Northern Ireland Travel Guide: 9 Amazing Things to See and Do in Derry

Looking for the best things to do in Derry? Well, you’re in the right place.

To get to grips with Northern Ireland’s history, a visit to its cities is essential. You can choose Belfast where grand public buildings line its streets, explore the cathedral town of Armagh where St Patrick is said to have established Christianity in Ireland or visit Derry which has grown around the well-preserved walls of its medieval antecedent.

Derry is a compact city on the River Foyle wedged between the Wild Atlantic Way and the Causeway Coast route known by two names each with different connotations attached that involve distinct histories, different religious beliefs and opposed political values. 

The city has found new fame in recent years as the setting for the comedy TV series, Derry Girls, which tells the story of a group of local girls growing up there.

Derry is a fun and exciting city break – less than two hours away from Sligo and an hour and a half from Belfast. There are plenty of fantastic shopping opportunities, cosy cafés, and attractions that can cheer up even the greyest of days.

Approaching the Guildhall Square

#1. Walk over the Peace Bridge

Derry is situated along the River Foyle which can be crossed by the Peace Bridge allowing pedestrians and cyclers easy access to both sides of the river. The bridge marks a 400-year-old physical and political gap between two sides of a once, harshly divided community and is an essential stop on any Derry and Northern Ireland travel itinerary.

Funded by the European Peace Fund, designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects in London and opened in 2011, the pedestrian Peace Bridge with its unusual S-shaped is the most striking of the three bridges that cross River Foyle.

The bridge is conceived as a pair of self-anchored suspension bridges that overlap visually and structurally at the middle of the river in a symbolic demonstration of unity and concord.

Interesting Facts about the Peace Bridge:

  • The design of the bridge was inspired by the sculpture “Hands across the Divide” by Maurice Harron, which can be found near the bridge.
  • The Peace Bridge is designed to withstand impact from vessels up to approximately 30 tons moving at up to 5 knots.
  • The bridge has won the Structural Steel Design Awards 2012
  • It is the only self-anchored suspension bridge in the island.
  • It weighs a total of 1,000 tons.
The 235-meter bridge was designed by AECOM and Wilkinson Eyre Architects.

#2. Visit the adorable Craft Village

Located at the heart of the city centre, Derry’s Craft Village is hosting an array of businesses such as Ivy Gate Coffee House with a pretty flower arch at the entrance, No. 19 Craft & Design selling contemporary crafts and artisan giftware and contemporary art gallery Cowley Gallery showing quality Irish art and ceramics.

If you are a book lover looking to find a good read, you’ll be pleased to find out that the second-hand book shop Foyle bookstore sells both old and new books at a small price for both adults and children.

Located at the bottom of Shipquay Street the charming Craft Village is easily accessible and well worth a visit. As you walk through you see Edel McBrides Wool Shop and on the wall to the left the magnificent Factory Girls Mural showing the history of the City’s famous shirt factory industry the world leader in days gone by.

You can walk on through here and come out on Magazine street and the famous Derry Walls are right in front of you.

Craft Village, Derry, Northern Ireland.

#3. Stop by The Guildhall

Fashioned in a neo-gothic style and located in Guildhall Square, the Guildhall is one of Derry’s most outstanding landmarks and has been so since the 1800s. The iconic building that has seen many events and witnessed history in the making is located within easy reach of its famous 400-year-old Walls and is open for visitors free of charge.

Anyone visiting Derry should stop by it as the new interactive tourist information point with interpretation panels can be found in the building as well as an exhibition that explores how the Plantation has shaped the City’s history.

The building – which was almost completely destroyed by fire and bombings in Victorian times – is also home to the City’s Council’s chamber and Mayor’s parlour and one of its alluring features is its collection of stunning stained-glass windows. The main hall has a capacity of up to 600 visitors standing or 400 seating, perfect for conferences, civil ceremonies and corporate events.

Did you know – the Guildhall Square was the venue for the opening ceremony in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Stained glass windows inside the Guildhall, Derry.

#4. Walk the City Walls

The Derry City Walls are one of the city’s most amazing historical monuments and a walk around the top of the ramparts is the top thing to do for any visitor and witness views of a still divided community, despite years of the Peace Process. 

17the Century walls are approximately 1.5km in circumference and are an incredible way to get an alternative view of the city. They were constructed between 1913 and 1618 in order to protect the Scots and English settlers of the new town that was established as part of the Plantation of Ulster. The Honourable, The Irish Society was established to look after the plantation and funds were obtained from the City of London to construct the walls.

Being 400 years old, today they are an important historic monument adorned with many gates, 24 skilfully restored cannons, including the impressive Roaring Meg located on the double bastion and many viewpoints that provide fantastic views of the cities neighbourhoods.

Make sure you use access steps to come down from ramparts and walk through the gates and around the walls to fully appreciate them. Some of the notable ones worth seeking out are the original four original entrances to the city – Shipqaue Gate, Bishops Gate, Butchers Gate and Ferryquay Gate.

Did you know: During The Troubles, it was closed to the public because it was a prime location for snipers.

Derry Walls at night time are beautifully illuminated by lights.

#5. Experience the world-famous Halloween celebrations

Did you know that Derry is famous for Halloween celebrations? From spooky costumes to spectacular light shows and indulging in everything pumpkin-spice-flavoured, there’s so much to anticipate during this frightfully fun October holiday that simply never gets old.

Derry is said to hold the biggest Halloween celebration in Europe with a week-long festival earning it the nickname ‘City of Bones’. There are dozens of different events including the Awakening of the Walls, the Carnival Parade, the Gothic Ball and the scare-fest at Jungle NI.

The last year’s celebrations, entitled ‘Awakening the Walled City” took place from Friday, October 29 until Sunday, October 31 from 5 pm to 10 pm. During those days, spectators were treated to magical storytelling, dazzling displays and several illuminated worlds spread across the city along with the island of Ireland’s first-ever digital LED installation.

The city comes alive for the festivities

#6. Go Museum Hopping

The Museum of Free Derry |  established by the Bloody Sunday Trust in 2006 museum tells the story of the civil rights movement and the creation of Free Derry in the 1960s and 1970s. A visit to the museum is an absolute must for anyone eager to learn more about the history of Free Derry. Be prepared to be emotionally charged leaving this museum as you’ll learn about Bloody Sunday, Battle of the Bogside, Operation Motorman and Internment.

  • Opening times: Tuesday – Saturdays 10:00 – 16:00, last admission 30 minutes before closing times.
  • Admission: £7 adults, £6 concession and £5 groups.

The Siege Museum | It tells the story of the Siege and the 13 apprentices in pictures and words, and there are lots of exhibits as well as a short video showing Apprentice Boys celebrating their special day in August. There is also a corner dedicated to those Apprentice Boys who lost their lives in Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

  • Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm (last entry 4.00pm)
  • Admission: £5.00 per person, Concession £4.00, Under 12 – Free

Tower Museum | the award-winning museum situated within the City’s historic walls houses two permanent exhibitions using a range of display and interactive techniques. The first one is The Story of Derry which tells the history of the city from earliest prehistory to the present and the second one – An Armada Shipwreck – La Trinidad Valencera – tells a tale of one of the largest ships in the Spanish Armada which sank off the Donegal Coast in 1588 and was rediscovered by divers from the City of Derry Sub-Aqua Club in 1971.

  • Opening times: Monday – Sunday from 11:00 – 16:00 with last admission at 15:00
  • Admission: Adult – £4.00, Child Rate – £2.00, Concession Rate – £2.40
The Guildhall Square is the main square in Derry city and hosts many large events.

#7. Learn about the city’s turbulent past

Derry is steeped in political history.

One of the best ways to learn about the city’s turbulent past, its role during the Troubles and an in-depth look at Derry’s history is by going on a guided walking or a bus tour of Derry where you can see some of the city’s key murals and historical landmarks.

If you choose a private guide, keep in mind that most of the guides are family members of innocent civilians who were killed on Bloody Sunday so you’ll receive a passionate and personal account – be prepared to laugh and cry. 

Most of the tours will take you on a journey about the history behind the city’s main tourist attractions, including:

  • The Hands Across the Divide monument
  • The Free Derry Corner murals painted by a locat teenega activist
  • The Hunger Strike memorial located in front of the Free Derry Mural
  • Derry City Walls
  • Bogside Neighbourhood who  was witness to two other tragic events in Derry history, the Battle of the Bogside in 1969 and Bloody Sunday in 1972. 
City Walls near the main square, Derry.

#8. Explore nearby beaches or go on a day trip

If you’re looking to get out into the countryside for a few hours, you can certainly use Derry as a base to explore some of the surrounding areas and regions around Northern Ireland.

There are some great places to visit from Derry – the north coast of Northern Ireland is a very scenic place.

A fantastic way to see some lovely scenery is by catching the train that travels the Londonderry-Coleraine-Portrush train line as the route weaves along cliffs, through tunnels under temples, past over two runways and along the banks of Loch Foyle. Many famous train enthusiasts, such as Micheal Palin and Micheal Portillo, have written fantastically about the Derry-Londonderry line.

If you are short on time, stop by the Downhill beach overlooked by Mussenden Temple.

#9. Visit Derry during the Christmas season

Derry is fantastic at Christmas and the festive season is a truly magical time of year to visit – there’s magic in the air, good cheer and fairy lights. If your idea of Christmas heaven is wrapping up warm for an epic pub crawl, stopping by the renowned Walled City Christmas Markets and gazing in wonder at how different the City Centre suddenly looked, then Derry is a city for you.

The iconic city usually welcomes the festive season by the end of November and anyone who’s spent time in the city and seen the big Christmas Light switch on will agree that the twinkling lights make the street especially beautiful this time of year as do the Christmas events and shop window displays.

It is always a treat to head into the city after dark to admire the lights

Getting to Derry

Derry is very accessible by air, sea, rail, bus and road.

By Air – Northern Ireland is served by flights into City of Derry Airport, Belfast International Airport and Belfast City Airport. The city’s airport is serviced by two airlines: Ryanair and BMI Regional. Direct access to the city airport is available from the following major airports: London Stansted, Liverpool, Glasgow International and Majorca.

  • Good to know – Local multi- award winning public transport provider ‘Airporter’ provide a daily shuttle service between Derry and Belfast International and Belfast City Airports.

By Train – Derry is just 2 and half hours by train from Belfast.

By Ferry – Northern Ireland has first-class ferry connections with Scotland, England and the Isle of Man bringing both foot passengers, cars and other vehicles into the area through two ferry ports, Belfast and Larne.

the mural of the popular cast of Derry Girls is located on Orchard Street.

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Now, over to you!

Have you been to Derry? Let us know in the comments!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Derry and have travel-related questions!

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63 thoughts on “Northern Ireland Travel Guide: 9 Amazing Things to See and Do in Derry

    1. Thanks so much, Marion 🥰 While most tourists visit Northern Ireland for its UNESCO listed Giants Causaway, or the famous Belfast Titanic shipyard, many miss out on the regions second-largest city that’s full of amazing sights to see. I’m glad to hear you had a wonderful time exploring it 😊 Thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear you’ve seen the Derry Girls! It’s one of the TV series I’ve been meaning to watch for a while, but never got around to do it 🥰 and yes, Derry becomes alive during the Halloween Celebrations, and visitors can fuel up on folklore, feasting and festivities. It’s something I’ve never seen before 🥰☺️ thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks for the memories Aiva. We visited here in 2017 and despite a bit of early apprehension, enjoyed our visit. We enjoyed a guided tour of the walls before walking them ourselves. Happy Monday, Aiva. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear you had a great time in Derry, Allan 🥰 It’s a beautiful city to explore and photograph as it has a wonderful skyline and some of the best festivals throughout the calendar year 🤗 thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much 🥰 Despite its troubled history, both because of its proximity to the Irish border and the historical Plantation of Ulster, Derry is a staple in the cultural hub that makes up Northern Ireland. It’s a wonderful city to explore at any time of the year 🤗 thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

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  2. My last trip to Derry was in the 1960’s and it was a very different place then so it’s time I paid another visit I think. You certainly make it sound very enticing and I think the success of the TV series The Derry Girls has put it firmly oln the map and lifted it out of “the Troubles” where it seemed to fixed. Your images are excellent, by the way.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, Northern Ireland, in the 1960s was a very different place. It was a place fraught with car bombings, riots and revenge killings. There were many disturbances and also much violence. It’s nice to see that nowadays everyone can expect a safe and enjoyable holiday, although it can be very emotional at times, especially when visiting its powerful murals and museums. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva xx

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  3. The Londonderry-Coleraine-Portrush train journey sounds wonderful! I’ve never been to Derry, but would love to visit and after reading your article I’m sure that I would immensely enjoy exploring the architecture and history of the city.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You would love exploring Derry despite its troubled history! It’s a fun and most importantly safe place to wander around. If you don’t discuss politics or religion then you have a little chance of offending anyone. It’s a bit tricky when it comes to its name – with many Loyalist calling it Londonderry while Republicans prefer Derry. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

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  4. Derry sounds like a great city to visit, a bit of history mixed with architecture and markets. I love your night time picture and love the idea of walking along the ramparts of the city’s wall. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Maggie 🥰 Derry is a wonderful city to explore as it has powerful murals, spectacular surrounding villages and heaps of history. Plus you can see Northern Ireland’s most beautiful bridge – the Peace Bridge 🤗 thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

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    1. I know what you mean. I had a chance to visit Northern Ireland for the first time twenty years ago and I felt so intimidated that I secretly wowed not to go back. Fast forward two decades, and I cherish every opportunity to visit its beautiful coast and various cities. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

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  5. It’s always interesting to read about small towns and lesser-known cities as in most cases they are worth the detour from the region’s main sights. Northern Ireland is so far away from where I live I may not necessarily have the time to visit Derry should I happen to go to this part of the world. But it’s nice to learn about this city’s history and its developments since the end of the sectarian conflict. Your city guides are always accompanied by beautiful photos, Aiva.

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    1. Thanks so much 🥰 many people have outdated perceptions of beautiful Northern Ireland, a country coloured by grim memories of regular bombings up until the 1990’s. Granted, it remains a complicated place, but during my recent visits, I’ve found the latter country to be a safe, welcoming destination for tourists who behave courteously. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

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  6. I’ve not been to Derry, but I’ve heard about it from other travel bloggers who’ve gone. I especially heard just how charming Craft Village is, and I’d love to wander around there. There’s a lot to see in Northern Ireland besides just Belfast and the GoT tours around parts of the country, and Derry seems a worthwhile place to go!

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    1. Derry is one of my new favourite places to explore now, Rebecca 🥰 and it makes for such an easy road trip given that the boarder between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been all but invisible since 1998 when all check points were removed as part of the Good Friday agreement. These days tourists can easily cross over without even realising. And yes, the Craft Village is one of the most adorable places I’ve seen in Derry – there are so many unique, independent shops selling handcrafted goods. 🥰 Thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so amazing, I hope you have heaps of fun in Northern Ireland. All of its cities are truly beautiful and worth exploring. I can’t wait to read all about your adventures in Belfast 🥰 thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly, Marie 🥰 on my very first visit, I was quite surprised by how much there was to see and do. Derry is without a doubt a unique place steeped in history, home to variety of cultural and foodie attractions and filled with contrasts and surprises 🥰 thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva xx

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  7. What a nice place to go visiting! Although I love Christmas time, with all festivities, and decorations, I think I would rather check Derry out at Halloween time, you made me curious🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Christie 🥰 Northern Ireland’s second city may not be big physically, but there’s something to see and do around every corner. It’s especially amazing place to be during Halloween Celebrations as they go on for five days ☺️ thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly 😊 Derry is an amazing city to visit and I was truly surprised by how much there was to see and do, including Walls of Derry 🥰 thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day 🥰 Aiva xx

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    1. Derry is an amazing place to explore, and it was also here that the infamous Bloody Sunday took place in 1972. The healing process still continues today and any visitor stopping by, should brace themselves for one or two emotional moments given its difficult past. I was holding back tears upon seeing the Bogside Murals, and learning about the oppression of working class community. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day ☺️ Aiva

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  8. Derry has all the beautiful, unforgettable charms. An City with so much surprises and history. And the Holiday decors and spirit adds to the excitement and thrill. Thank you Aiva. Love it all🙏 great adventures indeed☀️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly 🙂 A city steeped rich in culture and history, Derry is full of world-class tourist attractions just waiting for you to explore! Its political history is close to the surface and memorialized through its public spaces, art, and even architecture. But its people, cuisine, and natural beauty will take you back to a simpler time. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. I am glad to hear you love Derry! It is a city unlike any other. This very unique international destination provides world-class visitor experiences with a cosmopolitan vibe all year round. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva

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  9. I’d never heard of Derry before but it seems like such a nice city, with some touches of modernity in a background of historical buildings! I think I would fore sur elove the Craft Village! Thanks for taking us along 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Juliette, how are you doing? Derry is a compact walkable city with cathedrals, churches iconic murals, architecture and heritage. Ireland’s most historic city is also the hub from which to explore the wider North West. It is the most strategically positioned city located on the island where visitors can enjoy a unique experience with the convergence of two internationally recognised coastal driving routes – The Walled City – where the Wild Atlantic Way meets the Causeway Coastal Route. Thanks for stopping by and have a good weekend 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Derry is an amazing city to explore where the Northern Ireland conflict is detailed in the city’s political murals, museums, artist works, city walls, and various other monuments. The walk along the walls was one of my favourite parts as it provides excellent views of both sides of the river. Location is excellent for getting your bearings and allowing you to step off and view the murals etc from both communities and understand some of the events that shaped Northern Ireland. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva

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  10. Wow! I had no idea that Derry was such a beautiful city. The stained glass is amazing, as is the architecture. When I was growing up, during the Ireland ‘troubles’, Derry was a no-go city. Really delighted to see what it looks like and perhaps I will visit sometime.

    I love the photo of Ericeira and her Daddy – her hair is so pretty!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kerry! Yes, Derry is an amazing city to explore and photograph and I am glad we finally had a chance to see it. When I arrived in Ireland 20 years ago, there was no way anyone would travel to Derry or even Belfast. Northern Ireland is still a complicated place, but it’s a generally safe and welcoming destination these days – just be mindful of talking about politics and religion. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  11. It seems that any vacation we plan to really see Ireland must include both Irelands – North and south. I’m not well informed about the wars fought in Derry but can feel the tension indicated by the memorials you described here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you really should! Many people have outdated perceptions of beautiful Northern Ireland, a country coloured by grim memories of regular bombings up until the 1990s. Granted, it remains a complicated place, due to a combustible mix of religion and politics, but during my recent years of living on and off in the Republic of Ireland, near the border with Northern Ireland, I’ve found that latter country to be a safe, welcoming destination for tourists who behave courteously. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Jane! I couldn’t be happier with where we live – it’s been a real pleasure to explore Ireland and its rugged coast for the past two years. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  12. Derry is such a beautiful city. I love those stained glass windows inside the Guildhall and I always like a walk on city walls – you just get a different perspective of the city. Love the picture of your family on the beach 😊. Thanks for a great overview Aiva … it seems Christmas time is definitely a good time to visit Derry!

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    1. Thank you kindly! It was a great surprise to see such a beautiful city and to get the full history from its various museums. It was difficult to imagine that this was one of the central points of “The Troubles” but its recovery is amazing and Derry with its many sight-seeing tours and wonderful attractions should be on the list of must-see destinations. And, yes, Christmas time is a particularly magical time of the year to explore Derry as it is decorated with thousands of twinkling lights. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  13. Hi Aiva. I’ve been away from the “blogosphere” for a while. Nice to catch up with your travels today and learn about Derry. My partner and I still look forward to visiting Ireland, but our niece, Sarah, will be getting there before us this spring, so I’m sending her to your blog for the excellent info, tips and itineraries you provide. You may hear from her with some questions. Happy spring and happy travels to you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, it’s so nice to hear from you; the blogosphere wasn’t the same without you! I am glad to hear that your niece Sarah is coming to Ireland, if there’s anything she needs, I’ll be more than happy to assist! Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day 🙂 I hope all is well with you and your family 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, Aiva. Thanks so much for the kind words and offer of travel assistance to Sarah, who has already been perusing your blog. I’m enjoying catching up with your posts — cheers to you for keeping up a steady beat. Happy travels and writing! Marcy xx

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    1. Thank you very much! Steeped in fascinating history, there’s a lot to see around this thriving, cosmopolitan city centre – not least of all, the Tower Museum and Guild Hall. Both museums are monumental landmarks and centrally located. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much 🙂 Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland, and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe well worth a visit. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva

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    1. Thank you kindly 🙂 Londonderry or “Derry”, as it’s commonly known, has a history that’s rich, a present that’s easygoing and familiar, and an overall “heart of the Irish” vibe that Northern Ireland is so well known for.

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