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A Halloween Festival at the Walled City of Derry

A Halloween Festival at the Walled City of Derry


It's no secret that Halloween is celebrated with fervor and fright around the world, but there's something distinctly otherworldly about experiencing it in Derry. The town's deep-rooted history, enigmatic legends, and a palpable passion for the supernatural transform the streets into a spectral playground. As October wanes and the chill of autumn deepens, Derry doesn't just observe Halloween—it embodies it.

Derry has always been a captivating place. But to truly understand its allure during the Halloween season, one must dive deep into its ancient Celtic roots.

Experience it. Don't just look.

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‏‏‎ The Celts, who once thrived across the British Isles and mainland Europe, had a profound connection with nature, the seasons, and the cycle of life and death. One of their most significant festivals, Samhain (pronounced 'sow-in'), marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. This festival, celebrated from the evening of October 31st to the evening of November 1st, was believed to be a time when the veil between the living and the spirit world was thinnest. Ancestors and spirits were honored, and measures were taken to protect the living from any malevolent entities that might cross over.

In Derry, as in many Celtic regions, Samhain was an occasion of great importance. Large communal bonfires would light up the night, both as a symbol of the sun's return and as protection against wandering spirits. People would often dress in disguises or wear masks to either blend in with the spirits or ward them off. This is, in fact, a precursor to modern-day Halloween costumes.

© Tourism Ireland

Homes in old Derry would leave offerings of food and drink outside their doors for the spirits, a tradition that has its echoes in today's 'trick-or-treating'. The act of carving turnips (which later became pumpkins in North America) with menacing faces and placing candles inside was another protective measure, aiming to frighten away evil spirits.

These traditions, although evolved and integrated with Christian customs over time, are still evident in Derry's contemporary Halloween celebrations. The city has not only preserved these ancient practices but also rejuvenated them, ensuring that visitors and locals alike can experience the mystical essence of a truly Celtic Halloween.

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‏‏‎Follow the Awakening the Walled City Trail and find out more about the folklore, history and heritage that makes this place so special. The story of Halloween is brought to life through illumination, aerial performance, pyrotechnics and music, as the spirits cross over to join the festivities, bringing magic and mischief to the streets.

So, what´s the best way to xperience the city in a three day trip? Just follow the guide!

Derry Halloween Itinerary

Day 1: A stroll in the city

Morning to Afternoon: Explore the Walled City

  • City Walls: Begin your journey with a leisurely stroll along the historic city walls, which have stood since the 17th century. These walls offer panoramic views of the city and River Foyle. Plaques and markers dot the path, providing insights into significant events and points of interest.
  • Lunch Break: After your walk, settle down in one of the quaint cafes lining the walls. Indulge in local delicacies and refuel for the next adventure.

Evening: Experience the Lively Atmosphere

  • Derry's Pubs and Restaurants: As the sun sets, head to the vibrant heart of the city. Enjoy the local music at traditional pubs like Peadar O'Donnell's. Taste authentic Irish dishes and maybe even catch a live music session to truly immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.

Day 2: History, Haunts, and Halloween Highs

Morning: Dive into Derry's Historic Architecture

  • Start with a visit to the iconic St. Columb's Cathedral. Take a guided tour to learn about its rich history, dating back to 1633, and admire its stunning gothic architecture.
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Afternoon: Celebrate in True Halloween Spirit

  • Halloween Carnival: As afternoon segues into evening, make your way to the city centre. The streets come alive with music, dance performances, and a sea of fantastic costumes, all gearing up for the Halloween festivity.
  • Halloween Parade: Be sure not to miss the famous Halloween Parade. Elaborate floats, enthusiastic performers, and the vibrant energy make this a highlight.
Parade night
© Tourism Ireland

Evening: Embark on a Paranormal Adventure

  • City Sightseeing Derry's Ghost Tour: As dusk settles, gear up for a chilling exploration of Derry's haunted history. This guided tour will introduce you to spine-tingling tales and eerie locations, including the Tower Museum and the hauntingly beautiful City Cemetery

Day 3: Nature's Marvel Meets Myths

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Day Trip to Giant's Causeway:

Morning Drive: Set out early and drive to the mesmerizing Giant's Causeway. The scenic journey itself is a treat, with stretches of coastal beauty accompanying you.

Giant's Causeway: Once there, marvel at the unique hexagonal basalt columns formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Local legends tell of the giant, Finn McCool, and his exploits, adding a layer of myth to this natural wonder.

Lunch: Enjoy a meal at the nearby cafes or restaurants. The local seafood is a must-try!

Return to Derry: Start your drive back by late afternoon, ensuring you reach Derry by evening. This gives you time to relax or maybe explore a bit more of the city's nightlife or shopping.

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This itinerary ensures that visitors to Derry during Halloween experience a mix of history, culture, celebration, and natural beauty. Each day promises new discoveries, making your three-day stay in Derry an unforgettable adventure.

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