Tuesday, July 4, 2023

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When Tourism NI asked me if wanted to spend 24 hours in Derry I jumped at the chance. I love Derry. I am a frequent visitor, but mainly for work purposes, so to join colleagues for a press trip was a real treat.

You get to see some of the best a city has to offer on these packed programmes, and then celebrate and share that with readers and listeners. And you know me. If I didn’t like something I would say.

We got the train from Belfast city centre just after 9am. There is no shop or trolly service on the train so I got a wee picnic in the station shop before we left.

The first half of the journey was taken up with unavoidable emails and admin but my laptop was put away for the second half of the journey because the views out the window demand it.

We really are stunning. Lush green fields, rolling hills, grazing animals, beautiful beaches and the sea. It does your heart good to see it all, even to witness the golfers, dog walkers, and beach combers, loving life on the coast is pure positive vibes.

Derry is a walkable city, if you don’t mind hills testing your knees or your ability to keep talking to the girls ten to the dozen. It’s a great place to get your daily steps target in. Taxis are also a great way to move between different parts of the city if you’re pushed for time, have limited mobility, or need to maintain the integrity of your hair and make-up between venues.

The train pulled into Derry at 11.20am. A City Cabs driver met us at the train station and brought us to Bishop’s Gate Hotel. Derry taxi drivers are an invaluable source of information. They are all very proud of the city, and know where the best and/or cheapest pints can be purchased.

The hotel was lovely. Everything you need. Helpful staff. Little touches of luxury (like, chocolates wrapped in a little bow, a copy of the Tatler, Rituals toiletries, bottles of Ballygowan, and a super comfy bed) make for a great stay.

Our Derry City Tours ‘Blue Badge’ guide Charlene McCrossan is excellent at her job. A real life Derry Girl and Thornhill alumna, she knows the Derry Girls series and the city back to front. We were on a private walking tour (which can be arranged with the company) but public tours are £10 per person and leave from the Derry Girls mural every Saturday at midday. You’ll be joined on those by visitors from all over Ireland, Britain, South Africa, Spain, the US and elsewhere.

As well as all the series locations and fun facts about the local actresses, you’ll get a flavour of the history of the walls, people, and historic buildings, and the chance to call into local venues including Ferry Clever, where I got myself some Nadine Coyle themed cards, and an ‘Aye, dead on’ notebook.

We finished up at the Guildhall so popped in to check out the late John Hume’s peace prizes on display.

Next on our packed agenda was crossing the river in a taxi to sample the Derry Girls themed afternoon tea at the Everglades Hotel. It is a serious feed. Forget dainty finger food, we’re talking sausage roll baps, chips, crisp sandwiches, cream horns, scones, chocolate, fruit, cake and more. You can also avail of the Derry Girls cocktail or mocktail and as much tea and coffee as you can handle. The service is always good in Hastings properties, and there is a professional but warm family feel from Finn and the rest of the team.

Once we had filled our Instagram stories and our bellies it was on to the next venue. The Walled City Brewery. The Ebrington site has a new feature or venue every time I visit and it was a delight yesterday. We sampled the locally made lager, ales, and stout, and I opted for a delicious Derry Blues cocktail the colour of Princess Smurf.

Afterwards a dander over the Peace Bridge and the rainbow street crossings brought us to the red carpet at the Tower Museum where actress Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, the local mayor, and a range of dignatries and other Derry Girls had gathered for the opening of a new exhibition.

The collection of Derry Girls memorabilia celebrating the legacy of the multi-award winning TV show is open to the public over the next year so add it to your Derry Girls experience.

There are so many fab places to eat in Derry. For dinner we were in one of the booths at Browns in Town on the Strand Road. Scallops, fillet steak and Baileys ganache were my choices on this occasion. We talked and ate, and drank, and talked some more, before finishing up the night and falling into our rooms and peaceful slumber.

24 hours from our arrival we were gone. Back on the train to Belfast with new memories to cherish, and stories to share with you all.

Derry is suitable for all types of travellers. My advice would be for groups of girlfriends or whoever to ditch the car if you can, jump on the train, and explore. Eat, drink, and be merry. And learn the history of a fascinating city keen to welcome you. Do an overnight, midweek or weekend. Enjoy.

Some useful websites include:

You can check out my Twitter thread and some pics from the trip here:

And if you want to read more from me I wrote this Derry Girls related piece for Open Democracy to mark the season finale earlier this year: Thank you, Derry Girls, for telling the story of my complicated adolescence


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