Called the ‘Maiden City’ because its 17th-century city walls were never breached, Derry/Londonderry is the only complete walled city in Ireland. A historical anomaly, it’s also Northern Ireland’s second-largest town, but inside the city walls the medieval street plan survives largely intact. Walking the cobbled lanes with a local guide brings the opportunity to see its highlights and hidden backstreets. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the city’s long and often complex history from the Williamite War, famine and mass emigration to the legacy of the Troubles. You’ll also witness its new-found confidence as a cultural hub known for its contemporary crafts, music and urban regeneration.
Your guide will pick you up from your hotel for this one-hour walking tour of the city. The route will vary depending on your interests and how busy particular sights are on the day, but generally begins with an orientation in central Diamond Square before continuing along the city walls.
The city was fortified between 1613 and 1618 to guard against attack by the local Irish and your guide will explain how this ignited centuries of trouble. Renamed Londonderry in a nod to the English financiers who paid for the work, it was followed by the plantation of English and Scottish settlers.
A walk along the walls gives you a good overview of the medieval city layout and from here, you’ll descend into the cobbled streets to explore a series of landmarks that might include Saint Columb’s Cathedral or Saint Augustine’s Church. You might visit the Workhouse Museum, which often prompts discussion about conditions in Ulster during the famine, and Derry’s position as a port of emigration over the course of several centuries.
Along the way, you’ll learn about Derry’s contribution to defenses during World War II. You might visit the Courthouse and hear about ongoing legal challenges to the city’s official name, pass the Freemason’s Hall, and learn about historic discrimination in the city. You could visit the Craft Village, a reconstruction of an 18th-century street lined with craft shops, studios and galleries.
Your guide will also give you an overview of the impact of the Troubles, how civil rights marches led to unrest in the 1960s, and how Bloody Sunday has impacted the city. If this aspect of Derry’s past particularly interests you, you can visit the Bloody Sunday Memorial or the People’s Gallery, a series of 12 large-scale murals depicting events from the Troubles.
At the end of your walk, your guide can take you back to your hotel or offer suggestions for further places to visit in your own time.
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