2018 has been designated as a European Year of Cultural Heritage, so what better time to uncover Northern Ireland’s unique local cultural heritage?
Discover NI kindly invited me to visit Derry/Londonderry to experience some of the gems in the city in advance of the European Heritage Weekend. I’m a big fan of Derry so I jumped at the chance to enjoy this experience!
You can find out more about the European Heritage open days here.
A tour of the guildhall, tower museum and city walls
On our arrival, myself and Mr. Eating Ideas headed straight for the city’s historic Guildhall, definitely one of the most striking buildings in the North West.
We met Gerry from Derry (not the one from Derry Girls but a Guildhall tour guide) who gave us a tour of the Guildhall
Gerry’s knowledge of the building and the entire city is amazing. I could have listened to him all day. We were fascinated by the history of the Guildhall, which is beautifully depicted in the stained glass windows in the Great Hall.
It’s a little known fact that I once performed on the stage in the Guildhall (ballet if you must know) and it was a blast from the past seeing the stage again with it’s huge organ that features 3132 pipes.
Next up, Gerry took us across the road to the Tower Museum which charts the history of Derry from 7,000 BC to present day. A fascinating tale!
Lunch in soda and starch in the craft village
After our tour and walk around the walls, we were ready for a bite of lunch. As a food & drink blogger, I will confess that my next meal is never far from my mind!
We headed to Soda and Starch, a lovely pantry and grill that is located in the Craft Village on Shipquay Street, within the city walls. There was plenty to choose from on the menu and we had quite a debate about what to choose. In the end, I opted for the open smoked salmon platter with salad, lemon mayo and wheaten bread. This was the perfect choice for me. Light but delicious! Mr. Eating Ideas chose the small plates, a combination of sticky ribs, salt & chilli squid and caesar salad. He was very happy with his choice. This is a great spot with excellent food. I will definitely be back.
a visit to the walled city brewery
After lunch we took a stroll along the Peace Bridge which connects the two sides of the Foyle. It’s a really iconic structure and provides a great view of both sides of the city.
We headed to the Walled City Brewery in Ebrington Barracks which used to be an army garrison. The building served as a pay office in World War 1 and a medical office in World War 2.
We met the owner, Master Brewer, James Huey who talked us through how he and his wife created the craft brewery in the city for over 100 years.
James brews 8 different craft beers and serves an additional 2 guest beers to support other brewers. We got to sample all 8 of his creations, all with Derry related names: Teenage Kicks (after the Undertones), Boom (after the siege of Derry), Punt Purse & Sister Michael ( Derry Girls references), Stitch (after the local shirt factories, Cherry Londoncherry, Passionista and Derry Milk. I’m not much of a beer drinker but I will admit to being quite partial to the Teenage Kicks and Passionista, which is flavoured with passionfruit and is quite delicious!
While we were there, I took a sneaky peak at the menu (I’m addicted to reading menus!) The pintxos (think tapas) looked delicious and I will definitely be back to try them out.
Dinner in Browns in Town
The restaurant was packed full with a large group of American tourists but it really didn’t deter from the service. The staff couldn’t have been more helpful.
After a refreshing Gin and tonic on arrival, we set about perusing the menu (my favourite pastime). So many delicious things to choose from, it was a challenge. In the end I opted for the starter of Crispy Beef & smoked cheese croquettes. These were divine, served with a tasty tarragon mayo and pickled shallots. Mr. Eating Ideas selected the Leek & Potato soup. I managed to sneak a spoonful, while he was busy studying the American tourists. I have to say it was probably the nicest I have tasted. It came served with Guinness wheaten bread and Eglinton butter.
For the main course, I chose the Smoked Chicken & Spring Onion Risotto with Parmesan. Just delicious. Mr. Eating Ideas opted for the Pan Seared Seabream with Saffron Risotto & Salsa Verde. He loved it (and so did I when I convinced him to let me stick my fork in!)
All mains come with a choice of side. Mr. EI, chose his all time favourite, Champ. I fancied the Organic Leaf Salad with Croutons and Garlic Dressing. Only problem is that garlic really doesn’t agree with me. I mentioned this to our waitress and was delighted when she informed me that I could have some Jalpeno mayo instead. Now that is good service.
After our mains, we admitted defeat and decided not to have a pudding, tempting though they were!
If you are in the area, you really should check out Browns in Town, it’s well worth a visit!
An overnight stay in the Bridge b&B
The award winning Bridge B&B is conveniently located within minutes of the city walls and all the main attractions. It is situated across two Georgian townhouses and enjoys views across the famous Craigavon Bridge.
It is owned by the Walsh family and has a lovely family feel to the place. Our room (with a view) was beautiful and very comfortable.
At breakfast (all cooked by Ursula) I was delighted to see so many local producers featured on the menu and many of my favourites too!
If you are planning a stay in Derry, I recommend staying here. We were able to walk to all our activities from this comfortable base.
For anyone visiting the city, it is a must to walk the City Walls. I have walked them many times and they never lose their appeal. They really are spectacular. They are the most complete in Ireland and are celebrating their 400th anniversary this year. Many of the city’s most intriguing buildings, including St. Columbs Cathedral, The Siege Museum, St. Augustines Church and the Museum of Free Derry, are all accessible from the walls which are a mile long.
We decided to end our stay with a walk on the walls which is a great way to see the city from a different perspective and a lovely way to round off our trip.
About the European Year of Cultural Heritage
Throughout 2018, the European Year of Cultural Heritage is celebrating our diverse cultural heritage across Europe. The aim of the year is to encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe’s cultural heritage, and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space. The slogan for the year is: Our heritage: where the past meets the future.
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