Our day started with a walking tour of the walls of Derry with our outstanding guide, Ruairi. He was not only informative, extremely interesting and well-versed in Derry and Northern Ireland’s tumultuous past, but because he had grown up during the time of The Troubles, he could offer a first-hand account of how this conflict affected the people of this country. He himself suffered from PTSD, which he didn’t discover until he went to the US to study and ended up in a psych ward. He was very unbiased, giving both sides of the story, and explaining some of the nuances of the conflict that you don’t get from elsewhere. He was very optimistic that, through education and good parenting, the next generation will be less inclined to fall into the trap of sectarian conflict.
It was very interesting to walk along the walls of the city, as Derry lays claim to having the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland. They were built in 1613-1618 by The Irish Society as a defence for early settlers from England and Scotland. Originally there were four gates, but three more were added later.
Throughout the tour we saw much evidence of the conflict, in terms of flags flown, posters, monuments and murals on walls. One of the most moving monuments was that in remembrance of those who died on Bloody Sunday, which occurred in January of 1972, in the Bogside area of Derry, when British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians, mostly young men, during a protest march against internment.
Our tour over, we decided to explore a little more before we had to leave, so headed back to a little craft village area we had passed on the tour. Next we decided to revisit Guild Hall to explore the second floor, which we had missed on our first visit. Not too much exciting, except for the beautif organ and our chance to become Lord Mayor of Derry, if only for a few brief moments.
Back to the hotel to meet our guide, Mike, and a few of the others to head over to Pyke and Pommes, a converted bus, for lunch. Unfortunately it was further away than Mike thought, so we ended up gobbling down our fish tacos, (which were great, I think!) and grabbing a cab back to the hotel, where the rest of our group were patiently waiting on the bus. Good thing we had the tour leader with us!!
On the way back to Belfast, we had another surprise stop, this time at Carrickfergus Castle. This is a well-preserved castle along the coast, which was built in 1177 by John de Courcy, and is one of the best preserved castles in Northern Ireland. It has been taken over by the Scots, English, French and Irish at various points in its existence, and played an important military role until 1928. We took the tour with a very lively and humourous guide, Jackie, who filled us in on all the whys and wherefores of the castle’s history.
Back on the road Belfast bound and to our hotel. We connected with Bill and Mary Hill, who hail from Upper Saanich, BC. We just popped round the corner and grabbed a bite at Molly’s Yard. Irv had goat, while I went with the more edible (IMHO) cod dish.