Today we are going to take a walk around the walled town of Derry It’s bright and dry today, but chilly. So, you had better bring your coat – and walking shoes too !
The City of Derry
– officially called Londonderry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland after Belfast. It is located on the river Foyle and for centuries has been a hub of commerce, trading and learning.
The name comes from the Irish, Doire , meaning “ oak grove “ and our walk today will bring us to the west bank of the river.
Having parked the car lets take a walk down towards the river . Derry is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Ireland with evidence of early settlements since the bronze age.
However, the earliest historical references date to the 6th century when a monastery was founded along the banks of the river by Saint Columba . Over the centuries the city was strategically significant and subject to many attacks . As a result it was decided to build a fortified wall around the city. The walls were built by the Honourable Irish Society between 1613 and 1619 as defences against attack, and they still stand intact today.
So, off we go for a one mile walk around the walls. Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe. The walls constitute the largest monument in State care in Northern Ireland and is the last walled city to be built in Europe. Nowadays the modern city and the old walls have somehow merged, but the walls are still completely intact, and the gates used for modern vehicles and pedestrians are in everyday use !
Let’s start at Bishops Gate and make our way around the city. In fact, there are seven gates in total – The four original gates are Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Three further gates were added later, Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate. The walls themselves very between 3.7 and 10.7 metres high ( about 12 to 35 feet ) and as you can see are wide and well paved making a lovely walk . As we go along, we can see great views from the battlements over the suburbs, whilst looking inwards we can see many Renaissance style buildings and churches.
We mentioned Saint Columba
earlier and here we can see the site of his original monastery that was built in 543AD . I love the flowers that are still in bloom and the place is beautifully maintained . Nearby is the saint Columba Cathedral sadly it is closed today so we can’t go in for a look. Oh well there are blue skies outside so we can continue our walk .
We are so lucky that we have the walls almost to ourselves today, there is hardly anyone about ! Let’s take a break and stop for a cup of tea in The cottage coffee shop and browse in a few of the nearby shops.
Off we go again and continue our loop around the city and admire the many fine buildings as we go along. Just before we finish the loop there is a sign that tells us that Derry is one of the few cities in Europe that never saw its fortifications breached, withstanding several sieges, including the famous Siege of Derry in 1689 which lasted 105 days – hence the city’s nickname, The Maiden City.
In more recent years Derry has been the scene of many conflicts and unrest, but luckily all that is behind us now. There is a newly constructed Peace Bridge spanning the river Foyle and nearby an iconic statue “ hands across the Divide” erected in 1992. It symbolizes reconciliation between both sides of the political divide during the troubles.
I hope that you have enjoyed today’s walk with me , but before we go , I must share a little verse that is attributed to Saint Columba –
“ Derry mine , My small oak grove. Little cell. My home, my love.”
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