Derry Londonderry is the only city on the island of Ireland to boast complete enclosing city walls and what better way to get to know the city and a bit of the history of the region than by taking a guided walking tour atop those spectacular city walls?
There are several companies offering tours of the city – see below – but we took the Martin McCrossan city walls tour which is one those where you just show up and pay.
As a quick overview, the tour takes about an hour and in that time you walk around the wide paved pedestrain path at the top of the 17th-century city walls that also happens to take you past numerous very historic points. McCrossan tours has done a very good job of putting together a tour where commentary about these landmarks is woven into a history of the city and the region so that if your knowledge of Ulster history is a little fuzzy, you will come away very much the wiser.
Walking the Walls Walk…
I have done the tour twice now, each time with a different out-of-town visitor, giving an indication of the quality of the tour. On the second occasion I picked up quite a bit of information I had missed the first time there’s that much to hear about!
There is no need to book the tour, and the company website promises that the tours take place every day, no matter the weather. Show up at the clearly signed meeting point and the guide kicks off with a quick introduction and your first instalment of city history before taking you up on the walls for more.
The first tour was busier with about 30 attendees, the second tour with around 20; what this does mean is that you have to gather in close to hear the guide at the busy road-side start point. Once on the walls, things are easier going and the guide manages to talk while walking backwards so for much of the tour you are on the move.
Expect to hear about the history of the city’s name, how the city came into being, about the Siege of Derry, King William and King James, what the marches are all about, Derry during WWII, a few of the city’s famous characters, Bloody Sunday and ‘The Troubles’, and the more recent peace time, and much more, all told with balance and humour. Amongst other things, you’ll see and learn about the significance of the Fountainside, the Bogside, peace murals and the original catwalk.
The walks ends back where it starts with a complimentary cup of tea at Java, just inside the city walls.
Pushchair friendly? Moderately – the top of the walls is paved with stones. Be prepared to carry the chair up and down a few stairs
What if it rains? Rain in Northern Ireland is usually just a passing thing so go with a hooded raincoat, preferably, and/or an umbrella.