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The story of Derry is a long and tumultuous one. Set on a hill on the banks of the Foyle estuary, strategically close to the open sea, it came under siege and attack for over a thousand years. You can walk along the great 17th-century walls, about a mile round and 18 feet thick, which withstood several sieges and even today are unbroken and complete, with old cannon still pointing their black noses over the ramparts. The great siege lasted for 105 days. Today, there’s an atmosphere of optimism in Derry and the city buzzes with life. It’s an artistic city, with theatres, galleries and other cultural centres and a number of annual festivals. Its people, with their gentle accent, are very welcoming.
DERRY WALLS HERITAGE TRAIL
The famous Derry City Walls were built in the early part of the 17th Century. Following this other key periods in the city’s history include: The Siege of Derry, Emigration, Famine in Ireland, Shirt Industry, World War I and II, Easter Rising, Civil Rights Marches, Bloody Sunday, Ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement. Each of these has in part contributed to the moulding of the city as it is today, with a blend of both the modern and historic; occupied by optimistic and friendly people. The Walled City heritage Trail takes in 200 sites of particular historical importance. Cathedrals, churches, parks, villages, murals and monuments all within the Derry City Council, tell of various tales in the city’s history. The historic sites are easy to find as the city and surrounding countryside have been divided up into distinct areas.
This stretch of beach is one of the most scenic in Ireland and visitors can enjoy views to Counties Donegal, Antrim and Derry. The nearest town to Downhill Beach is Castlerock, a small coastal town offering accommodation, pubs, restaurants, and excellent rail and transport links to Coleraine, Belfast and Dublin. Other nearby destinations includes the seaside resorts of Portrush and Portstewart. Downhill Beach was transformed into Dragonstone on Game of Thrones.
PORTSTEWART STRAND & BARMOUTH WILDLIFE PRESERVE
A year round mecca for holiday makers, Portstewart Strand holds a prestigious Blue Flag award for the cleanliness and quality of its water. It is also one of the few remaining beaches in Ireland where cars still have access and permission to drive onto the beach - perfect for families who wish to picnic on the golden shores. The Strand also added the Seaside Award to its list of accololades in 2011. The beach attracts a range of visitors wishing to partake in activities such as, surfing, swimming, horse riding and scenic walks on the way marked nature trails with excellent views of the North Coast. Barmouth is a nearby nature and wildlife reserve offering an attractive habitat to migrant waterfowl, waders and nesting birds throughout the year. Bird hides offer excellent opportunities to spectate the views and local wildlife and have facilities for disabled visitors.
Mussenden Temple perches dramatically on a 120 ft cliff top above the Atlantic Ocean, offering spectacular views westwards over Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point and County Donegal, and to the east Castlerock beach towards Portstewart, Portrush and Fair Head. The temple was built in as a summer library in1785 by Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristol (or the 'Earl Bishop'), and its architecture was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome. Both the Temple and the surrounding views are among the most photographed scenes in Ireland. Over the years the Temple was in danger of being lost to the sea due as the cliff-edge drew ever closer. Thankfully, in 1997 the National Trust carried out cliff stabilization work to prevent the loss of this lovely building.