Unfortunately, we are well behind in posting our travels around Ireland last summer. This post covers time spent in Derry, Northern Ireland from August 18 to August 22. We will try to recap the rest of this amazing trip soon. We left Echo in England last fall and have been enjoying time in Bellingham Washington with our kids and granddaughter. We will return to England in March.
Prior to our arrival at the marina in Derry, Jeff had sorted out immigration details for our travel between the Republic of Ireland in the European Union and Northern Ireland which remains part of the United Kingdom. Pre Brexit both countries had been members of the
European Union and crossing borders was seamless. Post Brexit things are a bit unclear when traveling by water and we wanted to be sure of following proper procedures.
It is a 20 mile journey up the River Foyle with a transit under a fixed bridge which we don’t often experience, somewhat stressful with an 80 foot tall mast. We had winds of 20 Knots, a strong current, waves and rain during which we managed to secure Echo safely on the dock without any assistance or drama. We have become pretty good at the planning and execution of this process as there has seldom been anyone to toss lines to when arriving to a pontoon in Ireland or England. Jeff maneuvers Echo’s transom close while I step off to quickly secure lines. With two lines secured we’re safe and can then work on getting more lines in place for the duration of our stay.
With Echo situated we headed out to explore the city. First stop was the dramatic Peace Bridge then a walk around the city walls while listening to an audio tour by “Derrie Danders”. The walls of Derry were built in the early 1600’s as defense for early settlers and remain fully intact. They are about a mile in circumference around the city with a walkway along the top. Derry has a very long and storied history much of which we were unfamiliar with. We always enjoy learning about the history of the places we travel to and Derry provided lots to learn.
Many of you are quite familiar with the history of Ireland, for others here is a very brief general recap of recent history with details mostly obtained from Wikipedia.
The Republic of Ireland became a free state in 1922, the entire island had been under British rule for centuries. It officially became The Republic of Ireland in 1937 while a portion of the northern section of the island remained under British rule as Northern Ireland.
There has been a great deal violence over the years due to tension between two groups, Nationalists (those wanting to unite all of Ireland) and Unionists (those wanting to remain in the United Kingdom). The more recent period of history which has been known as the “Troubles” is thought to have begun in 1972. On Sunday, January 30, 1972 British troops shot 26 unarmed civilians who were participating in a civil rights March in the Bogside. 13 people died that day and an 14th died a short while later. The Bogside is an area outside of the city walls where the Catholic citizens typically lived.
We took a walking tour around the Bogside. Our guide, Paul had been 9 years old on Bloody Sunday and had watched as his father was shot and killed. As Paul led the tour he described the events of that day, an incredibly powerful tour of a very disturbing time in history. https://bogsidehistorytours.com/
The city was historically know as Londonderry until 1984 when efforts began to officially change the name to Derry. The name remains a point of conflict. Nationalists, those who support Northern Ireland becoming part of the Republic prefer Derry while the Unionists who support NI remaining part of the United Kingdom continue to refer to the city as Londonderry. This division is generally considered as a conflict between the Catholics and Protestants or the Irish and the English. The Troubles persisted until the signing of The Good Friday Agreement in 1998. While the agreement did improve the situation, tension has remained to this day.
The city also celebrates the TV the series “Derry Girls”. Rotten Tomatoes describes it as a comedy “set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland Troubles”. It is about a group of teens in the 1990s living their lives during this time. We had watched and enjoyed some of series prior to our visit to Derry. We have since watched the remainder, there are 3 seasons and can be seen on Netflix.
A representative at the tourist center in Derry helped us work out a plan for exploring areas outside of the city without the need to rent a car. We were able to purchase day passes from him which covered the trains and busses, he also provided a map with notes on his recommendations. We left Echo early in morning and walked to the train station where we boarded a train to Coleraine then various busses to the points of interest.
First stop, Dunluce Castle. A dramatic castle ruin perched at the edge of very steep cliffs, originally built in the 13th century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunluce_Castle
Next, Giant’s Causeway. There is a visitor center then you walk out to explore the area which was both very impressive and very crowded on a beautiful summer day. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant’s_Causeway
Back on the bus to Carrick-A-Rede. Another beautiful area with many things to see including a white knuckle traverse across a rope bridge to a small island where fishermen had gone for salmon as early as the mid 1700’s. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/northern-ireland/carrick-a-rede
We followed the bus line to the end to see a few other towns then back to Coleraine for the train back to Derry. It had been a wonderful day and in addition to travel on trains and busses we logged over 11 miles walking.
The 20 mile journey up the river Folyle had proven well worth it. We were thankful to have had the opportunity to see and learn about Derry along with visiting some surrounding areas but with the summer slipping away it was time to continue our journey around Ireland.
~Mary and Jeff~