Halloween! We wanted to do something different out of it this time and thus decided to head to Londonderry where there is a celebration done there with people roaming the streets wearing scary costumes.
Located in Northern Ireland on the banks of the River Foyle, Derry AKA Londonderry, known for its famous 17th-century walls with 7 gates. It is also home for the Tower Museum which oversees the city’s views and historical exhibits. In addition, it hosts the best Halloween festival in the world to an extent that it is known as the “Best Halloween Destination in the World” by USA Today.
This vibrant city is set alongside the banks of the River Foyle in the North West of Ireland. Close to Strabane, a large rural area dominated by the heather-clad Sperrin Mountains, the area is a gateway to the famous Irish coastal routes of the Wild Atlantic Way and the Causeway Coast. Derry is rich in culture, optimism and creativity. Its people are known for their kindness and generosity, it has a confident outlook of an area emerging from a troubled past.
Instead of celebrating Halloween in the same yearly way, we decided this time to go for something which we don’t usually head to and which the kids will also enjoy being at and that was when we decided to choose Derry Halloween and which we completed with visiting a couple of things as well, this museum in which the old life of Londonderry is told and even kids are given pieces to play with and create a bridge, dinosaur, and complete a skull; it was really an interesting place to be at.
History of the City
Built-in the 6th century by Saint Colmcille (or St Columba), Londonderry is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland after the capital, Belfast. However, for centuries Derry had been a small settlement, it did not have a truly important status until the 17th century. Derry was renamed Londonderry in 1613 when awarded the Royal Charter by King James I.
Londonderry had a great value for the Ulster Plantation. It was the last walled city built in Ireland and the only city in Ireland whose ancient walls survived completely. Among the city’s new buildings was St. Columb’s Cathedral (1633) which was built inside the walls.
Speeding forward to the 20th century, Brooke Park opened to the public in 1901. A War Memorial was built in Derry in 1927, and Our Lady of Lourdes Church was built in 1976. Today Derry is a flourishing city, Foyle Valley Railway Museum opened in 1990, Tower museum opened in 1992, Foyleside Shopping Centre opened in 1995, Rath Mor Centre also opened in 1995 and Derry Visitor Centre and Convention Bureau opened in 1997.
The Halloween City
How did Derry become the ultimate destination for Halloween? Well, Halloween’s origins go back to over 2,000 years ago to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (sow-in), when, according to tradition, the ghosts of the dead returned to walk the earth before a new year began for the Celts on November 1st.
Despite the introduction of Christianity, the pagan culture in Ireland and the belief in the supernatural remained very much alive in the nation. The festival first started with the locals in local communities dressing up in costumes, and because they had a creative side to them, in addition to having the supplies ready, they manufactured the best costumes for Halloween.
At first, the carnival was a very small one, a stage was built in the Guildhall Square, a small band and no parade, the carnival then grew into a festival year after year. In 2013, the festival was one of the main events of Derry’s year as UK City of Culture.
On the festival’s 30th anniversary in 2016, the council estimates 80,000 people participated in four days of festivities, with 30,000 people attending the main carnival. It is considered a unique festival given the amount of attention given to details in making the costumes, they are not just any ready-made costumes.
Halloween Festival & Events
This year, the festival starts on the 24th of October with the parade on the 31st. The theme is ‘Under the Samhain Moon’, and the participants should expect a giant moon on display in the central Guildhall Square before it is released during the final parade, in addition, there will be fireworks and Jack-o’-lantern competitions.
Of course, Halloween is not just for trick and treating, and it is not just for horror fans either. There are many events that are held during the festival, many performances, places to visit that are Halloween themed; in addition to the parade which is the main event. There are also many markets for food, the Samhain Sessions for music lovers, as well as plenty of opportunities to scare yourself senseless.
Even though it was a bit cold during the event, we still managed to enjoy the whole experience. At the beginning of this journey, we started with those playing on the drums and who made a marvellous show while walking around the street – they had a good sense of humour as well – and who also took pictures with the public before they disappear after finishing their show.
After this show, we stopped in the middle to enter the museum which shows the moon and where there was also a show inside before we went out to the street once again to complete watching those people with costumes walking around dancing, singing, or making scary sounds.
Awakening The Walls
To begin with, the “Awakening The Walls” event is a street illumination animation trail performance performed by local and international artists. It took place at the City Walls from October 28th till 30th with free admission and suitable for all family members. Then there are events like “Fright Night” which is the best and most unique outdoor activity in the festival.
Comic City Festival
Comic City Festival is a festival that celebrates comics, illustration and creative arts. It took place in the iconic Guildhall featuring some of the world’s greatest talents, top writers and artists.
Every year the street Carnival Parade takes place on Halloween night, where an illuminated performance drawing on the myths and legends of Halloween moves around the city with costumed performers, illuminated sculpture, large scale lanterns, music, movement, dance, circus and street performers.
Haunted Halloween Markets
In a world of magic, taste the terrifyingly tantalizing treats and drink bewitching brews. Enjoy your drinks in the seated areas, but beware of who is watching you at the Haunted Harvest Market.
Spark! Street Theatre show is magical live music, movement and light spectacular that captivates the audience combining high impact drumming, dynamic choreography, playful characters and colourful lighting design.
Tours and Trails
Many haunted tours and trails take place: the House of Horrors, Ghost Bus Tours, Halloween Origins Tour, tours of Derry City Cemetery, the Tower of Terror, Game of Thrones Tour, where you will run deep into old-growth forests, along wild sea cliffs, across rocky beaches, into caves and crumbling medieval ruins.
Celebrating the Return of the Ancients, a spectacular display of fireworks takes place over the River Foyle as the City. Everyone is welcome to join.
For further information, please contact Derry City and Strabane District Councils Access and Inclusion Officer: Louise Boyce
For further information on Derry Halloween:
Have you ever been to Derry’s Halloween Festival? One of the events in the city throughout the year. Let us know your experience in the comments below.