Visit The Walled City of Derry Londonderry as it Awakens This Halloween

26 October 2022

The historical city of Derry~Londonderry comes hauntingly and spine-chillingly alive throughout the season of Halloween.

From the 28th to the 31st of October, Derry hosts the biggest Halloween celebration in Europe.

Where it all began

Over 2000 years ago, the Celts celebrated the festival of Samhain on October 31. This heralded the return of the dead to Earth before the start of a new year. Druids would extinguish old fires and light new ones, and ghost stories were often told.

The festival in Derry is said to have its beginnings laid at the front (pub) door of one pub landlord, Brian Doherty. In 1985, at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, Doherty threw a Halloween party as a way to cheer up his regulars during this dark period in history.

People turned up in fancy dress and Halloween merriment ensued. But as was the way back then, a bomb-scare in the middle of the celebration meant everyone had to leave. So off they went en masse to some of the other bars and clubs in the city, keen to keep the night’s craic going. Although they were the only ones in fancy dress, everyone in the pubs and clubs embraced them, costumes and all, and a great night was had by all in the spirit of Halloween.

The following year, most of the bars in Derry~Londonderry put on some sort of Halloween entertainment. That night in 1985, when the patrons of Brian Doherty’s pub spilled out onto the street in fancy dress, is considered Derry’s first ever Halloween parade.

Derry Halloween Festival 2022

With Samhain as Derry Halloween Festival’s central theme, you can enjoy folklore, feasting and festivities as the Walled City reopens the pathways of the Halloween travellers of the past!

Throughout the festival, you will find various displays and events taking place throughout the city. And the beauty of Derry being such a compact city means you can pretty much walk everywhere.

City of Bones

In the city centre, take the trail within the City of Bones. You’ll be transfixed by all manner of ghoulish projections, installations, window performances and guises-sure to send a shiver up your spine.

 If you’re a fan of the hit TV show, Derry Girls, keep an eye out as the mural of the girls gets a Halloween makeover. Immerse yourself in the history of this enchanting city and learn about Derry~Londonderry’s own Walter de Burgh as he returns to the city as a lingering spirit… 

Forest of Shadows

Make your way across the Peace Bridge to St. Columb’s Park where you’ll find The Forest of Shadows. The forest comes to life with dancing flames and hypnotic displays, luring you into the depths…Wander (or dander, as we say in Derry!) along the 1.5km trail, taking in the installations and atmosphere as you go.

Back across the River Foyle, at Guildhall Square and Waterloo Place, you can reward those tastebuds with something delicious from the market. Enjoy live music and a place to rest your bones as you eat your fill.

Derry~Londonderry has lots of great grub to offer at any time of year and this Halloween will be no exception. There are plenty of great restaurants to choose from including Browns in Town and The Sooty Olive. But if you want to keep the vibe spooky, head to the Bishop’s Gate Hotel for a Halloween Afternoon Tea or check out Soda & Starch for some ghoulish goodies in the Craft Village (of the damned).

Something for everyone

As you explore the city, you may encounter Saurus: the performance group who bring gigantic beasts from prehistoric times. Listen out for the deafening roar as they cross over from the otherworld during the feast of Samhain.

You may also be lucky enough to experience Spark! This captivating street act will have you entranced with their spectacular performance incorporating high impact drumming, dynamic choreography, fun characters and colourful lighting design. Not to be missed!

Over in the Ebrington area of the city, you’ll find the Monster Halloween Funfair. With something for the whole family, you’re sure to have a spooktacular time. Hop on the Big Wheel to enjoy panoramic views of Derry~Londonderry.

The Carnival Parade

Of course, the piece de resistance in this host of haunted offerings, is the Carnival Parade. This spectacle will bring the 4-day long festival to a rousing finish. Traditionally, this involves hundreds of local performers from schools, clubs and groups across the City and District, encapsulating the community spirit that Derry~Londonderry is renowned for.

The parade will bring the story of the Ninth Wave alive, awakening the river gods for a theatrical display of sorcery and havoc.

And so it goes,

Mannan on the ninth wave rose up from the deep

Leading a procession of spirits awake from their sleep

The story goes on,

Some were horned, some feathered, scaled, and evil eyed

All in search of mortals with neither beacon nor disguise

Our advice is to don a disguise or a costume to stay safe from the clutches of these otherworldly creatures…

However, if you don’t dress up, not to worry. There’ll be safety in numbers as Derry folk attending the Halloween festival come into their own with their costumes, and every year they seem to get better. Terrifying, hilarious and innovative- you’re in for a treat!

After the parade, be dazzled by the fireworks display that lights up the sky above the River Foyle.

Keep your little ghouls entertained

There are plenty of other activities to keep little ghouls entertained during your visit to Derry~Londonderry. Go ghost hunting in St. Columb’s Park or create your own monster at the Monster Making Workshop.

Join in the Family Friendly Spooky Tour of Derry~Londonderry where you’ll hear some gruesome ghost stories from the past and present.

Check out The Trials and Tribulations of Winifred the Witch. Join the Spook Council as they uncover the wicked and weird deeds of Winifred.

More eerie entertainment

Other walks and trails to take part in throughout the festival include a cemetery tour, a dress-up silent disco tour and a chilling sensory experience known as The Experiment. This is not one for the faint-hearted…

If you have your furry friend with you, there’s even a Spooky Paws dog walk on the famous City Walls where your pooch can come in fancy dress.

Go and see The Nightmare Before Midterm if you can handle more theatrics, where you’ll be trick-or-treated to a variety of song, dance and musical theatre.

If you’re still after more eerie entertainment, head to Derry’s House of Horrors. The building itself is built on an old graveyard and rumoured to have a number of resident ghosts.

The nightlife in Derry~Londonderry won’t disappoint. You’ll find the pubs and nightclubs buzzing with Halloween spirit over the Halloween weekend, with a few live music gigs to enjoy too.

So, if you want to experience the most LegenDerry Halloween festival out there (I’m a Derry girl so I might be a wee bit biased!) then head to the Walled City this Halloween.