Londonderry, Northern Ireland Tourist Attractions
Northern IrelandLondonderry, 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.WarningVisitors 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.
The city walls of Derry are probably the best preserved in the whole of the United Kingdom and remain exactly as they were when they were built in 1618, with the exception of the three gateways which were added later. They form an attractive walk along the perimeter of the Old Town. The Walker Monument on the Royal Bastion provides the best view of the town. Four ancient gateways lead into the town: Butcher's Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Shipquay Gate and Bishop's Gate, the finest of the four.
The four principal streets of Derry Old Town run from Butcher's Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Shipquay Gate and Bishop's Gate and meet in the Diamond, which is the name used for their junction (still following the medieval town plan) since the 17th C. The Town Hall originally stood here, but it was destroyed during one of the many sieges of the town and rebuilt elsewhere. The center of the square is now occupied by the War Memorial.
Old Town Secular Buildings
The Old Town contains numbers of Georgian houses, particularly in Shipquay Street, Magazine Street and Bishop Street. The Deanery, in Bishop Street, was built in 1833, while the neighboring Court House, a neoclassical building, also dates from the 19th C.
St Columb's Cathedral
St Columb's Cathedral (Church of Ireland), which is built in the late Perpendicular style, dates mainly from 1629-36, the tower having been added in 1802. In memory of the men from London who commissioned the building of the cathedral, the main doorway bears the inscription "If Stones could speake/Then Londons prayse/ Should sounde who/Built this Church and/Cittie from the grounde". The roof vaulting is carried by corbels with the carved heads of 16 bishops of Londonderry. Eight of the 13 bells in the tower date from the 17th C. The bishop's throne incorporates the chair of Bishop Bramhall, who consecrated the church in 1633. The chapterhouse contains relics of the town's history and the locks and keys of the four town gates.The stained glass depicts scenes from the great siege of 1688/9. An audiovisual presentation on the siege and history of the cathedral can be shown upon request.
Situated to the northeast of the town walls is the Guildhall, a neo-Gothic building dating from 1912, which was severely damaged during a bomb attack in 1972, with the result that a large part of its interior has had to be reconstructed. The large Council Chamber, with its splendid oak paneling, and the Treasure Chamber, with its many mementos of Irish history, are both particularly worth seeing. Also worthy of special mention are the colored glass windows on which different periods of the town's history are portrayed.
Magee University College
Further to the north from the Guildhall along Strand Road, we reach Magee University College, which forms part of the University of Ulster. It is a neo-Gothic building dating from 1865, beautifully situated on the River Foyle.
A second bridge downstream from Craigavon Bridge is Foyle Bridge, which was opened to traffic in 1984.
St Columba's Stone
In the grounds of Belmont House School, on the Moville road, there is a large block of gneiss, St Columba's Stone, with two depressions resembling footprints. It is said to have been the coronation stone of the O'Neills, kings of Ulster.
Ballyarnet - Amelia Earhart Centre & Wildlife Sanctuary
The Earhart Centre features a cottage exhibition about Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly over the Atlantic solo. In 1932 she landed in a field on the site which is now commemorated with a sculpture.
In the center of Derry is a Craft Village which portrays life in Derry between the 16th-19th centuries.It combines retail, workshop and residential units and visitors are welcome to watch crafts people at work.
Foyle Valley Railway Centre
At the Foyle Valley Railway Centre visitors can see narrow-gauge networks that carried the Co Donegal Railway and the Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway. A 1934 diesel railcar offers trips on a two mile track.
International Jazz & Blues Festival
This five-day festival takes place in late May and includes performances as well as workshops. A jazz cruise on the Foyle is also a part of the festival, as is a parade around the city's walls.
Jane Ross Festival
This two-week festival runs from late April to mid-May and honors school teacher Jane Ross.She is famous for preserving the Londonderry Air song, by writing down the tune as she heard it being played by a passing minstrel.
Roe Valley Country Park
At Roe Valley Country Park visitors can see Ulster's first domestic hydro-electric power station which opened in 1896. Other exhibits include old water mills, linen production and a history trail. Riverside walks, canoeing, climbing, and fishing.
The Tower Museum tells the 'Story of Derry' from its geological formation to present day.Of particular interest are the sections which illustrate the spread of Irish monasticism, the Siege of Derry and the partition of Ireland.
Address: Union Hall Place, Londonderry BT48 6LU, Northern Ireland
Opening hours: Jan 1 to Jun 30: 10am-5pm; Closed: Sun, Mon
Jul 1 to Aug 31: 10am-5pm; Sun: 2pm-5pm
Sep 1 to Dec 31: 10am-5pm; Closed: Sun, Mon
Jul 1 to Aug 31: 10am-5pm; Sun: 2pm-5pm
Sep 1 to Dec 31: 10am-5pm; Closed: Sun, Mon
Entrance fee in GBP: Family £9.00, Adult £4.00, Child £2.00, Concession or reduced rate £2.00
Useful tips: 1-hour tour.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
Facilities: Gift shop
Typical Visit: 1 hour 30 minutes
Banks of the Foyle Festival
This annual month-long festival takes place in October and combines theater, dance, literature, comedy, and various styles of music.
The Harbour Museum presents the maritime history of Derry. Exhibits include a 30 ft replica of a curragh in which St Columba sailed to Iona in 563 AD.
Maghera - Knockcloghrim Windmill
Knockcloghrim is a restored windmill which houses a heritage center. The windmill was originally in operation until 1895 when the Great Wind blew the sails off.
Ness Wood Country Park
The Fifth Province
Map of Londonderry Attractions