Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 2: Discovering Walled Derry

Leaving Dunluce Castle behind us, our driver Fred and tour guide Dave took us to where we would be staying for the night: Derry, or as I now like to call it (Legen)Derry! It is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and as with Belfast, not without a very extensive and turbulent past. Dave told us a few stories as we drove onwards, but we were all so tired that it didn’t really sank in until we actually got a tour of the city!

Medieval Derry with its Walls and Historical Buildings

But first, Derry was the only location on our All Ireland Rocker Tour in which we actually got to stay in a hotel!!! Not to say that the hostels didn’t provide us with lovely accommodation, but having a private room with a private bathroom was heaven, to say the least! We ended up staying at the Travelodge. The room was clean, quiet, and had comfortable beds! Its location was also ideal. It was close to the city centre and as such there were many good food options for the evening.

After we arrived, we had a bit of time before setting out on our walking tour. This walking tour is one of the “Optional” activities that you could add on. If you find yourself in Derry when you do your tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland, we definitely recommend doing the City Tours Walking Tour. It is very affordable, £4, and it provides you with a good background on the city and its history! After dropping off our stuff and resting for a bit in the hotel, we headed downstairs to join our tour!


The Promenade with its view of the historical buildings!

City Tours provided us with a wonderful tour guide to take us about Derry! Sorcha was brilliant. She was extremely knowledgable and could answer any of our questions! She was also funny and that kept us all the more interested in her stories. After our group got together, Sorcha took us out and we began with a brief history on the name of the city.

The Guildhall – look at the amazing architectural details!

We stopped in front of the Guildhall, which was built in 1890, and Sorcha explained to us the history behind Derry’s name. The city’s official name is Londonderry, but as some of you may know, such a name would obviously cause a debate between the Nationalists and Unionists in the city and Northern Ireland. The Nationalists prefer Derry and, of course, the Unionists prefer Londonderry.

“Despite the official name, the city is more usually known as simply Derry, which is an anglicisation of the Irish Daire or Doire, and translates as “oak-grove/oak-wood”. The name derives from the settlement’s earliest references, Daire Calgaich (“oak-grove of Calgach”). The name was changed from Derry in 1613 during the Plantation of Ulster to reflect the establishment of the city by the London guilds.”

I prefer “Legenderry”, as Sorcha said! Less of a debate and more epic of a name for such an important city! After we learned about the name, Sorcha took us up and into the walled city. I won’t go into too much background about Derry seeing as you will definitely have to explore it on your own. But we do want to pique your interest – so you do go and check out Derry!

Walking up the Wall and looking at the lovely buildings and different coloured doors!

Derry is the last remaining fully intact walled city in Ireland! It is so very medieval in its construction, seen clearly in both the wall and the plan of the city. It is also the first planned city in Ireland! We didn’t get to venture very far into the walled city itself (sadly) but we did get to walk along the wall and discuss the importance of certain structures and sites. Not to mention that a promenade on the wall offers you some of the best views of the Bogside and beyond the River Foyle!

View of the Bogside and Beyond from the Wall – Spectacular!

St. Eugene’s Cathedral as seen from the Wall

Sorcha started off by telling us more about the early history of the city with its beginnings as a monastery in the 6th century and then becoming a plantation in the 17th century. The walls were completed by 1619 and had four gates in which to enter and exit.

“The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Three further gates were added – magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate.”

The Gate names were marked into the ground for all to see!

They were built as a protection mechanism against early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland.

Can you spot the Gate?

Moving along Sorcha showed us the Saint Augustine’s Church, which is an original site from the time the Monastery was established in Derry. The actual church was built in 1872. It had a beautiful little garden when we were there, with flowers in bloom. Being the architectural geek that I am (being awed by different structures in every city I go) I rather liked this little church with its lovely facade and welcoming nature!

St. Augustine’s Church with flowers in bloom

Moving along we came to Walker’s Memorial Plinth. At this site, Sorcha told us, there used to be a giant pillar in memorial to Rev. George Walker. In 1973, during the Troubles, it was destroyed in a bomb explosion, the only part remaining to this day is the base. The spiral initially had 105 steps with a viewing platform from the top. Imagine the amazing view you would get of all of Derry from there!

The Plinth and the restored original Cannons that were used in the battles of the 17th Century

Sorcha continued to tell us more about the walled city itself and some of its history. From our position on the wall, we could see in the distance the “diamond,” which was the centre of the little city from which you could see all four gates! Sadly, we didn’t get to venture towards it to take pictures but definitely go see it if you get a full day in Derry!

Can you spot the Diamond in the background?

One of my favourite stories which Sorcha told us had to do with Society Street! Being the romantic that I am, of course I would remember how she told us that fashionable bachelors and ladies would promenade this very street in order to garner attention from each other. How very exciting and typical of that time (during the 19th century).

Apprentice Boys of Derry Memorial Hall on Society Street

Walking along, we were awed by the views from the wall promenade itself. On the other side of the wall we got a lovely view of the Bogside.

Peaceful Bogside from the Wall

Depending on where you live in the world and your age, you may or may not have heard of the Troubles, in particular the events of 1972 in Derry. The Bogside would become the:

“focus of world news with the worst ever atrocity to hit a European city since WWII on what has been named “Bloody Sunday.”

Bloody Sunday Memorial in the Bogside

Murals on the buildings of the Bogside

Today, the Bogside looks like a lovely, peaceful place to live. Sorcha took us out of the walled city at this point and down to the Bogside. The views of the wall from below were just as spectacular as the views from above!

View  of the Wall and the Plinth from below

Once we descended, we were told a little more about the Troubles that were said to have originated in Derry.

“The conflict which became known as the Troubles is widely regarded as having started in Derry with the Battle of the Bogside. The Civil Rights movement had also been very active in the city. In the early 1970’s, the city was heavily militarised and there was widespread civil unrest. Several districts in the city constructed barricades to control access and prevent the forces of the state from entering.”

Much like Belfast, as a result, the Bogside boasts many murals on buildings showing the major impacts of the Troubles and they make statements both about politics and religion in the area.

They are very stirring images that bring you back to a time when lives were endangered, bombs were still a viable threat and battles were fought in the middle of such a beautiful city. The divide was so obvious – it’s only natural that it be depicted in art, for what happened should never be forgotten.

The Murals are Haunting in their depictions

Our tour was coming to an end as was the story behind Derry’s past and hopeful future.

Hopes for a peaceful future for all generations to come

Sorcha told us a bit more about the Peace Bridge that links the two sides of the city, the Unionist Waterside and the Nationalist Cityside, over the River Foyle. This bridge allows people from both sides of the river cross over – encouraging change, peace, union, integration and reconciliation. It is a symbol that shows the progress that has been made between the two sides in today’s time. It is a beautiful modern symbol of Peace and it will hopefully remain so for future generations to see.

Peace Bridge in all its modern glory!

Our tour now being over, we all realized we were famished and couldn’t decide where to eat! Strangely enough, we passed an Italian restaurant as we were finishing the tour…Who would have thought we would be eating Italian food in Northern Ireland and that it would actually turn out to be amazing. The Spaghetti Junction served authentic Italian food and is the first Italian Restaurant in Derry! We definitely recommend going if you are planning on staying in the city. They have a variety of options on the menu and all our meals ended up being delicious!

After finally getting back to the hotel, we decided to take advantage of our luxurious bathroom (only because we had it all to ourselves…) and prepare to go out for the evening.

As we had gotten used to while in Ireland, we were to go to the Pub! (This would prove a very difficult habit to get over once we were back in Vancouver). Peadar O’Donnell’s Bar had a very boisterous setting! Its walls were covered with different flags and very specific decorations that were rather eccentric! Like with many pubs in Ireland, it has late night live music, which had us clapping and singing along with the rest of the pub, and loads of different brews for you to enjoy. 😉  It was filled to the brim with people (there may or may not have been a rugby game on) and it was a weekday! I still find it amazing how socially active people are on any given day of the week!

After a drink or two (or three…), we decided it was high time to go to bed. Our adventures in Derry had come to an end. If I could change anything, it would be the amount of time we had to explore the city. After the tour we really didn’t have much time and I really wanted to see more of the medieval buildings and see more murals. If you do decide to visit Derry, make sure you set aside enough time to explore the city!

Stay tuned for our next post on Day 3 of our Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Tour!

Ioana and Natalie

© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!


Day 2 in Dublin – The Old Library and a City Wander

Day 2 continued…

We had just finished admiring the amazing Book of Kells, then it was upstairs for more history and, of course, more books! This is the Long Room – the main chamber of the Old Library at Trinity College.

Just walking into the Long Room, we had to stop right in the doorway. We were in awe! Besides being absolutely gorgeous, with its barrel vaulted ceilings and its rows and rows of books, there was that distinctive and lovely “old books” smell. I’m sure there are some of you out there who know exactly what I mean! You probably just smiled and sighed contently.

The Long Room was originally built in the early 1700’s. Since this library is a “legal deposit library”, it can obtain a copy of every book published in Ireland and the UK, which explains the enormous collection that is housed here. Eventually the library’s collection outgrew its original space. So in the late 1800’s, a second level was added to make more room for bookshelves and books!

Around the library are marble busts of some renowned writers and philosophers, such as Jonathan Swift, Aristotle, Homer, Plato and Shakespeare. I like to imagine they are staring down at us and hoping to inspire our next generation of great thinkers and writers.


I absolutely love this little book-filled alcove – with the window, the little window seat, the floor to ceiling bookshelf and, of course, the books. I would love to have a little nook exactly like this in my house one day – complete with the ladders!!

And, look at this gorgeous spiral staircase! (Another one for the dream house!)

In the library, there are also other historical and national treasures. Like this important historical document – one of the few remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Another highlight is the Trinity College Harp or the Brian Boru’s Harp, which is said to be one of the oldest surviving Gaelic harps in the world. There are also some illuminated manuscripts on display in the Long Room. These are good compliments to the Book of Kells exhibition that we had seen earlier.

We just couldn’t help feeling inspired and awed in the presence of such history, literature and precious historical and literary treasures. This is the perfect place to visit for those of you who are interested in literature, history and those wanting to see a beautiful library! We love our photographs but they do not do it justice. You really have to be there to experience it – and to take a whiff of the old books smell. 😉

We absolutely could have spent the whole day there, just wandering the Long Room, sitting on the benches, enjoying the old library smell, but we had to move on!



We decided to wander around Dublin for the rest of the day.


We headed out of Trinity College and somehow (without even consulting a map!) found ourselves on Grafton Street.


Grafton Street is famous for its shopping and its buskers. For me, I remember Grafton Street most for being the setting of the movie Once – which tells the story of a Grafton Street busker and the girl who inspires him to continue pursuing his music. We did see a number of buskers while walking down Grafton Street, including these guys who played some great music!

As for the shopping… It was just some window shopping 😉

That is, until we spotted a Disney store! Some of you will know that we are big Disney fans! We knew there was a Disney store on Grafton Street, so we had to make a stop. We wanted to see whether they would have any special Dublin-only merchandise!

Turns out they had a cute “Mickey and Minnie in Dublin” tee, so that became our Dublin souvenir!

We even met a friend – Anna!

After our Disney visit, we wandered into Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, where we picked up some small souvenirs and a picnic lunch.


We took our picnic lunch across the street to St. Stephen’s Green, to enjoy the great outdoors. We found a nice patch of grass and ate our lunch in the view of this picturesque house. We still have no idea what this house is! Anyone out there know?

Then we continued our wee city wander. We loved the colourful doors of Dublin! It was like everyone could express themselves through the colours of their front door. We saw reds, dark blues, bright almost-turquoise blues, purples, blacks, yellows, greens… We have very boring doors in Vancouver – looks like this is another thing to add to my dream house list!


We spent some time walking through the Natural History Museum. We even came across the beautiful and imposing Government Buildings.

After a long day of walking, we were ready to put our feet up for a little while. So we made a quick stop at the supermarket and headed back to the hostel for our simple dinner.

While we were at the supermarket, we found a little piece of home – Molson Canadian beer.

We didn’t get the Molson Canadian – we could get that at home. Instead, we tried an Irish cider and it was good – crisp and fruity. To go with the cider, we picked up some bread and cheese, carrot sticks, the most delicious caramelized onion hummus and some yogurt for dessert!

After our simple but tasty dinner, we headed back out to explore Dublin at night! We loved that it was so lively, with people packed into pubs, live music and singing spilling out onto the cobblestoned streets and it wasn’t even a Friday or Saturday night. The atmosphere was lively, infectious and we loved it!

Here are our favourite photographs from that evening.

Ha’penny Bridge

O’Connell Bridge

Get ready for an epic Day 3 – it may or may not involve some Guinness and whiskey! 😉

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

© Letters of Wanderlust, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Day 2 in Dublin – The Book of Kells

After an exciting first day in Dublin, we were excited to explore some more! We had originally planned to visit Trinity College to see the Old Library and the world famous Book of Kells on Day 2.

But since the walking tour on our first day in Dublin ended at Trinity College, we thought we would be flexible and swap our Day 1 and Day 2 activities around. Unfortunately, they were closed at that time (rumour was they were turning the pages of the Book of Kells), so we had to go with our original plan and return the next day for a proper visit.

We started our second day in Dublin with a brisk morning walk from our hostel to Trinity College.

Trinity College is a world renowned university that was established in 1592. Although admission was quite exclusive in the past – you had to be Protestant and male, now you see female and male scholars of all ethnic groups and religions at Trinity College. Trinity College is home to the Old Library, built in the 1700’s. Within the Old Library are the famous Book of Kells and the gorgeous Long Room.

The Book of Kells is a beautiful illuminated manuscript, containing the 4 gospels of the bible. Every figure and letter on each page was carefully and artistically drawn by hand over 1000 years ago! There are many theories as to how the Book of Kells came to be. The manuscript may have been created completely or partially at a monastery on the island of Iona in Scotland. Then to protect the manuscript from Viking raids, it was taken to the Abbey of Kells in Co. Meath, Ireland. The Book of Kells would remain at the Abbey until it was taken to Dublin for safekeeping in 1654. It was then given to Trinity College in 1661. This precious, beautifully decorated manuscript draws hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly.

Fortunately for us, when we got there on Day 2, the Library was open for visitors. And there wasn’t even a queue!

We paid for our tickets at the door – €10 for an adult ticket. The ticket includes admission to see the Book of Kells, as well as entry to the Long Room in the Old Library. You can also purchase your tickets online ahead of time. These online “Fast-Track” tickets, €13 for an adult ticket, allow you to get in straight away, without waiting in the queue.

We were lucky there was no queue when we went, or we might have been waiting a long while. If you are visiting during high season, it might be worth while to get your fast-track tickets online. This could save you some time and allow you to experience Dublin, instead of spending your time waiting in a queue. But if you don’t buy the fast-track tickets and end up stuck in a queue, get to know your fellow visitors and it will make your queuing time feel shorter and you might come out of it with some new friends! 🙂

Once inside, we walked through an exhibition called “Turning Darkness into Light.” This was a great introduction to the Book of Kells and other similar illuminated manuscripts. Besides just a history lesson, the exhibition’s displays and videos told of the people behind these manuscripts – the lives of the scribes and artists who created these beautiful works of art. It spoke of their art and what they used in their craft – from the vellum (calfskin) to the colourful pigments that they used in their illustrations. It also had on display enlarged photographs of various illustrations from the Book of Kells, along with descriptions and explanations of the figures, meanings and symbolism behind them, which was very interesting and helpful. I don’t think I would have caught all of that on my own.

Finally, we walked into the Treasury and saw 2 of the 4 volumes of the Book of Kells on display. One volume was opened to a major decorated page, while the other was opened to script. It is said that the pages are turned regularly, so the next time you visit, you might be viewing a different page and a different illustration – which I think is pretty cool!

Just looking at the 2 open pages of a volume overwhelmed me with a sense of wonder! The amount of thought and detail that went into every single item on the page astonished me, from the colours and designs of each illustration to each carefully drawn letter on the page. It amazes me to think about how advanced these artists and scribes were – how they were able to accomplish so much with their bare hands and with no “modern” technology to help. I admired their artwork that much more!

Of course, photography was not allowed inside the treasury, so we do not have any photographs to share with you. But with today’s technology, they have scanned and photographed pages of the Book of Kells. This website allows you to browse through the pages of the manuscript and admire the artwork. Zoom in and check out the details, from the Celtic motifs on a border to the expression of a person’s face – it really is amazing! In a way, I think seeing the pages of the Book of Kells online is really cool – you get to see more than just the pages on display and you can zoom in and out to marvel at the illustrations. Having said that though, nothing compares to actually being in the room with this fascinating treasure!

Next up is more on history, literature and books, as we wander upstairs to the Long Room. Stay tuned for more in our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

© Letters of Wanderlust, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!