Exploring Derry on Two Wheels: An Alternative Tour of Northern Ireland’s Second City

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bike tour Derry

This article is presented by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

“Here’s our destination—a double-decker bus,” guide Steven Casey announces with a smile. It may not be what you expect on a Foodie City Cycle, which promises an immersive tour of Derry with local slow adventure specialist Far and Wild. But there it is—a gray and orange bus named ‘Decky,’ parked alongside a kitchen converted from a shipping container. Steven’s enthusiasm is contagious as he adds, “We’ll grab a delicious snack.”

Our first stop is Pyke ‘n’ Pommes, a renowned street food spot by the River Foyle that has become a Derry institution. Chalkboard menus display an array of burgers made from locally sourced Wagyu beef. Steven, however, knows exactly what he wants. He dismounts his bike, heads straight to the counter, and orders a couple of deep-fried squid tacos. We find our seats on the upper deck of the bus, and lunch is served in brown paper bags. “Dig in,” Steven encourages us with a grin.

Derry is often associated with two main aspects: the Troubles of Northern Ireland and its 400-year-old city walls, earning it the nickname “Walled City.” However, the city has successfully embraced its role as the UK Capital of Culture in 2013, cultivated a vibrant food and drink scene, and developed one of Europe’s largest Halloween festivals, featuring costumes, fireworks, and a festive atmosphere. Boutique hotels like Shipquay and Bishop’s Gate have added to its charm, and the iconic Peace Bridge has connected previously divided nationalist and unionist communities across the River Foyle. Despite these positive developments, it’s still challenging to overcome stereotypes when viewing Derry from afar. As Steven aptly puts it, “We’re a bit tucked away in the corner here.”

In search of a fresh perspective, I opted for a two-hour bike tour with culinary stops along the way, providing a new window into Derry. The first taco I devour confirms this. From the vantage point on Decky, I admire the Peace Bridge upstream and the wood-fringed Foyle estuary downstream. Walkers and cyclists pass by the docks where Steven’s grandfather once worked. “In the summertime, this place comes alive,” he shares.

Far and Wild’s Foodie Cycle Tour explores Derry’s beloved street food market.

Far and Wild’s slow adventures extend beyond cycling and include kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), and rollerblading tours of the city. These aren’t your typical tours. Our Foodie Cycle Tour offers only two or three tasting stops, but cycling allows us to cover a significant distance while engaging in detailed observations and casual conversations. As we pedal around, Steven frequently encounters familiar faces. He tells me with a wide grin, “Derry folks love a good chat. They’ll keep you talking.”

Our next stop takes us to the city walls, originally built for defense during the 1600s. These stout structures remain remarkably intact, providing a mile-long walk with views of the streets within and the river and surrounding neighborhoods. We pedal uphill, pausing at various points near cannons that date back to the 1689 siege of Derry by King James II’s forces, as well as scenic viewpoints overlooking the restored Guildhall.

We also delve into more recent political history, cycling past the site of the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972 and through the Bogside, a nationalist community famous for its murals and the painted slogan, “You are now entering free Derry.”

However, Derry encompasses many other facets. Above Orchard Street, we dismount our bikes to capture a mural that stands apart from the political landscape. It lacks slogans and symbolism, instead portraying four girls (and one guy) in school uniforms, smiling and pouting on the side of Badger’s Bar. “Derry Girls,” a beloved comedy by Lisa McGee, has become a symbol of a changing city, capturing its unique language, sense of humor, and complex relationship with recent history.

Another stop along our route is Ebrington Square, a former military barracks and parade ground now undergoing transformation into a vibrant city quarter. Steven shares childhood memories, saying, “This area used to be completely blocked off. I remember seeing helicopters overhead as a kid.” Today, a four-star hotel is being erected, and some walkways are so new that even my trusty Google Maps doesn’t recognize them. It feels like Derry is making up for lost time.

My final stop with Steven is the Cottage Craft Gallery and Coffee Shop, a thatched oasis hidden within the city walls’ craft courtyard. Here, we indulge in raspberry and white chocolate scones served with jam and whipped cream. Amongst the paintings and crafts adorning the walls and shelves, I spot a sign boasting award-winning scones. A staff member points out a “special wee kitchen” and Neill’s soda flour on the shelves. I can’t help but wonder about the secret ingredient.

“It’s heart,” she laughs, placing her hand over her chest. The same could be said about Derry—a city whose culinary and cultural scenes continue to evolve with sophistication while retaining the warmth and intimacy of a comforting embrace.

How to Experience It:
Far and Wild’s Foodie City Cycle tours offer two culinary experiences during a two-hour ride, starting at £40 per person. For more information on activities in Derry, visit Visit Derry and Discover Northern Ireland.
Published in the UK & Ireland supplement, distributed with the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about bike tour Derry

What is the Far and Wild Foodie City Cycle tour in Derry?

The Far and Wild Foodie City Cycle tour in Derry is a two-hour guided bike tour that offers a unique and immersive experience of the city. Led by local slow adventure specialists, participants get to explore Derry’s culinary scene while cycling through the city’s streets.

What can I expect during the Foodie City Cycle tour?

During the Foodie City Cycle tour, you can expect to make several stops for culinary experiences, including tasting local street food at popular spots like Pyke ‘n’ Pommes. The tour covers a significant distance, allowing you to see various landmarks and attractions in Derry while engaging in detailed observations and casual conversations with your guide.

What are some of the highlights of the tour?

The tour includes highlights such as cycling along the city walls, which offer stunning views of both the city and the river. You’ll also explore the Bogside, known for its murals and the famous painted slogan “You are now entering free Derry.” Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Ebrington Square, a former military barracks transformed into a vibrant city quarter.

Can I customize the Foodie City Cycle tour?

The Foodie City Cycle tour follows a set itinerary and includes specific culinary stops. While customization may not be available during the tour itself, you can check with Far and Wild if they offer any customizable options or if they have other tour options that may better suit your preferences.

How much does the Foodie City Cycle tour cost?

The price for the Foodie City Cycle tour starts from £40 per person. For the most accurate and up-to-date pricing information, it is recommended to visit the Far and Wild website or contact them directly.

How can I book the Foodie City Cycle tour?

To book the Foodie City Cycle tour, you can visit the Far and Wild website or contact them directly. They will provide you with the necessary information on availability, booking procedures, and any additional details you may need to secure your spot on the tour.

Where can I find more information about activities in Derry?

For more information about activities in Derry, you can visit the official websites of Visit Derry and Discover Northern Ireland. These resources provide comprehensive information about attractions, events, accommodations, and other activities available in the city.

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