Originally known as Derry, this charming Northern Ireland city was renamed Londonderry by King James I in 1613. However, it seems 400 years is not quite enough time to adjust to the change and debate still rages over the city’s official name. While Londonderry may be the city’s legal name, most locals, road signs and even the city council refer to it simply as Derry.
Things to do in Derry, Northern Ireland
One of the first things you’ll notice when you visit Derry is the impressive defensive walls that surround the city. Built in the 17th century, the Derry City Walls stretch 1.5km around the inner city and are the most intact example of this type of defensive structure in Ireland. On your Derry holiday, take a walk along the city walls to get a great view over the town and its original Renaissance street plan.
Derry is a popular point on a tour of Northern Ireland because of its proximity to the beautiful Inishowen Peninsula. It is the largest peninsula in the whole of Ireland, both north and south, and its dramatic scenery includes the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, the Giant’s Causeway is an area of around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that were formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. However, traditional Irish legend has it that the formations were caused as a result of a fight between two giants, hence the name.
As part of your Derry sightseeing, be sure to explore some of the town’s significant buildings, such as the Gothic style St Columb’s Cathedral. Built not long after the city walls, St Columb’s was the first cathedral to be built by the Anglican church after the Reformation and the first Protestant cathedral to be built in Europe. This elegant Northern Ireland landmark not only provides daily religious services, it contains many historical artefacts and archival information.
The world’s oldest independent department store is Austins in Derry’s Diamond area. Opened in 1830, Austins has three floors of fashion, cosmetics, home-wares and gifts plus a restaurant with fantastic views across the city. Its Edwardian exterior is a pretty example of the style and many people who visit Northern Ireland stop to photograph it.
Northern Ireland has come a long way since The Troubles of the late 1960s to 1990s, but the events of those times are remembered in the Bogside neighbourhood just outside the city walls. Together the Bogside murals form the People’s Gallery and are one of the top attractions in Derry.