Nestled in the heart of North West Ireland, the city of Derry~Londonderry showcases the resilience of its people and the fascinating history it holds. One of its key attractions is the remarkable 17th century walls that encircle the town making it the only fully walled city and one of Europe’s finest examples.
These walls were constructed between 1613 and 1618 under the commission of the Irish Society. Originally built to protect settlers from England and Scotland, they now offer a culturally rich experience to visitors who leisurely stroll along their approximately 1.5 kilometer perimeter.
Walking on pathways once traveled by generations before, you’ll be transported back in time as you explore the city’s Renaissance style street plan that has been exceptionally well preserved.
Adorning these walls are seven gates, each with its own intriguing tale to tell. We’ll start by exploring Shipquay Gate, Butcher Gate, Bishops Gate and Ferryquay Gate.
Shipquay Gate has an archway dating back to 1805. Within the entrance there are frames on both sides featuring a cornucopia and a caduceus while the outer area is adorned with frames. The initial gate, which had a tower and portcullis served as the access point from the river.
Butcher Gate got its name from the street it leads to, where butchers used to operate their shops in times gone by. It underwent damage during the siege of 1689. However it was lovingly reconstructed in 1790. Today, it stands as a testament to the city’s resilience.
Bishops Gate went through a transformation in 1789 when it was replaced by an arch commemorating the gates closure by The Apprentice Boys of Derry on their centenary. The gate was designed by H.A. Baker with sculpted heads of the River Foyle (on the outside) and River Boyne (on the inside) expertly crafted by Edward Smyth. Steps on either side of this gate provide access to the top of the City Walls, inviting visitors to explore.
Ferryquay Gate, one of the gateways overlooking Ferryquay, on River Foyle has been standing since 1865 after replacing its predecessor that had a drawbridge and tower.
The gate that was closed by the Apprentice Boys of Derry in December 1688 against the James II Jacobite army holds significance. On either side you can find headstones representing Reverend George Walker and Reverend James Gordon.
As time went on additional gates were added to the walls enriching the city’s history. New Gate and Castle Gate are among these additions. New Gate served as a gateway during the days preceding the United Irishmen’s Rising of 1798 while Castle Gate was built between 1805 and 1808 next to Butcher Gate, where an ancient Irish fortified house once stood.
Another interesting addition is Magazine Gate, constructed in 1888 to provide access to the riverfront. These gates together offer visitors a captivating journey through time as they explore Derry~Londonderry’s past.
One of the features of Derry Walls is its collection of cannons, each with its own unique origin story. There are a total of 24 cannons that played roles during the two seventeenth century sieges. Skilled craftsmen have taken care in restoring these cannons to their glory by meticulously removing centuries old debris, paint and corrosion.
The impressive Roaring Meg cannon proudly stands on the bastion, adding to the experience.
The Walled City quarter invites visitors with its streets and lively urban area. There are plenty of craft shops, arts venues and museums that showcase the city’s scene. If you’re interested, in delving into Derry~Londonderry’s history you’ll find a cluster of museums and arts venues that share authentic voices and stories from the city’s past.
Some notable arts venues within the Walled City include:
- The Tower Museum: Located inside the Walls, Tower Museum provides an interpretive and impartial account of the troubled history of this often divided city.
- Derry Playhouse: This community arts resource centre and theatre offers a range of performances and events.
- Centre for Contemporary Art: A gallery that features contemporary artworks by both local and international artists.
- Verbal Arts Centre: A place dedicated to promoting written and spoken word through literary events and activities.
- Nerve Centre: A creative media arts center that hosts workshops, exhibitions and film screenings.
- Echo Echo Dance: A dance theater known for its captivating performances, on stage.
- In Your Space: A circus school and events venue that sparks creativity and imagination, and
- Millennium Forum: A theater and conference centre known for hosting shows and gatherings.
Derry’s Walled City is a place where the past, culture and heritage come together harmoniously. Whether you stroll along the walls, admire the cannons or delve into the arts venues and museums, each moment draws you deeper into the city’s rich history and vibrant present. Exploring this destination is a must for any traveller seeking to discover Ireland’s hidden historical treasures and immerse themselves in the enchanting atmosphere of Derry~Londonderry.