the Vikings on numerous occasions during the ninth and 10th century. In the 12th and 13th centuries Derry entered its golden period under the MacLochlain dynasty. The colonization of Ulster was undertaken by James I, who sent out to Derry predominantly Protestant settlers or "planters" from England and Scotland under the guidance of the wealthy London merchant guilds. As a result of this, the town and county were declared a "London settlement" and Derry's name was altered to Londonderry. The massive town walls, which date from this period, were even able to withstand the 105 days' siege by James II's troops in 1688-1689. This event is still commemorated by the Orange parades on August 12th. As a consequence of the famines and economic crises in the 18th and 19th century, thousands of Irish emigrants left for America by ship from the harbor at Derry. They included the founders of the colonies of Derry and Londonderry in the American state of New Hampshire. In the middle of the 19th century. the textile industry went through a considerable upturn in activity with the demand for shirts and collars. With the division of Ireland in 1921, Londonderry became a border town. In the more recent past the town has attained an unfortunate notoriety as one of the focal points for the often bloody clashes which have distinguished the conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics.
Visitors should avoid the "control zones" at all costs. Parking in these areas is in any case forbidden; unattended cars may well be viewed as potential IRA vehicles and dealt with accordingly. Indeed, the visitor must be prepared for the occasional vehicle check. Pedestrians - and this applies equally to local inhabitants and tourists - must be able to provide evidence of identity if required.