A weekend in Derry
Derry is a belter of a city and one that is still being slowly discovered after largely overcoming a recent turbulent past. The city centre contains the only completely medieval walled city on the island and the small area inside offers so much to do.
The must-do activity of Derry City is to get up on the walls and join a Derry City Walls walking tour. An elevated stroll above the compact city centre and surrounding neighbourhoods with a witty and engaging guide - taken from amongst the local community - will bring the city's medieval history and experiences of the Troubles to life. The great thing about these tours is that whilst they don't pull punches about the turbulent events of the 1960s onwards, they also impart a lot of well-placed enthusiasm for the future.
One of the legacies of the city's year as the UK's City of Culture is 2013 is a glut of fantastic, modern museums. There are a few museums where one can learn about a kind of conflict unique in Western Europe. The Siege Museum and Apprentice Boys Meeting Rooms and the Bogside's Free Derry Museum offer contrasting views of the Troubles..
If that's enough Troubles history for you then the Guildhall is a fantastic alternative. Derry's city hall showcases beautiful stained glass windows and an organ and also houses the Tower Museum. The museum focuses more on general history of the city going back to medieval times and the city's links to the Spanish Armada and also has an excellent balcony for photo ops and views over the city. The Guildhall is free of charge for a poke around or just a few pound for a guided tour and there's also a charge for the Tower Museum.
Having walked up a thunger, wander across the Peace Bridge to the Walled City Brewery. Enjoy the tasting paddle from the microbrewery whilst munching on tapas or more filling fare.
Derry City is also a great jumping off point for the wilds of County Donegal. Only one hour west of the city is the fairy-tale castle of Glenveagh. The forests, mountains and lakes of Glenveagh National Park act as the romantic setting of this 19th century, Scottish style castle. A true beauty.
North of Derry City and across the border into Ireland is the beautiful Inishowen Peninsula. Smack bang in the middle of this jut of land is Grianan of Aileach, an ancient hilltop fort dating back to 1700 BC. Spectacular views of loughs Foyle and Swilly and indeed the whole of the peninsula make this the perfect off-the-beaten -track visit. The Inishowen Peninsula is also now famous as one of Ireland's filming locations for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The most northern tip at Malin Head welcomed Stormtroopers and Jedis - check out Google for some awesome photos! However, although the journey north is very picturesque there is no real pay off at the end as Malin Head is little more than a small car park and no signs of Star Wars remain.
Just remember, British Sterling is needed whilst in Derry City and Euros for any cross border excursions.