If you haven’t been to Northern Ireland’s second city then now is the time to begin planning a visit. A broad-brush makeover in the run-up to Derry’s year as UK City of Culture in 2013 transformed the waterfront into an oasis of cool, adding an edgy modern veneer to this famously warm and welcoming metropolis. Add a mesmerising history and sumptuous scenic surroundings into the mix, and you’re left with the perfect alternative city break destination.
Pull up a bar stool
The excellence of Northern Ireland’s pub scene is so widely recognised that it’s become something of a cliché – but there’s nothing hackneyed or unoriginal about the barn-storming boozers that line almost every street in Derry. Whet your lips over a pint of stout at the colossally cosy Bound for Boston (27-31 Waterloo Street), then head to the Gweedore Bar (61 Waterloo Street) and boogie the night away to live Irish music.
Dive into Derry’s history
One of the oldest continually inhabited areas of Northern Ireland and the only intact walled city in the region, Derry is a place where history accosts you at every turn. The neo-Gothic Guildhall (Guildhall Square) and St Columb’s Cathedral (London Street) are the top two cultural draws for visitors looking to immerse themselves in the past, but the Museum of Free Derry (55-61 Glenfada Park) and the Bloody Sunday Memorial on Rossville Street are perhaps the city’s most poignant sights.
Hit the Causeway Coast
The coastline that snakes between the cities of Belfast and Derry is so spectacularly otherworldly that it was chosen as one of the main settings for fantasy series Game of Thrones. From the crumbling grandeur of 12th-century Carrickfergus Castle (Marine Highway, Carrickfergus) to the ethereal steps of the Giant’s Causeway, a holiday to Derry from Glasgow Airport is the perfect opportunity to explore this iconic coastal landscape.