A nicely compact city, you can achieve a lot in just 24 hours in Derry.

The fully intact city walls, most famously associated with the failed attempt to enter the city, first by Jacobite forces under MacDonnell, Earl of Antrim, in 1688 and later by the former Catholic King of England, James II himself, in1689, are very impressive indeed.

The story goes that 13 boys, all apprentices to local tradespeople, saw the initial army approaching and hastily shut the gates, keeping the attackers without.

The siege proper, under James, began 4 months later and lasted for 105 days, without success. The relief of the Siege of Derry is recalled annually during August by the famous “Apprentice Boys” parade.

In 1688, the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ had replaced James, a Catholic, with his daughter Mary and her husband William (both Protestants) as monarchs of England. War began in March 1689 and the Siege of Derry was where the Jacobite forces failed to regain control of the city. Ultimately, William defeated the main Jacobite army at the Boyne in July 1690 and at Aughrim, County Galway, in 1691. The war ended with the Treaty of Limerick in October 1691 and resulted in the Flight of the Wild Geese.

24 hours in derry

Apart from the walls themselves and the bastions with their cannons situated along them, other impressive sites in the city centre include the Guildhall and the small St. Augustine’s C of I, built on the site of the first monastery founded by St. Columba (Colmcille, 6th C).

The Guildhall boasts magnificent stained glass windows and the peace accolades awarded to the late John Hume. Most famously, of course, Hume (d. 2020) and David Trimble (d. 2022) jointly received the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize.

24 hours in Derry - Guildhall

We didn’t get to visit St. Columb’s C of I cathedral (17th C).

Take note, also, of The Fountain, the last remaining unionist enclave in the city centre (that is, west of the River Foyle) and the high fences referred to as “peace walls” that, unfortunately, still surround it. Go to Bishop’s Gate to view the Berlinesque dog-leg metal gate that is still locked at night.

But the focus of a visit to Derry is, without question, the Bogside, a neighbourhood immediately west of, and below, the city walls.

It is here that the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1960s emerged and conflict followed. It is here that the atrocity of Bloody Sunday was perpetrated on 30 January 1972 that resulted in the deaths of 14 innocent people.

To visit the Museum of Free Derry, walk the surrounding streets, stand at Free Derry Corner and view the memorials and famous murals is a deeply emotional experience.

We also crossed the pedestrian Peace Bridge over to the east of the river, rambled through Clooney and along Spencer Street, before crossing back over the Craigavon Bridge.

On a lighter note, no 24 hours in Derry would be complete without a taste of the fabulous pubs along Waterloo Street. We enjoyed a beverage in Peadar O’Donnell’s, to the sound of excellent trad and ballads.

We ate lunch in The Scullery, just across the street.

We stayed in the Bishop’s Gate Hotel, one of the very few situated within the walls.

24 Hours in Derry – Comment

Like so many other towns and cities across the country, Derry’s streets are dotted with empty retail units, most notably that of Austin’s department store on The Diamond, closed since 2016.

The city strikes me as being not the most well-off in the world and I’ll leave it up to you to ponder as to why that might be. Read this 2022 Irish Times article :

For its haunting history, both distant and not so much, as well as the wonderfully musical accent and friendliness of its people, a visit to Derry is highly recommended.