County Londonderry is well known for its wild Atlantic coast, its famous siege and, of course, its historic walled city.
Sitting snug on the River Foyle, Derry~Londonderry is Ireland’s only surviving walled city. But don’t think for a second that those walls hem it in. Northern Ireland’s second city a buzzing, modern spot with great pubs, fantastic restaurants and a lively cultural scene.
Wander the bustling streets or cross the stunning Peace Bridge and you’ll sense an energy in the air. This is a place where things happen, whether it's the
Clipper Yacht Race sweeping into Foyle Marina, a huge Halloween carnival on the banks of the River Foyle or any number of concerts, plays and exhibitions in the city’s impressive selection of venues and art galleries.
Derry has a great riverside setting, several fascinating historical sights and a determined air of can-do optimism that has made it the powerhouse of the North’s cultural revival.
You can see traces of Derry~Londonderry’s more recent history in the political murals – like the famous You Are Now Entering Free Derry landmark in the city’s Bogside neighbourhood. The difference is that today, they’re tourist attractions.
Beyond the city walls
The best way to see the beauty of County Londonderry? Definitely by rail. The first stretch of the Derry~Londonderry route is one of the sweetest train rides on the island. Sit back, and enjoy the journey as you follow the River Foyle towards the stunning Benone Strand, before disappearing into one of the island’s longest tunnels.
Upon your re-emergence, you’ll glide along towards the River Bann before touching down in Coleraine, an area worth exploring for its mix of old and new things to do.
If you love scenic routes or are just looking for a way to make the time pass quicker while traveling around then this is for you. The scenery around this route is breathtaking.
However, rail is just one way to travel through the county. With a swift change of pace, you and your friends could be on your bikes, following the Foyle Valley Cycle Route to the border towns of Lifford and Strabane. What about a visit to Ness Country Park to check out the highest waterfall in Northern Ireland? Or a zorbing adventure in the Jungle outdoor adventure centre?
You could test your skill against the salmon and trout along The Foyle System, one of the richest fishing rivers in Europe. And if history is more your thing, you can visit Mount Sandel, the oldest archaeological site on the island, where hundreds of historical artefacts have been found on digs.
Maybe you’re feeling romantic. Plotting a proposal, even? Inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Mussenden Temple is an 18th-century folly overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Downhill Demesne. It has even been known to host the odd wedding…
Trace Londonderry's absorbing history at
Mountsandel Fort in Coleraine, the oldest archaeological site on the island, where hundreds of historical artefacts have been found on digs. Or discover one of the most romantic sites on the island – Mussenden Temple, an 18th-century folly overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Downhill Demesne that was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. It's even been known to host the odd wedding…
Slow it down
If that sounds too energetic, you’re in luck. County Londonderry is the ideal spot to slow things down. Set out on a
laid-back slow travel adventure where you get to meet local craftspeople and connect with nature, against the backdrop of little villages, heather-flecked hills and shimmering lakes.
Picture it... an afternoon horseriding through lush green meadows. A canoe trip on the River Foyle with a pop-up slow food experience. Or maybe a walking tour of the
Sperrins in the company of a local ecologist. Whatever you choose, one this is certain: County Londonderry knows how to do mindful travel.
Music and more in the air
Londonderry has a thriving arts and cultural scene, and the county has produced two Nobel Prizewinners in its time: Seamus Heaney from Castledawson, and John Hume from Derry~Londonderry city, which incidentally is also hometown of Choice Music Prize winner SOAK, former Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle and composer Phil Coulter.
"There was music there in the Derry air,” as Coulter wrote in The Town I Loved So Well, a famous tune in which the singer laments Derry~Londonderry’s tragic history, but looks forward to “a bright, brand new day” in the future.
Looks like that day is well and truly here.