THE NORTHERN EDGE
Take a trip across the Irish Sea and explore the magic that is Northern Ireland’s north-west, says FERGUS MCSHANE, who enjoys the hospitality of Derry and the coastal route
Built along the meandering banks of the River Foyle, Derry is a city steeped in history. The sturdy stone walls surrounding the town were built in the 1600s by King James I to keep Irish rebels from besieging the city and, as well as never being breached, they are still standing today. The locals are fond of the saying, don’t walk the walls, stroll them – which sums up the laid back, welcoming atmosphere extended to the many visitors attracted to such a culturally vibrant city.
It will come as no surprise at all that music is the beating heart of this part of Northern Ireland. Music events and cultural festivals offering everything from traditional Irish music to jazz, to Celtic electronic and international choral competitions abound and at any one time there will be countless live acts to see in the many pubs that nestle into the fabric of the city.
In fact, music and drinking often go hand in hand, so it makes sense to take in a walking tour with a few stops along the way to experience the real flavour of Derry. The lively Peadar O’Donnells on Waterloo Street is perfect for a pint of Guinness with some traditional Irish music, while Sandino’s Cafe Bar on Water Street offers a laid-back lounge style with great atmosphere. And if beer is your thing, a trip to the Walled City Brewery, Derry’s first craft brewery in more than a century, offers a true taste of the north-west with fantastic beer and great food – the perfect starting point to enjoying an evening of eclectic entertainment.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT…
Enjoying a coastal drive: The Causeway Coastal Route was rated one of the top five road trips worldwide. With stunning scenery, it runs from Derry to Belfast and takes around five days, allowing for exploration. UNESCO World Heritage site the Giant’s Causeway, Magilligan’s Point and Dungiven are just some of the breathtaking sights.
Heading to the architecturally stunning Peace Bridge, connecting the communities on either side of the river Foyle. The iconic, snaking curves of this beautiful bridge offer a stunning photo opportunity – especially as the sun rises or sets.
Admiring the skill of the mural artists at the People’s Gallery in the Bogside. Head to the Free Derry Corner and take in the murals by the Bogside Artists where the city’s political history is depicted in a series of incredible, sobering artworks.
Ordering the catch of the day. Renowned for some of the finest seafood in the world, top restaurants like Brown’s offer the best of modern Irish cuisine – thanks in no small part to head chef, Ian Orr.
WHERE TO STAY
The Belfray Country Inn – A short drive outside Derry, The Belfray couples the beauty of the countryside with convenient city access. thebelfraycountryinn.co.uk
Bishops Gate Hotel – Ideally located within the city walls in the Cathedral Quarter, this Grade B1-listed building combines Edwardian architecture with contemporary décor as well as some fantastic views of the city. bishopsgatehotelderry.com
CLIMATE With a temperate climate and coastal location, Derry and Donegal enjoy summer temperatures in the high teens with mild winters, but there is a chance of rainfall throughout the year. The best time to visit is late spring through summer.
GETTING THERE You can fly into City of Derry Airport from the UK on Ryanair. There are many flights to Belfast – a 11⁄2 hour drive away – and ferries are available into Belfast and Dublin.
GETTING AROUND In Derry, the best way is on foot, by taxi or getting an open-top bus ticket so you can hop on and off as necessary. For trips further afield, a number of affordable car rental options are available either from the City of Derry airport (Europcar) or within Derry itself.
TO FIND OUT MORE Visit visitderry.com.