The Bottom Line
Derry City Walls (or the walls of Londonderry, depending to which side of the divide you adhere) are one of, if not the, most iconic urban sites in Ireland. Rivalled only by Dublin's General Post Office and telling the story of Northern Ireland's "Troubles" in a nutshell. Having been closed to the public for decades, the peace process has allowed them to become Derry's most visited attraction.
- Original and complete 17th century city fortification with amazing views.
- Literally a walk through Irish history.
- One of the most iconic urban sites in Ireland.
- Can be depressing on wet days.
- Derry City Walls were completed in 1618 for defense against Irish raiders from Donegal.
- Up to 26 feet high and up to 30 feet wide, enclosing the old merchant city.
- Defiance of Derry's Protestant apprentice boys made the Walls of Derry an iconic emblem.
Guide Review - Derry City Walls
Derry City Walls are a must. To be quite honest - Derry has not much that makes a visit worthwhile from a tourist's point of view. Being neither downright ugly nor exceptionally beautiful, and despite sporting a number of museums, Derry is the sort of town you "use", not "visit". That is ... if you discount the city walls. Derry is one of the few cities fortunate enough to retain its town walls, sturdily protecting town, burghers and protestantism.
The Walls of Derry gained instant iconic status when the town's garrison was about to surrender to King James' forces in 1688. With a resounding cry of "No Surrender!" a handful of apprentice boys took charge, blocked the gates and thus started the the Siege of Derry. Which even today is one of the defining moments of Ulster and Irish history. And led to the nickname of the "Virgin City", her defences never having been breached.
Today you can walk the length of the walls and enjoy views of a divided community. Okay, "enjoy" might not be the first word those actually part of the communities might have in mind, but you get the point.
You may look down into Protestant areas that proclaim to be "still under siege", you see a still somewhat fortified police station almost cheek to cheek with the cathedral. An unassuming church has photographs of the destruction after an IRA bomb sent a pillar crashing through its roof. And from a battery (on which fairly recently cannons still stood) you look down on "Free Derry", the Catholic Bogside - scene of many disturbances and the disturbing massacre that was "Bloody Sunday", when British paratroopers opened fire on a Civil Rights March.
With all this recent history in plain view it is small wonder that few visitors seem interested in the fortifications themselves. The distinctive outline of a walled town is, however, still traceable, take your time to do so.
The Walls of Derry - definitely recommended for a stroll into Irish history.