Visiting City of Culture, Londonderry

Sitting on Northern Ireland’s northern coast, Londonderry is one of the country’s major cities. One that is steeped in a deep and sometimes troubled history and a city that can truly bring traditional Irish culture to life. It’s little wonder then that Londonderry has been chosen as a City of Culture for 2013. Here’s my guide to visiting this iconic city. 

Getting there

Londonderry is well-connected to the both the UK and Ireland as well as internationally. Flights arrive directly into Derry Airport from London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Birmingham as well as from Spain and Portugal. For more connections, fly directly into Belfast Airport which is an hour and a half’s drive away from the centre of Londonderry. The coastline and countryside around Londonderry is spectacular so if you want to explore with your car, then there is also the option of taking the ferry. P&O offer services from Scotland to Larne which are the fastest options across the waters.

City of Culture

Nominated as a City of Culture for 2013, Londonderry has a whole host of cultural events lined up throughout the year to celebrate. Added to its historical sites and natural wonders, the events certainly make Londonderry an unmissable place to visit. Highlights include the Greencastle Regatta Festival, the On Home Ground Poetry Festival featuring Seamus Heaney and the Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival.  Celebrating traditional Irish heritage, there will be the Story of Irish put together throughout November as well . Most important is the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann, which is the largest celebration of Irish culture in the world.

Historical Derry

Derry/Londonderry has certainly had a troubled history and one which has directly influenced Irish history at many points through time. Site of the Siege of Londonderry, this is an event which is commemorated today with a parade thankfully a more peaceful affair than in recent history. Take a guided tour around the City Walls to learn more about the siege and see the sights that still stand today. From here, visit the Museum of Free Derry which gives a fascinating insight into Derry’s troubles. It is best accompanied with a tour around the city to see the murals that cover many of the buildings to mark the struggles for freedom as well as a visit to the Tower Museum.

Natural Derry

Derry has the beauty of the Irish Countryside to add to its city heritage to give it an extra dimension as a tourist destination. Within the city, enjoy sitting on the banks of the River Foyle, or take a drive outside the city along the Glenshane Pass, one of the highest road passes in Northern Ireland. Running through the Sperrin Mountains, the Pass offers a series of stunning views.

Driving onwards out of the city, there are many great natural sites within an hour’s drive of Londonderry. The sprawling stones out to sea that make up the Giant’s Causeway is one of the most amazing geological sights in the world and lies just an hour and 15 minutes from the city making it utterly unmissable. Alternatively, head into the Republic of Ireland to visit the stunning province of Donegal. Here the coastline looks out across the Atlantic and offers some spectacular beaches to enjoy. Letterkenny in Donegal is just a half hour drive from the centre of Londonderry, with its coastline just over an hour away.