Derry is a vibrant city in Northern Ireland, at the border shared with the Republic of Ireland. Surrounded by old defensive walls, the town is also traversed by the River Foyle, which splits Derry into two parts. The fourth biggest city in Ireland, Derry is a flourishing artistic and cultural hub that was awarded the UK City of Culture in 2013. Since then, everything is advancing and the historical background and traditional culture blend together with new vitalism including the rising live-music scene and attractions of the modern town. Naturally, you’ll find a vast number of choices of things to do in Derry, and in this article, we’ll look at 7 of the best things for you to make the most out of your stay in this lovely city.
1. Grianan of Aileach
Proudly standing at 244 meters (801 feet) high on top of the Greenan Mountain at Inishowen in Ireland, the stunning Grianan of Aileach is a stone fort built a long, long time ago. Here, you’ll be impressed by the massive walls that are 4.5 meters (15 feet) thick and 5 meters (16 feet) tall), forming this breathtaking fort. Walking around the construction and the area is a walk back in time where you can feel the rich, heavy history of the country, beautifully crystallized in this great monument that is a silent witness of the passing time.
Grianan of Aileach
Address: County Donegal, Ireland
Website: Grianan of Aileach
2. Free Derry Corner
“You Are Now Entering Free Derry” is the slogan that makes the Free Derry Corner a historical landmark and is a reminder of the self-declared autonomous nationalist area of Derry that existed between 1969 and 1972 in this neighborhood. This area illustrates the several troubles between England and Ireland back in the 70’s, such as the 1981 hunger strikers and the paramilitary activity known as the Provisional IRA’s Derry brigade.
The “Free Derry” wall was painted white and the “You Are Now Entering Free Derry” sign that was painted in black is also a reminder of the Battle of the Bogside in 1969 and Bloody Sunday in 1972, crucial and harsh events for both countries. This is a commemoration to the numerous victims of the Irish-English troubles that occurred at that time and is surely an essential place to go for those willing to understand one part of the city’s historical background.
Free Derry Corner
Address: Northern Ireland BT48 9DX, UK
Website: Free Derry Corner
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3. St. Columb's Cathedral
Widely recognized as the mother church of the Church of Ireland, St. Columb’s Cathedral in the walled city of Derry is dedicated to Saint Columba, the Irish monk who introduced Christianity to Scotland and northern England. It is the city’s most historic building, built in 1633. The current tower and main building stand fiercely as a testimony to time. You’ll be impressed by the massive building standing 67 meters (221 feet), and you’ll be able to look at a vast range of iconic and historical artifacts and documents inside the beautiful church. This is a top place to go for a leisurely walk and to gain interesting insight into the Northern Irish religious culture!
St. Columb's Cathedral
Address: 17 London St, Londonderry BT48 6RQ, UK
Website: St. Columb’s Cathedral
4. Tower Museum
Located within the city’s historic walls, in a historic tower, this museum features a lot of interesting exhibitions such as the permanent exhibitions of the Story of Derry, where you’ll learn great facts and stories about the town (and the political conflict that has affected its history). You can also visit to gaze at the stunning panoramic views of the city and River Foyle from the museum’s open air area. Opened in 1992 the Tower Museum has never stopped attracting crowds and you’ll enjoy this cultural day out in the area.
Address: Union Hall Place, Londonderry BT48 6LU, United Kingdom
Website: Tower Museum
5. Derry's City Walls
Derry City Walls are surely one of the most iconic urban sites in Ireland. Entirely surrounding the old city center, these walls are a 17th-century urban fortification with amazing views and tell the story of Northern Ireland’s troubles. For those interested in history, this is the place to go, and walking over the walls is literally a walk through Northern Ireland’s past. On the impressive 8 meter (26 feet) tall and 9 meter (30 feet) wide structure, you’ll remember the many historical facts (and fights) linked to this protective construction. Actually, Derry’s defenses were never breached. From the siege of the city to the “Bloody Sunday” and IRA scares on the building, you can truly realize the heavy history that also took part in shaping the region and the city. This is a must do while discovering Derry!
Derry's City Walls
Address: Bishop St, Londonderry BT48 6PR, UK
Website: Derry’s City Walls
6. Mussenden Temple
Built in 1785, the Mussenden Temple is a lovely circular building located on the cliffs of Northern Ireland’s coast. High above the Atlantic Ocean, this is surely one of the most outstanding locations in the area. Dangerously close to the edge of the cliffs, the temple feels suspended in the air, and the area has recently been stabilized to prevent the temple from falling into the sea. You’ll naturally be blown away by the breathtaking views and this day out is basically something you’re not about to forget soon. From the wonderful “former library” to the pathway around the area, you’ll find peace and relaxation surrounded by grass, ocean, and sky.
Address: Seacoast Rd, Coleraine BT51 4RH, UK
Website: Mussenden Temple
7. Giant's Causeway
Giant’s Causeway is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is maybe the most famous place in Northern Ireland. A true wonder of nature, this mystical and atmospheric area is one of these places that makes you realize your insignificance in front of Mother Nature. A wonderful result of an ancient volcanic eruption, the area is a maze of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, creating a place where you’ll love to lose yourself in the closely packed, hexagonal stone columns, enjoying the elements, the dramatic sea, the rugged rocks of the Earth, and the fresh air of the coast. This is the definite walking experience for outdoors and nature lovers that you have to see when you come to the area!
Read our article on the Giant’s Causeway for more information.
Address: 44 Causeway Rd, Bushmills BT57 8SU, UK
Website: Giant’s Causeway
Discover Northern Ireland!
With these 7 top-ranked things to do around Derry, Northern Ireland, you’ll discover a wonderful and rich part of the UK, full of history, monuments and activities to keep you busy and amazed for the duration of your stay!
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