County Derry, or County Londonderry, is located in Northern Ireland. Derry City, a scene of much conflict in the latter half of the 20th century, is today one of Ireland’s most vibrant cities. Following the end of The Troubles, the city has redeveloped much of its former character and charm.
Derry is a county of immense natural beauty and historical significance, and it has much to offer the visitor. It takes its name from the old Irish word Daire meaning an oak grove. Oak groves were sacred places for the Celtic peoples who once lived over most of Western Europe. Derry was almost certainly one of these sacred places.
Derry City was settled in 546 AD when a monastery was founded by the River Foyle. In the 17th century, during the Ulster Plantation, English and Scottish migrants colonised the region and Derry City was laid out as many towns of the time were, enclosed with a massive stone and earth fortification. It is now the only city in Ireland whose ancient walls survive intact. It is possible to walk along the walls.
The name of the county and city can be a point of political dispute – Unionists often preferring the longer, while Nationalists generally preferring the shorter.
Top Attractions in County Derry
Derry City Walls – Derry City – The most visibly striking historic feature of the city is the historic walls. It is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of Walled Cities in Europe and they have been kept in a splendid state of preservation.
Garvagh Forest – North District Forest Office, 6 Forest Road, Garvagh – Covering over 200 hectares, Garvagh Forest is situated on the Western outskirts of Garvagh, with trees from over 80 years old to those only planted at the turn of the 20th Century.
Portstewart Strand Blue Flag Beach – Portstewart – Portstewart Strand is two miles of magnificent strand and sand dunes and is a National Trust site. It includes a way-marked nature trail.
St. Columb’s Cathedral and Chapter House Museum – Derry City – The most historic building in the city, built in 1633.
The Guildhall – Guildhall Square, Derry City – This neo-Gothic style building is the civic and cultural centre for the people of the city. There are many concerts, exhibitions and meetings held here throughout the year.
The Tower Museum – Union Hall Place, Derry City – The Tower Museum tells the story of Derry, chronicling the history of the city from its geological formation through to the present day.
Main Destinations in County Derry
Derry City: The River Foyle curves picturesquely around the old walled town of Derry, creating a cosy setting which jars horribly with the reality of this city’s recent troubled history. The old centre of Derry is the small walled city on the west bank of the river, with the square called the Diamond at its heart.
Limavady is a market town not far from Derry city. It is one of Ulster’s most characteristically Georgian towns. It was here that Jane Ross noted down the famous Derry Air (‘Danny Boy’) from a passing fiddler.
Coleraine is a market and administrative centre on the River Bann and is home to the Ulster University, which is one of the foremost in Ireland.
Dungiven is a town on the main Derry to Belfast road and is a good base for exploring the nearby Augustinian priory.
Portstewart was a popular vacation destination for Victorian middle-class families, the resort has an old-fashioned air about it. Its long, crescent-shaped seafront promenade is sheltered by rocky cliffs and headlands.
Getting Here and Around
Derry is connected to Belfast by good roads as well as a railway line with regular services. Derry Airport can be found just outside Derry City, with limited services to Britain. Belfast is not far, with its ferry port and two airports. Larne ferryport in Antrim is also only a little over an hour away.
Details on getting around Derry, and of the nearest air- and seaports can be found in our Derry City and County Transport Guide.