When it comes to celebrating the scariest time of year, nowhere does Halloween better than the Walled City of Derry. Regarded as Europe’s top destination for Halloween, year after year the people of Derry masterfully conjure up a scare-fest like no other.
1. Jam-packed with ghoulish events and frightful fun for all the family, this year the event is doubling in size. So for outstanding family fun and a stupendous array of events and activities over eight days, let your imagination run wild at the biggest ever Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival (October 26 – November 3).
2. Thousands will be getting into the spirit by dressing up in creepy and creative Halloween-style costumes. For a smart base to don your outfits and be close to all the thrills, the four-star City Hotel is hard to beat. Situated on Queen’s Quay, adjacent to the beautiful River Foyle, iconic Peace Bridge and historic Guildhall, the hotel offers excellent city and river views from many of its guestrooms and is central to all the action.
3. Once you settle in to your hotel, it’s normal to find your bearings in a city with a hop-on hop-off bus tour. But it’s Halloween time in Derry, so it’s going to be a ‘paranormal’ bus tour. The carnival’s guided ghost bus tours are a family favourite, and this year they return to provide hair-raising stories of the city’s most haunted streets and spaces. A monstrous cast of ghosts, zombies, ghouls, witches and superheroes will create a spine-tingling city tour that is frightfully good fun.
4. Plenty of other scary activity await those who dare, including a haunted harvest market, tours and trails. See the Zombie Apocalypse, let the kids loose in the Monster Funfair and Halloween discos, or bathe in the light of Museum of the Moon, featuring detailed NASA imagery of the Moon’s surface and an atmospheric soundtrack by award winning composer, Dan Jones.
5. One of the best ways to banish the darkness will be with Awakening the Walls, a supernatural illuminated animation trail around the city’s famous walls – celebrating the 400th anniversary of their completion in 2019. Awakening the Walls will feature some of the greatest street performance acts and landscape artists in the world in over 30 installations around the walls, Cathedral Quarter, Craft Village and surrounding areas. Large-scale light installations, fire, projections and theatrical spectacle will weave an amazing story for three evenings (October 28 – 30), with audiences moving around the city centre in a frisson of excitement as to what they might see next.
6. After all the exhilaration, grab something to eat at the Bentley complex, a locally owned eatery renowned for its relaxed and ambient atmosphere, fabulous food and great entertainment. With a new wine bar, a cosy traditional Irish snug bar and a top notch function room, everything is under one roof at the Bentley.
7. On Halloween night, the annual street carnival parade and fireworks finale in Derry is not to be missed. The parade is like an illuminated moving performance. Costumed performers, illuminated sculptures, large-scale lanterns, musicians, dancers, circus and street artists will weave their way through the city streets. Over 1,000 local and international participants come together to create this bespoke work, which draws on the myths and legends of Halloween and tells a new story from the collective imaginations of the city.
Then the fireworks fly and the night sky blazes with spectacular colour over the River Foyle, as the city celebrates the Release of the Moon, banishing evil and the defeat of the Prince of Darkness. A Halloween extravaganza at its biggest and best.
For more Halloween family fun ideas, visit: www.discovernorthernireland.com.
Castlederg Apple Fair
As part of the opening day of Derry’s massive Halloween carnival programme, traditional apple sellers will be in Castlederg town centre on Friday October 26 from early morning, alongside a huge range of stalls full of scrumptious delights. A host of family-friendly activities, music, entertainment and cookery demos, plus kids activities and walkabout characters will create the perfect traditional country street fair.
The Jungle outdoor adventure centre in Moneymore will be full of scary and delightfully devilish twists around Halloween. Aside from the ‘Inbred Horror House’, ‘Claustraforest’ and ‘Hellish Hay Cart’, this year’s series of Fright Nights will see the return of the horrid and harrowing ‘Woodland Trail’. It’s filled with freaky sets, a haunting story to send shivers up your spine, coupled with special effects, atmospheric lighting and a creepy cast of nefarious creatures.
Halloween Hay Sculpture Trail
Plenty of family fun can be had unearthing a host of spooky characters arising from the rural landscape as you follow this eerie trail through the Strabane district. From Castlederg to Bready, Strabane to Newtownstewart, catch sightings of scary witches, creepy spiders and weird aliens created by local communities, schools and young farmers ( October 8 – 31).