Derry is a city rich in eclectic culture, harrowing histories and dozens of stories. It’s also the setting for the hilarious Channel 4 comedy series, Derry Girls. I’ve watched every episode of the show at least twice, so I was hugely excited to see the mural of the cast painted on the side of Badger’s Bar on Orchard Street, just outside the maiden city walls. The show is a testament to the locals’ sense of humour that makes Derry a city everyone should visit to witness the resilience of the human spirit.
For a taste of Derry Girls we stopped by the Everglades Hotel to enjoy a Derry Girls Afternoon Tea. This is no ordinary Afternoon Tea – the Derry Girls Cocktail is laced with pink gin. The usual yummy savouries were accompanied by crisp sandwiches and a side of chips and the sweet treats included Granda Joe’s famous cream horns. Of course we were presented with a rubber duck, the mascot of the Hastings Hotel Group, which has been transformed into a rather cheeky duck wearing hooped earrings and a green uniform – bearing a remarkable resemblance to the show’s funniest character, Michelle.
Joking aside the real history and civil rights story that put Derry at the heart of the troubles is poignant and engaging. A good place to learn more is with Bogside History Tours which operates from the Guildhall daily. Our guide, Neil McLaughlin, grew up on Chamberlain Street – which featured hugely in The Bloody Sunday tragedy.
We passed by the Museum of Free Derry which has important instillations and artefacts from the troubles – such as the white handkerchief Bishop Daly waved to carry the casualties to safety. We then retraced the steps of those who were part of this tragic history and Neil explained real people’s experiences in the Bogside. His perspective is different to the narrative we were fed in the south of Ireland in the News at that time. It never ceases to amaze me how the truth of tragedy only comes out after time has passed and the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from it.
The many murals that range from Nobel Prize winners to Hunger Strikers were each discussed and had young and old alike completely engaged. The iconic ‘You are now entering Free Derry’ wall, currently pays homage to the ten hunger strikers who died forty years ago this year. For more see www.bogsidehistorytours.com
On my last trip to Derry I was brought on a tour of the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall which helped me to gain perspective on history from the other side of the story and also at the siege of Derry Museum. www. theseigemuseum.org. While there have been many sieges in Ireland during the 17th century, most notably in Limerick, the siege in Derry is easy to re-imagine with the maiden walls of the city still perfectly intact. Nowadays they are home to wonderful boutique hotels and gems such as Derry Craft Village showcasing beautiful handcrafts and coffee shops. www.derrycraftvillage.com
We stayed at the Bishopsgate Hotel which is a member of Ireland’s Blue Book so I knew it would be a classy boutique hideaway. This building was opened as the Northern Counties Club in 1902 and often frequented by the local Barristers – with nods to the judiciary in the Wig Bar and Crown restaurants. Reopened in 2016 this hotel is the sort of oasis you need on a city break when you want to be able to walk to all the sights and amenities but sleep in peace. The view from our bedroom included the majestic spire of St Columbs Cathedral reaching up to the blue sky. Bed and Breakfast at Bishopsgate is from €162 per room see www.irelandsbluebook.com/bishopsgate
St Columb founded Doire (Gaelige for oak tree), in the sixth century before it evolved into the anglicised version we call it today, Derry. Well worth a stop off and not too far from the beautiful Guildhall is the Tower Museum which offers insight into the city’s origins 1,500 years ago. It includes the story of the Spanish Armada which sank off the Derry coast in 1588 and other highpoints in the city’s development. Open every day 10am-5:30pm. Admission £4 adults, £2 children,
If you’re looking for a buzzing bar that sums up Derry then visit Sandinos on Water Street. Che Guevarra posters and images of other great revolutionaries flanked the walls as we sipped our pints of Guinness. I’m already as excited as a Derry Girl about a return trip because Derry is listed in the top ten places in the world to celebrate Halloween. I’ve to make sure to book early and have a good costume of course – I might even drag out my old green school uniform, hoop earrings and go as a Bona Fide Derry Girl!
For more see www.visitderry.com