For ages I've been wanted to head over the water and check out some of Ireland. My pilgrimage was due to end at my family's ancestral home in Warrenpoint with a quick business stop off in Belfast but first it was a short trip to Derry.
I never knew much about the place to be honest so didn't know what to expect. I was hugely impressed.
As I was taking the car, I took the Stena Line Ferry from Birkenhead in Liverpool with a chilled out crossing over the Irish Sea then a drive in the dark from Belfast to Derry.
I arrived at the City Hotel tired, weary and looking forward to a steam room and a beer. I had a great room with a view of the River and the famous Peace Bridge.
After availing myself of the leisure facilities I headed out and on a recommendation from the Hotel and found a bar called Peadar O'Donnells. I loved it. Live Music, great people and boss Guinness.
After a few there that was me done for the night.
Next day after a lie in, i decided to do some touristy stuff so checked out what to do at the Hotel. The sun was shining so I headed to the "Bogside" to see the murals and the Free Derry Museum which I enjoyed, then headed up the hill to St Columb's Cathedral which was also a lovely experience. On the way down I passed a place with a mention of a Coffee Shop inside. This was the "Yellow Yard". What an incredible place. A warehouse containing a coffee shop, a record shop, a vintage clothes shop and much much more. I had a delicious and much needed coffee in St Jude's Coffee within the building and as had been my experience so far in Derry I was welcomed warmly and got chatting to a lady called Kerry who was one of the owners. A lovely lady. She told me about the Independent Derry scheme and said enough to make me buy a card as it was only £7. I'm familiar with the Independent Liverpool card but don't have one I'm sad to say. I checked out Independent Derry via their website and decided to use it as a bit of a guide to the rest of my trip.
After buying some vintage records (for me) and a unicorn dream catcher (for my daughter) I headed off for a walk down the Walls and by this time it was beer o clock.
I stopped off at Guildhall Taphouse and tried some excellent craft beer brewed in house. Apparently the craft beer scene is big in Derry with a few more places in the city brewing Beer. I tried Dopey Dick and Northbound both from Derry, and a beer from Donegal called Scraggy Bay. There were more beers I wanted to try from Walled City Brewery, which was a stroll across the Peace Bridge - i spotted that they also do the Independent Derry discount which was handy so I strolled over the water to check it out.
It was tremendous. The food and beer was top notch. I had some tapas style dishes and a couple of tasting paddles of their own beers ranging from a Pale Ale, a lager and stout to an apple and cinnamon beer. All were fantastic. As we're the staff yet again.
I cashed in my discount and headed back over the water, after taking some nice photos of the Derry sunset over the Bridge. Very idillic and a great spot from outside the Brewery.
A swim, a steam and a snooze later I was ready for a nice bite to eat for my final night in Derry. Via the Independent Derry website and Trip Advisor I decided on the Sooty Olive Restaurant back over on the "Waterside" which is a short taxi ride away.
A cozy, relaxed and extremely friendly restaurant with a fantastic menu, wine list and selection of cocktails. I had an orange Old Fashioned garnished with thyme which was terrific.
I opted for a 2 course menu with main and dessert but they brought me over a taster plate of their starters anyway for free!! A small cup of amazing soup, some homemade bread and a black pudding croquet. One look at this as it was presented to me showed that this was very high quality cooking and I was right. An amazing dining experience which must be sampled to be believed. This must be one of, if not the best restaurant in Northern Ireland. I was very, very impressed. Saved a bit of money too on the cocktails with my card. Always helps.
I headed back over the water and finished off at The Central Bar - also owned by the Guildhall Taphouse where I had been earlier and also on the discount card and with an Open Mic night on which I had been reliably informed.....
Another great pub with excellent live music.
I turned in relatively early for a drive to Belfast the next day but as I was driving out of Derry I did think that I was leaving a part of me behind. I felt a real affinity with the place and its locals, they were my kind of people.
I'm looking forward to returning very soon and besides, I've still got a good 11 months left on my Discount Card!