A walk on the city walls of Derry / Londonderry

In Derry / Londonderry you can take a very special city tour: In about an hour you can walk once around the old city centre on the completely preserved historic city wall – and you can’t do that in any other city on the island of Ireland….

At Double Bastion in Derry / Londonderry
At Double Bastion in Derry / Londonderry (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Intro

I admit it bluntly: I’m not a city person. I like to see beautiful landscapes all day long, in cities I’ve usually had enough after an hour or two…

So it’s all the better that you can visit Derry / Londonderry in a good hour – or rather walk round it – on the city wall.

Guild Hall in Derry / Londonderry
Guild Hall in Derry / Londonderry (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

That’s what I did: from the Peace Bridge, across the Guildhall to the Tower Museum and then once around the city centre on the city wall.

You see lots of sights and gather lots of impressions. And you’ll get an idea of which places in the city centre you’d like to visit again later.

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Background information on Derry / Londonderry

The city of Derry / Londonderry is a divided city, as the name suggests: Derry is the Irish name and Londonderry is the English name.

If you say “Londonderry” to a republican of Irish descent, you will be severely reprimanded and if you say “Derry” to a unionist of English or Scottish descent, you will also be severely reprimanded. So in this city you have a high chance of making yourself unpopular. It’s best to say “Derry/Londonderry”, be patiently corrected (several times a day) and stay out of any form of political discussion.

On the walls near Tower Museum in Derry / Londonderry
On the walls near Tower Museum in Derry / Londonderry (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

So what is this all about? In the Northern Ireland conflict of the 1960s and 1970s, radical groups from both parties also fought each other with explosives and weapons. British troops attempted to bring Northern Ireland and, in particular, the IRA, which was categorised as a terrorist organisation, under control by force, which in turn led to enormous violent clashes, particularly in Derry/Londonderry. A ceasefire was finally negotiated by both sides in 1975.

In this context, there is always talk of Catholics and Protestants, but it is less about religion and more about the question of whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom (majority Protestant) or be reunited with the Republic of Ireland (majority Catholic).

Small road at the wall of Derry / Londonderry
Small road at the wall of Derry / Londonderry (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Tourists no longer need to fear bomb attacks in Derry/Londonderry, but the two population groups are still at odds, which sometimes leaves visitors with a less than relaxed impression.

But this is also an important part of the recent history of the Irish island and is part of the city.

Let’s return to the older history of the city: the famous city wall was built around 1613-1618. The walls were intended to protect the inhabitants, the majority of whom were settlers from England or Scotland and their descendants, from Irish rebels.

Shopping place in Derry / Londonderry
Shopping place in Derry / Londonderry (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

In the same century, the city was besieged three times but never conquered, which speaks for the quality of the walls, which were protected by powerful artillery bastions. Today you can still find old cannons on the walls. Some of today’s walls are still very high, some have been demolished and are considerably lower, but overall they are still very well intact.

A tour of the city walls of Derry / Londonderry

The tour of the wall is around 2.5 kilometres long and can easily be completed in an hour. However, it took me a good 2 hours to complete the route, as the excursion was so interesting that I kept stopping to take photos.

If the whole tour takes too long, you can just walk part of the wall, there are always stairs to climb up or down.

Streets of Derry / Londonderry
Streets of Derry / Londonderry (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

On your tour, you will see a highly interesting mix of old and new city centre. From your high vantage point, you can see both the city centre and the outskirts of the city at any time.

If you don’t have much time, I would definitely recommend a visit to the small Tower Museum and a tour around the Guildhall, as well as a walk across the Peace Bridge, which crosses the River Foyle in a curved line in front of the Guildhall.

You can find more information about the city here: https://www.visitderry.com/.

What else you can do in the area

From here you can take a day trip around the Inishowen Peninsula, the northernmost point of which, Malin Head, is also the northernmost point of the island of Ireland. Malin Head itself is not that interesting, but the drive around the peninsula is very scenic. See: https://www.govisitinishowen.com/directories/driving-routes-inishowen-wild-atlantic-way-donegal/.

Peace Bridge at Derry / Londonderry
Peace Bridge at Derry / Londonderry (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

You can combine Derry / Londonderry with a tour to Fanad Head and Fanad Head Lighthouse. I have linked my own article on this for you below. For the Fanad Head Lighthouse website, see: https://fanadlighthouse.com/.

From here you can also easily head for the Causeway Coast, via Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway. See also: https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/dunluce-castle-p675011, and: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/northern-ireland/giants-causeway.

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Conclusion

Is Derry / Londonderry a beautiful city? Well, I like historic cities better than modern cities and this city is a mixture of both. It has many beautiful old, historic buildings, but you also see many modern neighbourhoods, especially outside the walls, which I personally don’t find so beautiful.

Is it an interesting city? Yes, I would definitely confirm that. The contrast between old and new, the turbulent history of the city and the subliminal conflicts that can still be felt make it very interesting.

St. Augustine`s Church in Derry / Londonderry
St. Augustine`s Church in Derry / Londonderry (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

And where I can orientate myself on the older walls and masonry, I find many beautiful corners!

Should you visit the city and walk the walls? Yes!

I wish you lots of fun!

More interesting articles for you

FANAD HEAD LIGHTHOUSE – IN THE FAR NORTH OF IRELAND


THE CLIFFS OF SLIEVE LEAGUE – MAJESTIC AND MARVELLOUS


GLENCOLUMBCILLE FOLK VILLAGE – LIFE IN RURAL IRELAND IN THE PAST


POWERSCOURT HOUSE AND GARDENS


Picture credits cover picture: On the city wall of Derry / Londonderry, photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg (www.easycruiser.tours, www.the-view-accommodation.ie, www.irland-insider.de, www.ireland-insider.com)

Uli Written by:

Hello and welcome to my blog. Originating from Germany, my family and I now live in Ireland (at least part time). We have travelled this amazing isle many times and know many parts of it very well. In this blog, I would like to share valuabe tips and information for your next trip to Ireland with you. Enjoy the content, yours, Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg