Londonderry / Derry, Northern Ireland
Londonderry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland. It is full of charm and a must on any Northern Ireland itinerary. It is easily combined with a dip over the border into the Republic of Ireland to see a stone fort. Londonderry is full of historical significance and easy to traverse on foot. It’s city walls are a hit for kids.
Depending on who you are talking to the city has two names. Londonderry is the name used by the Protestants while Derry or Free Derry is used by the Catholics who want the city to be part of the Republic of Ireland. Although most of the fighting has stopped there are still isolated incidents and just like in Belfast there is evidence of the divide almost everywhere you turn. I honestly wasn’t sure what to call the city and ended up just using all the names every time it came up. The locals are cheery folk and always gave us a pass so it wasn’t awkward.
We started our visit by bypassing the city and headed to the Grianan of Aileach in Ireland. The hilltop stone fort sits 244 meters above sea level and provides stunning views of the land beneath it. You can drive up the hill and park right in front of the fort. The fort is free to visit. It is rather exposed so if you’re up there in poor weather, there’s nowhere to hide from the wind or rain!We got lucky as the rain stopped for our visit. We wore our Wellies so we could explore without fear of getting dirty. You can go inside the stone fort and up the walls (a bit precarious) for a view of the surrounding land.
You can also walk around the outside of the fort. This visit is not stroller friendly. The Big and Middle Littles were fine to walk, although needed a bit of help (protection) climbing the stairs inside the fort. We kept the Little Little in the carrier where he was safe and warm.
Had the weather been nicer this would have been the perfect spot for a picnic. Instead we enjoyed the views until our faces were windburned and then we headed back to the car and into the city.
We stayed at the Maldron Hotel, which is set inside the city walls. The hotel has available parking, although you need to let them know ahead of time that you are bringing your car. The location is perfect as nearly everything is walkable from the hotel. They have a family room with two double beds and a single bed that was perfect for our group. I only snapped one photo which was in the morning after we had all slept in the beds. Our hotel rate included a full – and amazing – breakfast.
As soon as we got settled we headed out to walk the city walls. There is a walking tour of the walls, but we didn’t think the kids could handle it. We actually ended up passing the walking tour and found that it only had one family on it, so we probably would have been fine.
Instead we enjoyed the city walls at our own pace. Each corner has a bastion with cannons and signs about the significance of that portion of the wall.
The boys never pass up a chance to climb up on cannons and pretend to fire them at advancing armies. It was fun to watch them look out over the city and run around unabated.
The city’s churches are right against the wall and were stunning in the twilight.
You can go into most of these churches and explore during the day. The walking tour also covers all the churches’ significance while the information boards merely hint at it.
Peering along the walls you can see the divided neighborhoods. Some sections flying the Union Jack while others fly the Irish flag.
A couple main roads cross under the wall a few times allowing traffic into the city. There is also one place where the wall dips down to a level crossing with the road, a modern solution to traffic problems in the city.
As we finished our walk around the wall the city became fully lit up by Christmas lights. It was not even 5pm and we were plunged into darkness. We opted to walk to an early dinner. There are only a handfull of places open in the city at this hour. We ended up at the Lyric Bar & Grill which had a kids menu and plenty of options to feed us all.
In the morning we took another stroll around town. We wanted to walk over to the “Free Derry” memorial and see a few of the other sights. We walked down below the walls, getting a new perspective on the city.
This is the town of Bloody Sunday and we figured the morning was a good time to go check it out without causing too much trouble. The site is gated off so that you cannot spend too much time there or assemble a group. Much like in Belfast the sides of the buildings in this section of town are covered in murals. The white peace dove though was my favorite – hope for a better future.
Our walk took us back through town where we popped into a department store to buy some new gloves for the Big Little, as his mysteriously disappeared in the first few days of the trip. There are so many cute shops in the historic downtown, if you want to browse for a bit. (You can pick up a guide to local shops at the TI or check it out here.)
We really loved our stop in Londonderry and were sad to say goodbye, but we knew we had more to see in this lovely country.
This post is linked up with: