Derry City Walls - History and Facts | History Hit

Derry City Walls

Londonderry/Derry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

The Derry City Walls are 17th century defensive walls and the only complete ones of their kind in Ireland.

Lily Johnson

14 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Derry City Walls

The Derry City Walls are a set of early 17th century defensive walls in Derry, and the only complete ones of their kind in Ireland.

Derry City Walls history

Built between 1613 and 1618, the purpose of the Derry City Walls was to protect the new English and Scottish settlers from attack, having moved to Ulster as part of the Plantation of Ulster. The English had taken Derry in 1600, thereafter calling it Londonderry, and were forced to begin fortifying it following the destruction of the town in 1608 during O’Doherty’s rebellion.

With a circumference measuring approximately 1.5km and a width varying from between 12 and 35 feet, the Derry City Walls fulfilled their defensive function well, and to this day have never been breached.

This was attempted during the Siege of Derry in 1689 however, when forces loyal to King James II and eventually the king himself arrived in the town and tried to force a surrender. This event gave rise to the Protestant Apprentice Boys of Derry fraternity, as the siege began due to the actions of 13 apprentices, who first took the keys to the city and locked the gates to James II’s advancing forces.

While the walls were largely closed during the Troubles of the 20th century, in 1973 the IRA set off a bomb at the Walker Monument, successfully destroying it. The monument commemorated Protestant hero Governor George Walker, who had been influential in defending the town during the 1680 siege, and whose statue faced the Catholic Bogside neighbourhood – a factor many found an insult to their community.

Derry City Walls today

Today, visitors can embark on a tour of the Derry City Walls, and they are a great way to see the city and learn about its history. Along the walls, there are 22 restored cannons from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, including the famous ‘Roaring Meg’, used during the Siege of Derry.

Visitors can also view the four original gates – Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Shipquay Gate and Butcher Gate, alongside three newer additions – Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate. The Walker Monument’s column was never rebuilt, however its plinth remains and can still be viewed along the wall.

Getting to Derry City Walls

The Derry City Walls are at the centre of the historic city of Derry, reachable via the A2. The Ramparts Top walk can be accessed from Guildhall Square, ascending the Walls at the steps or ramp through Magazine Gate, or alternatively can also be accessed from Bishop Street Without, ascending the steps at Bishop’s Gate or using Stable Lane.

The monument’s exterior can also be walked around, following the path of the old moat outside the city from New Gate to Butcher Gate. Londonderry train station is a 20-minute walk to the city centre, while the Foyle Street Bus Centre is just a 2-minute walk away from Guildhall Square.

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