Difference between revisions of "Derry"
Revision as of 13:49, 23 September 2013
Derry or Londonderry (Irish: 'Doire', meaning 'Oak Grove'), is the second city of Northern Ireland and the fourth largest city on the island of Ireland after Dublin, Belfast and Cork with a population of roughly 100,000.
The city's name is a point of political dispute, with unionists advocating the longer name, and nationalists advocating the shorter. A common attempt at compromise is to refer to the county as "Londonderry" and the city as "Derry", but this is by no means universally accepted. Because of this, a peculiar situation arises as there is no common consensus either in politics or elsewhere as to which name is preferred; the city council is officially known as "Derry", but the city is officially recognised as "Londonderry" by the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK government. Whilst road signs in the Republic of Ireland use "Derry", alongside the Irish language translation "Doire", road signs in Northern Ireland will always read (unless vandalised) "Londonderry".
Situated on the banks of the River Foyle, Derry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and one of the oldest inhabited places in the whole island of Ireland. As they say there, 'Derry was a city when Belfast was still a swamp'. Derry's history dates back over 1,450 years, a lasting reminder of the early inhabitants of the area is the Iron Age fort, just over the border in County Donegal, known as the Grianan of Aileach.
In the 6th Century St Columba/Colmcille established a monastery in Derry. Shifting ten centuries later to the Plantation of Ulster, King James I of England had the wealthy guilds of London build up the city of Derry (hence the title Londonderry) and surround it by the defensive walls that still ring the city today.
These walls witnessed one of the most prominent events in the history of Derry. In 1688 the city was laid siege by the Earl of Antrim and the Catholic forces of James II, the English king who was deposed in favour of Protestant William of Orange. The settlers of the city who were protestant, barricaded themselves within the walls, when a group of apprentice boys from London on seeing the on coming forces, locked the city gates and so started the Great Siege of Derry.
The siege was to be the longest in British history, lasting some 105 days, during which an estimated third of the city’s then population of 30,000 died through disease and starvation. When James II himself rode up to the city walls and lay down terms for surrender he was greeted with shouts of ‘No Surrender’. The siege was finally broken when the relief ship Mountjoy broke the boom which was laid across the River Foyle beside the city.
However the legacy of the Great Siege of Derry lasted for centuries with the Catholic and Protestant communities in Derry still largely divided today. During the years of the Troubles, Derry witnessed some of the most prominent and terrible events of those times. It was on Derry's Bogside area that British soldiers shot dead 14 civil rights protesters in what became known as Bloody Sunday. The majority of the Bogside murals commemorate this tragic loss of innocencts.
Since the peace process in Northern Ireland, Derry is slowly emerging as an upbeat cosmopolitan city with great potential and huge tourist interest. In July 2010, Derry was awarded City of Culture for 2013. A lot of Derry’s sights are meshed with its history, the 16th Century walls which surround the city are among the oldest and the best preserved citadel walls in Europe.
A huge percentage of Derry’s population fall into the 20 – 30 age group and there are plenty of places to cater for them with lots of clothes shops and boutiques, pubs, bars and clubs and Derry's traditional Irish and folk music scene are well established.
Taxis are available from the airport, with the typical fares to the city centre around £12, with the journey taking roughly 15 minutes.
There is also a bus service but given the intermittent timetable, unless you're short of cash, you should just take a taxi. For details of Ulsterbus bus services visit Translink. The typical fare to the city centre is £2.70 and the journey takes approximately 20-30 minutes.
Belfast has two airports, both serving quite a few international destinations. Belfast International Airport is situated 100km from Derry, whilst Belfast City Airport is located 115km from Derry. Both Belfast airports are served by a good bus connection to Derry city centre with Airporter .
It is also possible to get to Derry from Dublin Airport, 225km to the south-east. Dublin Airport is Ireland's international air hub, served by Ryanair, Aer Arann, Aer Lingus  and many other international carriers, with destinations in Ireland, Europe, Africa, North America and the Middle East. Buses link Dublin Airport and the Derry, running throughout the night.
Northern Ireland Railways (a subsidiary of Translink ) usually have trains travelling to and from Belfast regularly during the whole day. Trains arrive in Derry's Waterside, with a shuttle bus linking the train station to the (more central) bus station. However, this line will be closed for nine months between July 2012 and April 2013 for upgrade works to shorten the journey time and provide a smoother ride. 
The journey between Belfast and Derry takes just over 2 hours and between Coleraine and Derry affords great views along the shores of Lough Foyle, which was described by Michael Palin as “one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world”.
From Dublin: Take the M1 motorway and go as far as the signpost for Derry and Ardee. Then take the N32 whick links to the N2. Follow the N2 via Carrickmacross and Monaghan to the Border where the road then becomes the A5. Travel northwards via Omagh and Strabane until you reach Derry. (Note: North of the border road signs will read Londonderry, South of the border Derry).
From Belfast International Airport: Take the main road to the M2 from the airport through Templepatrick. Follow the signposts onto the main road to Londonderry.
It is worth bearing in mind that while the road signs will normally show "Londonderry" it is common to see vandalism where the "London" part has been spray-painted over leaving only "derry" remaining. It is also possible to see some signs where "derry" has been painted over and directions for "London" are on display. This is often done as a joke by kids and is not done to intentionally confuse or misdirect tourists.
Translink's  Goldline Express No. 212 departs to and from Belfast regularly during the whole day. Dublin is connected with Goldine Express No. 274 and Bus Éireann service No. 33, which runs throughout the night.
There is also a connection with the west coast with Bus Éireann service No. 64, which runs to Sligo and Galway, then onwards to Limerick and Cork. Full details of bus services are available from Translink and Bus Éireann 
Further services, aimed mainly at travellers arriving into the local airports are operated byAirporter .
Derry is essentially split (by the River Foyle) into two main areas - The Waterside and The Cityside/Derry Side. The two banks of the river are connected by three bridges. The elder of these is the Craigavon Bridge, a double-decker bridge which once carried trains on its lower deck. A more recently constructed road bridge is the Foyle Bridge. This is a four-lane concrete bridge, which is further from the city centre.
The east side of the river is known as The Waterside. This is traditionally the home of Derry's unionist population.
The west side of the Foyle is usually known as The Cityside. This is predominantly nationalist and contains most of the tourist attractions, the city centre and The Guildhall. Here you will find the city walls and the Bogside. The city centre is small and suitable for walking.
In 2011, the Peace Bridge was opened, which is a pedestrian bridge connecting the Waterside to the heart of the city centre, and in turn bringing the two communities, Catholic and Protestant closer together as well.
As well as excellent tours around the city and its 17th Century walls, Derry also boasts a number of excellent visitor attractions. The Tower Museum is an award winning attraction, telling the history of the city and includes a range of exhibitions, while Derry's Guildhall, St Columb's Cathedral, St Eugene's Cathedral and St Augustine's Chapel are all historic buildings of stunning architecture.
Other sights include the fascinating Bogside Murals found on the walls of what is known as Free Derry Corner and depict various events in the history of the town, from the Nationalist perspective. A more contemporary sculpture in the city, known as Hands Across the Divide, serves as a symbol of the two communities coming together.
The city walls are the best-preserved in all of Ireland and make about a one-mile circumference around the city centre.
Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe. The walls constitute the largest monument in State care in Northern Ireland and, as the last walled city to be built in Europe, stands as the most complete and spectacular.
The Walls were built during the period 1613-1618 by "the honourable the Irish Society" as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland. The Walls, which are approximately 1 mile (1.5 km) in circumference and which vary in height and width between 12 and 35 feet (4 to 12 metres), are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city. They provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance style street plan. The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate to which three further gates were added later, Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate, making seven gates in total. Historic buildings within the walls include the 1633 Gothic cathedral of St Columb, the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and the courthouse.
It is one of the few cities in Europe that never saw its fortifications breached, withstanding several sieges including one in 1689 which lasted 105 days, hence the city's nickname, The Maiden City.
Take a walk around the "Free Derry" corner between the Bogside and the western side of the old city walls. Stop and look at the political murals made by local artists during the 90's, depicting key events in the harsh conflict haunting Northern Ireland. In the same area, the Free Derry monument, Free Derry Museum, and Bloody Sunday memorial are also located. Taking a guided tour of the Bogside is probably the best option for visitors, but please be warned, it is highly advisable to stay away from this area in the dark hours, especially at the weekend, as the area has a reputation among the locals as being one of the rowdiest areas of the city at these times, but saying that the area should be quite safe during the day.
The city is home to several museums. (Contact Tourist Information for their opening times which can be somewhat erratic):
The city is host to an annual Halloween Carnival on the 31st October. Upwards of 30,000 revellers dressed in fancy dress costumes throng the streets and bars til the early hours. It is the biggest festival of its kind in Ireland attracting visitors from as far as Australia, Japan and the USA.
Derry City Football Club play their home matches are played the Brandywell Stadium, in the Brandywell area of the city, with most league matches taking place on Friday night. This club plays in the League of Ireland Premier Division (the league of the Republic of Ireland). Visitors to the club are assured of a warm welcome and a lively atmosphere, with the club being one of the top teams in the whole island.
Most of Derry's retail stores are situated well within walking distance of the city centre. The main shopping malls are Foyleside  and the Richmond Centre . Between them, these malls contain many of the stores which one would expect to find in any city in the UK or Ireland, such as Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Dunnes Stores.
Derry's last remaining home-grown department store is Austins, in The Diamond, which claims to be the world's oldest independent department store. Be sure to visit Guildhall Square during the day, where a local market operates.
The town centre is very busy on a Saturday as many travel from the Republic to take advantage of Pound/Euro differentials. However Sunday is very quiet and many shops will only open from 12-6pm.
NB: If visiting on a Monday or Tuesday, a lot of restaurants in Derry have offers of 33-50% off meals on those days so it is worth checking those deals out when you arrive.
Derry is a small city with a recent turbulent past. Odds are, you shouldn't have any problems, but be aware of tensions.(see "Stay Safe" below) For it's size Derry has a large selection of bars and pubs but those looking to try local Irish beers will be sadly disappointed.
Located in the centre of the city, just outside the Walled City, Waterloo Street is a steep hill lined with some of the city's liveliest bars.
Peadar O'Donnell's, 63 Waterloo St, phone +44 28 7137 2318. If you are looking for traditional Irish folk music sessions, this is the best place in Derry. Such sessions are held nearly every day of the week, and both locals and visitors create a nice atmosphere. Drinkers can access Gweedore Bar through an interior door.
Bound For Boston, Waterloo Street.. A Derry institution, situated in Waterloo Street this lively bar attracts people of all ages to sample the perfect pint. Only a few minutes walk from the famous Butcher Gate and City Walls. Renowned live band venue.
Gweedore Bar, Waterloo Street. Geared purely to live music but with a more contemporary band nature than Peadar O'Donnells. Here you can listen to line ups of all ages strutting their stuff giving their interpretations of all the favourites and some original self penned music. Upstairs is in a nightclub-style, with disco nights.
Sandino's, Water Street. A small, cosy bar themed around Cuban rebels. Due to it's small size there is nearly always a crowd and nice atmosphere in here. It is the only bar in Derry that has a good international beer selection including German, Belgium and American beers. Upstairs is a live music venue. Be sure to try a bottle of MacIvor's Cider. 
Wetherspoons, The Diamond. Part of the UK Wetherspoons chain this bar serves cheap drinks and affordable meals. Pints start at £1.90 (as of Sep13) and it is the only bar that serves cask beer or real ale.
The Grand Central, Strand Road. Popular bar for young people. Has a range of quiz and music nights during the week. Try a bottle of Hilden ale. 
The Metro, Bank Place. You'll find this charming bar in the shadow of the imposing city walls. The décor is interesting, with intriguing bric-a-brac collected from around the world, and lots of alcoves provide an intimate atmosphere. The pub grub here is of a high standard and features every thing from soup and sandwiches to a hearty beef stew. A night the upper level transforms into ad hoc dance area, filled with a young crowd. Complete with a roof-top smoking area, great on a sunny day.
Oak Grove, Bishop Street Without. Located close to the Brandywell Stadium, this bar is busiest on Derry City FC match days.
After Belfast, Derry was the main centre of trouble during Northern Ireland's conflict. As a majority Catholic city, although significantly improved, some tensions still remain between the Republican and Loyalist communities in some parts of Derry. Wearing items of clothing which would identify you as being from any particular religious denomination or political viewpoint (for example Rangers or Celtic football shirts) is not advised.
As a rule of thumb, refer to the city as "Derry", as calling it "Londonderry" could offend or alienate some people with whom you are speaking. The prefix "London-" is often not used, as the majority of Catholics, and some Protestants Call it Derry also. Derry was awarded Purple Flag status in October 2011, which recognises that the city provides evening visitors with an entertaining, diverse, and safe night out, and has brought the Purple Flag accreditation to Northern Ireland for the first time.
For someone not familiar with English, the Derry accent can be quite challenging to understand at first (sometimes even to the native English speaker) and they tend to speak quite loudly and fast. However, if they know you are not from the area they will more than likely make an attempt to be more understandable. Offence will not be taken if you ask them to slow down while speaking.
The city is built on some quite steep hills and a lot of walking up and down these hills will be required to see all the sights. They can become quite slippery in cold weather.
The city itself is quite small, making it easily to escape to the surrounding countryside. County Londonderry and nearby County Donegal have a wealth of green fields and sights to appeal to nature lovers. Ulsterbuses can be used for outings. These are operated by Translink.
A trip to the Giant's Causeway on the north coast is highly recommended. If you have a choice, come early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds of tourists treading all over the place. Translink operate buses to and from the Giant's Causeway from both Derry and Belfast.
Not far outside Derry, across the border in Donegal is Grianan of Aileach. This ancient stone fort is on a hilltop between Derry and Letterkenny and affords superb views of loughs Foyle and Swilly, and of Derry itself.