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Hill of Derry could join Taj Mahal as a major world site... but we’ve got to find it first

By Linda Stewart

There was head-scratching across Northern Ireland after the Government published a list of Northern Ireland contenders for World Heritage status.

Set off on a world tour of those exclusive sites and you could be searching out Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China — but what about The Hill of Derry?

The latter is one of four Northern Ireland sites which have been submitted as candidates for the next wave of World Heritage Sites.

So far, the only one we have is the Giant’s Causeway — immortalised in the famous words of Dean Swift as “worth seeing but not worth going to see”.

Peruse the latest list and you might be forgiven for voicing much the same sentiments with more than a little bemusement. There’s Malone and Stranmillis Historic Urban Landscape — a nice enough part of Belfast, but somewhat clogged by the car fumes.

There’s Navan Fort in Co Armagh, a circular earthworks that has been identified as an early provincial capital and setting for the tales of Macha, Cuchulainn, Deirdre and the heroes of the Red Branch Knights — so fair enough.

There’s Gracehill Conservation Area — a pleasant spot but not the most obvious choice. And there’s the Hill of Derry, which caused a little confusion as the picture used in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s online gallery was of Binevenagh Mountain.

It later emerged that the hill referred to is the city centre itself — “defined on one side by the River and on the other by a silted up former course (the Bogside)”.

“It includes the location of an important monastic city which was completely replaced in the 17th century by a colonial foundation on its northern slope,” the legend read.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport released a list of 38 nominations from across the UK, Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

The contenders from Northern Ireland may not be the most obvious from a region that features the likes of the Antrim Coast Road, Glenariff, Carrickfergus Castle, Rathlin Island and Strangford Lough — and they face a lengthy wait.

It can take up to 10 years in some cases and this is the first step towards being put on to the Government’s official ‘tentative list’.

Northern Ireland’s contenders

The Hill of Derry

The site occupies a low hill at the head of the Foyle Estuary, defined on one side by the River and on the other by a silted up former course (the Bogside).

Gracehill Conservation Area

Situated two miles to the west of the town of Ballymena in Co Antrim, Gracehill village dates from 1759. It is the only complete Moravian settlement in Ireland and is characterised by classic Georgian architecture with a grid-like street layout.

Malone and Stranmillis Historic Urban Landscape

The Malone and Stranmillis Historic Urban Landscape is reputed for having an epoch of the greatest concentration of buildings dating from Victorian and Edwardian times.

Navan Fort

Navan Fort is one of a number of sites on the island of Ireland associated with royal inauguration, ceremony and assembly. Archaeologically, the site is known as the focus for the construction of apparently ritual structures.

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