Recently we had the pleasure of joining the ExpediaExplores team as they travel around Ireland. Our stop was the city of Derry, a city that tends to come with more than one name. Known as Derry or Londonderry, one of our tour guides for the day said he likes to call it Legend-Derry, and after spending a day exploring the city, we wouldn’t have any arguments.
A guided tour of Derry with Martin McCrossan
We arrived in Derry early in the day and dropped our bags of at the City Hotel. If you’re ever thinking about visiting Derry we would strongly recommend staying in the City Hotel as it is situated in a perfect location. We arrived a little early as we had a walking tour booked with Martin McCrossan. Martin had come highly recommended by the good folk at Discover Northern Ireland, and they weren’t half wrong. Martin met the two of us at the hotel and we set off to explore the city. This was our first time in Derry since kids so it was pretty much all new to us.
First up Ebrington Square
Our trip started with a walk across the city’s Peace Bridge, a state of the art bridge erected in 2011 as a sign of peace in a city that has been dogged by years of infighting. The bridge connects the unionist and nationalist areas of the city, and as we strolled across the bridge Martin was chatting to members of both sides of the community and you could get a real sense that Derry was most definitely moving forward as a city.
Our first stop was Ebrington Square, a large open square that used to be a barracks station for the British Army. The square has opened in 2012 and has played a big role in recent events in the city, including Radio One’s Big Weekend in 2013 and MTV Crashes Derry. The square was also used for many events during the city’s roles as UK City of Culture in 2013, and is also a focal part of the city over the Christmas period. Martin did say that the square is buzzing over the festive period, another sign of how far this city has come.
Marvel at Guildhall
Martin took us back across the Peace Bridge to the Guildhall, one of the most impressive buildings in the city. Guildhall is the building were those elected to Derry Council meet. It is also used for many functions and events, and you are free to walk around it as you please. We didn’t venture in when walking round with Martin, but we did call back later in the day and were certainly impressed, least not by the huge organ in the main ballroom.
Upon leaving the Guildhall, Martin took us on a quick walk through the Peace Park in the city. The park has a flame burning in it that was lit by Martin Luther King 3rd (son of the famous man himself), and there are 4 walkways leading up to it with messages from local school kids. A really inspirational park and well worth checking out.
City walls and St Columb’s Cathedral
Martin then took us on a journey around the city walls as we found out more about the city and where the name London came from. It was refreshing to hear Martin talk so positively about the city and he really did know his stuff. Construction on the famous walls started in 1614 (400 years ago) and much of the walls still stand to this day.
One of the first stops on our journey around the walls was the stunning St Columb’s Cathedral. We took a quick walk around the inside of the cathedral as well as the gardens, and we were taken aback by how spectacular it looked. It’s not too often you get excited by a cathedral but this is certainly worth visiting if you are planning a trip to Derry.
The world’s oldest department store
We finished our trip around Derry in the city centre at the Diamond War Memorial. Here you can see four sides of the city and this is where we said our goodbyes to Martin. It was one of the first ever walking tours we had been on and we would strongly recommend it to anyone visiting Derry. Sitting opposite the Diamond War Memorial is Austin’s, the worlds oldest department store. Forget about Harrod’s and Macy’s, if you want to shop in the worlds oldest department store, get yourself to Derry.
It’s all about the craft
Our last stop before venturing back to the hotel was the city’s craft village, somewhere that had been recommended to us by many people. The village has a number of craft and boutique shops and looked to be extremely popular with tourists. We took a walk around some of the shops and if you are a fan of picking up hand-crafted gifts then you’ll love the craft village.
The John Hume Suite at City Hotel
We retreated to our room at the City Hotel and were delighted when we got an upgrade to one of the hotels popular suites – the John Hume Suite. Hands down this is one of the best rooms we have ever stayed in. The separate living quarters were perfect for us after a long day of walking about exploring the city. Our reward – a bottle of sparkling wine and some nibbles to help us relax for the evening.
Ireland’s Highest Pub
On our way home back down the Glenshane Pass towards Belfast, we stopped of at the tallest pub in Ireland, The Ponderosa. Well, it would have been rude not to call in for one 🙂
Derry was just one of our stops as we travel around Ireland with Expedia and the #ExpediaExplores team. Next up is Cork and Waterford, so we look forward to sharing our adventures around the Emerald Isle with you.
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You can find out more about Martin McCrossan’s walking tour which costs only £4 (and well worth it) by visiting www.derrycitytours.com.