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While most tourists visit Northern Ireland for the UNESCO-listed Giant’s Causeway, or the famous Belfast Titanic shipyard, many miss out on the regions second-largest city, Derry (also named Londonderry by locals). This border city, between Northern Ireland and South of Ireland, has a beautiful skyline, a nearby university and the best festivals throughout the calendar year. Here’s why you should travel to Derry in 2017. Note: Derry/Londonderry is both the name of the City and County in Northern Ireland.
From the Irish: Doire, which means ‘oak grove’, Derry is a staple in the cultural hub that makes up Northern Ireland. The city was celebrated in 2013 as the UK’s very first City of Culture. The city celebrated in style, with music and fireworks lasting for days, and the photos were magical. This award also has a legacy of bringing together the Unionist and Nationalist communities within the city.
Derry city has a troubled history, both because of its proximity to the Irish border and the historical Plantation of Ulster, in the seventeenth-century. During the Northern Irish Troubles, from 1970 onwards, the city became a conflict zone between many members of the opposing communities, from Unionist and Nationalist backgrounds. The ‘Bloody Sunday’ incident of 1972 took place in the city, when British soldiers killed 26 Northern Irish civilians, which is illustrated throughout the city walls. Derry was of great political importance during the conflict and like Belfast, murals are popping up continuously throughout the city from both communities.
Derry was a city at the centre of the Plantation of Ulster, on behalf of King James I, during the seventeenth-century. In his attempt to anglicise the Irish language and end spoken Gaelic, James I added the prefix ‘London’ to the original Doire, or Derry, which was declared on a Royal Charter, 1613. The name remains contested by residents today; newspapers are named according to which community they identify with, using both Derry and Londonderry. This small tease of history is the tip of the iceberg in this wonderful city!
County Londonderry, where Derry is situated, has some amazing villages, which have the best views of The Sperrins and surrounding rivers running throughout the county land. Among them, Park village is popular for the annual music festival it hosts. The nearby nature reserve, Roe Valley Country Park is one of the most beautiful natural locations in the UK, packed with wildlife and adventure. You can even go glamping in a unique, but sophisticated camping pod.
The Peace Bridge was erected in 2011, quite literally bridging the two Nationalist and Unionist communities of the city together along this 235-metre footbridge, who traditionally live either side of the city. The bridge has hosted races, firework shows, parades and even a train of brave brides for a special charity event, aptly named Brides across the Bridge. Designed to naturally flow over the River Foyle, the bridge was a huge staple in the regeneration of the city as a tourist hot-spot for this decade.
The city of Derry is famous for its family-orientated Halloween festival, which lights up the October sky with hundreds of fireworks along the Peace Bridge, every year. The Halloween Carnival Parade is usually followed by a Haunted Harvest Market and interactive ghost tours to keep the crowds pouring in each year. Derry city was a previous host of BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend music festival and in 2013, welcomed Martin Luther King III, who unveiled the city’s Peace Flame Monument.
If you’re planning an extensive trip of Northern Ireland, Derry should either be your first or last stop, depending on the final destination. If you extend your trip into the Republic of Ireland after visiting Northern Ireland, be sure to move West along the North Coast, stopping at Derry city and Roe Valley Country Park before you venture into the west of Ireland.