Sunday Life

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From the Armada and the Siege to the Troubles, history echoes around the walls of Derry... and The Everglades is the perfect base to explore the city

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CITADEL: St Columb’s Cathedral sits atop Derry’s Walls

CITADEL: St Columb’s Cathedral sits atop Derry’s Walls

CITADEL: St Columb’s Cathedral sits atop Derry’s Walls

Derry is renowned for its Halloween street parties, meaning its cracking Christmas celebrations often get overlooked.

The festive period is one of the busiest in the Maiden City events calendar with a tonne of things to do between now and the new year.

I got to sample some of this on a recent midweek family break and left raving, once again, about the hospitality of the locals.

Home for two nights was the sumptuous Hastings-owned Everglades Hotel on the outskirts of the city. I’ve stayed before, although that was a decade ago, and will definitely stay again.

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Everglades Hotel

Everglades Hotel

Everglades Hotel

The hotel oozes four-star class with its Grill Restaurant one of the most highly-rated in Derry. Accommodation is also ridiculously comfortable with plenty of space in the family rooms and duck-feathered pillows and duvets ensuring the perfect night’s sleep.

We could have lounged around the hotel and its Library Bar all day, however we had a city to explore. The weather was unkind, as it often is in the north-west, but there are as many things to do in Derry indoors as outdoors.

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BANQUET: The Derry Girls afternoon tea at The Everglades

BANQUET: The Derry Girls afternoon tea at The Everglades

BANQUET: The Derry Girls afternoon tea at The Everglades

Braving the rain though, our first stop was a tour of the City Walls, the watchtower, its gates and cannons. In the same way that Parisians can be indifferent to the Eiffel Tower, and New Yorkers the Statue of Liberty, Derry natives often do not realise just how impressive the walls are to outsiders.

Kids, in particular, love it as the turrets and bastions allow their imaginations to run wild, conjuring up images of fantasy battles being fought.

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AND FIRE! Kids just love the cannons and turrets on the Walls

AND FIRE! Kids just love the cannons and turrets on the Walls

AND FIRE! Kids just love the cannons and turrets on the Walls

The Tower Museum continues this voyage into the past with exhibitions including The Story of Derry and An Armada Shipwreck — La Trinidad Valencera. Like the City Walls this is living, breathing, history and a must for anyone wanting to learn about how Derry came to be.

It wasn’t far from what is now the city that the Spanish Armada’s fourth largest ship La Trinidad Valencera was lost in 1588. Four hundred years later it was discovered by divers from the City of Derry Sub-Aqua Club. You can get the grisly details with an audio-visual twist at the Tower Museum.

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A replica of a gun salvaged from the Armada shipwreck

A replica of a gun salvaged from the Armada shipwreck

A replica of a gun salvaged from the Armada shipwreck

Its other main attraction, Story of Derry, tells the colourful and dramatic history of the city from earliest times to the present.

The museum also boasts an open-air viewing facility with stunning panoramic views of Derry and the River Foyle.

The city’s troubled past is something that thankfully isn’t ignored, with the Museum of Free Derry offering a full multi-media exhibition on the civil rights and early Troubles era in the city, including the Battle of the Bogside, internment, Bloody Sunday and Operation Motorman.

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The Tower Museum

The Tower Museum

The Tower Museum

The museum was established by the Bloody Sunday Trust in 2006 to tell the story of the civil rights movement and the creation of Free Derry in the 1960s and 1970s, and it has become an important part of Ireland’s civil rights history. Delving back further into history is the new Siege Museum of Derry which celebrates the role of the 13 Apprentice Boys who in December 1688 locked the city gates against the approaching Jacobite army.

Derry was surrounded and during the 105-day siege, no supplies could reach the city, with its starving citizens resorting to eating dogs and rats until English ships brought relief.

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Free Derry Corner

Free Derry Corner

Free Derry Corner

Built in 2011, the 235-metre Peace Bridge linking the nationalist Cityside of Derry to the unionist Waterside, which weaves over the River Foyle, is another important piece of architecture in a place already crammed with symbolism.

While reminders of the past are never far away there are also constant nods to the present and the future.

One of the most popular is the Derry Girls Experience based on the hit Channel 4 comedy focusing on the lives of a bunch of schoolfriends from the city.

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Derry Girls mural

Derry Girls mural

Derry Girls mural

It departs from the Europa Hotel in Belfast on a luxurious McComb’s coach every Saturday arriving in Derry just under two hours later. The popular trip gives fans the chance to see some of the filming locations with Charlene McCrossan from Martin McCrossan City Tours.

There is plenty of banter and great craic with lots of interesting facts about the series whilst hearing about life in the Bogside during the Troubles from the expert local guide.

The journey also takes in the Guildhall where US President Bill Clinton was welcomed in the early 1990s, as depicted in season two of the series, while there is also an opportunity to take photos at the famous Derry Girls Mural.

Next stop is the Everglades Hotel for the brilliant Derry Girls Afternoon Tea which includes sandwiches, freshly baked scones, breads and a pastry assortment.

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A bedroom at The Everglades

A bedroom at The Everglades

A bedroom at The Everglades

The fun doesn’t stop there though as the meal comes with a Derry Girls twist — sausage roll baps, fresh cream horns, cone of chips, Tayto cheese and onion sarnies and a cocktail.

You’ll also get your very own Michelle, the Derry Girls duck to take home with you before departing back for Belfast onboard the McComb’s coach.

I cannot recommend Derry highly enough — it’s a city that wears both its heart and past troubles on its sleeve, a place filled with history and the perfect spot for a pre-Christmas family break.


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