“Our city is called by many names. Some call it the city, stroke city or the walled city, others Londonderry and just Derry but we like to call it legenderry”. My guide Charlene McCrossan told me to much laughter at the start of my trip to Derry last month for this week’s Travel Tales with Fergal Podcast Derry special.
Appropriately we were starting the Martin McCrossan walking tour of city walls beside a huge mural of the Derry Girls, painted across the side of a building, which was paid for by Channel 4 as a thank you to the city for the hugely successful television show.
The Derry Girls mural has become a symbol of the city like all the famous murals on the Bogside. If the murals on the Bogside are symbols of the Troubles, Bloody Sunday and the campaign for peace then the Derry Girls is a symbol of the new Derry which is full of fun, energy and optimism for the future.
I would recommend the Martin McCrossan City Walls Tours as a “must do” to get your bearings of this wonderful historic city before you do anything else. Martin was named Mr Derry when he passed in 2015 and his effervescent daughter Charlene now runs the tours with great wit and passion on the only fully walled city in Ireland or the UK. Charlene takes you through 1,500 years of history from the 6th century to the plantations and all the way from the Siege to the Troubles to the peace process.
For lovers of history and entertainment, it is the perfect city for a break. By day you can visit the many great museums like the Guildhall which has a great exhibition on the history of the plantations and the Siege of Derry museum run by the Apprentice Boys. By night there are great restaurants and bars all clustered together to create a vibrant nightlife buzz. It feels as if everyone is on the payroll of the tourist board as everyone is so welcoming and friendly.
My favourite places to visit are those where you feel the pride locals have for their town. It is an intangible thing but when locals exude their love for home it makes the holiday so much more special.
Another place I would highly recommend is the historic Brook Hall estate which is a 140 acre 18th century demesne on a picturesque site on banks of the River Foyle with over 25 acres of beautiful gardens that have just been opened for group tours. Just 5km from the city centre Brook Hall is owned by the Gilliland family who have developed the gardens into one of the finest private collections of plants and trees in Ireland.
Derry is steeped in the history we know so well but brought alive by locals passionate about sharing the areas stories. The city has great history, architecture, bars and restaurants and hotels but what I really loved the most was the welcome from the people. For more details about Derry go to https://www.visitderry.com.
To hear my Travel Tales with Fergal Podcast Derry Special go to www.traveltaleswithfergal.ie .