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27th Jan 2013 9:01am | By Helen Elfer
History, art, architecture, music and great craic abound in the 2013 UK Capital of Culture
If there’s one city really set to feel the spotlight this year, it’s Londonderry.
This Northern Irish destination is packed with sights, arts, history and more, yet for a long time no one’s been paying it much attention.
A reputation as a battleground during the Troubles unsurprisingly put tourists off, but the city is the UK’s City of Culture for 2013, and Lonely Planet has also been singing its praises, calling it the fourth best city in the whole world to visit this year. Let’s have a look at why …
Let’s get this part out of the way first: the city’s name is still very contentious.
Most Irish nationalists prefer to use the name Derry, while unionists use Londonderry.
Legally, the city and county are called Londonderry (the local government district is called Derry), but you’ll still see the ‘London’ part of the name scrawled out on road signs. Want to avoid the debate altogether?
The Gaelic name is Doire, from the city’s 10th-century name Doire Colmcille, meaning Oak Grove of Columba.
The conflict between the mainly Protestant unionist community and mainly Catholic nationalist community was over what constitutional status Northern Ireland has in relation to the United Kingdom.
Much of the Troubles, as the conflict is known, was focused here along with the capital, Belfast, and during the early Seventies the city was heavily militarised.
From the city’s landmarks to artworks, today reminders of the violent years are everywhere.
Opened in June 2011, the Peace Bridge is a sweeping structure that crosses the River Foyle, and links the largely unionist east of the city to the largely nationalist west – the intention being to symbolise peace between the communities, as well as link them practically.
It’s a spine-tingling sight by night, when the bridge is illuminated in purple, blue and green.
Londonderry is also famous for its 1.5km of medieval walls, which surround the city and were designed to keep the English and Scottish out.
They’re still intact and you can make a complete circuit of them, making a stop to check out the 24 huge restored cannons, and four original gates along the way.