Countries, Ireland, UK

A tale of two new cities Belfast and Derry

It’s a tale of two new cities Belfast and Derry 50 years on.

The two powerhouses of Northern Ireland are marking 50-year milestones just now, for different reasons.

Belfast’s name is up in lights, on billboards as award-winning luvvie Kenneth Branagh celebrates the city of his birth on film.

Belfast boy: Kenneth Branagh’s film

While Derry too is looking back too, but to the saddest episode in its modern history.

To Bloody Sunday when British soldiers shot dead 23 unarmed civilians.

Love letter to Belfast

Lie back… and think of Belfast


This weekend has been about Belfast and the 50th anniversary of a much-loved institution and survivor, Europa Hotel.

Where the cream of Irish Travel, my old muckers, Big Jim Gallagher and Muriel Bolger among them, were taking in Branagh’s love letter to Belfast.

From the Europa Hotel which was extending its 50th anniversary celebrations of last year by putting on a special showing of the film.

The Europa holds a special significance for Belfastians as the-then most-bombed city in the world.

But which the bombers never did level.

A tale of two hotels

On the town: At the Europa

Today it is a shining gem in the city, alongside the Grand Central Hotel, with its distinctive seahorse symbol.

And visitors can enjoy the charms of both as we did on our Belfast Chilled tour.

When we stayed at the Grand Central and took in Van Morrison at the Europa.

This week past met present as Guinness flowed and they drank in the nostalgia of the crossroads year of 1972 in Northern Ireland.

Van’s the man: Van Morrison at the Europa

Seventy-one miles north-west in Derry the locals set out on a Civil Rights march on a sunny Sunday.

At the end of it 13 lay dead and 15 wounded, the story of which you can follow at the Museums of Free Derry.

The history of those times may be a foreign country to those of us not from the Walled City.

Derry Girls

How abite ye? The Derry Girls mural

But it is being played out in a more uplifting fashion in the glorious Derry Girls, the tale of an English boy thrust into a girls’ school.

With a muriel (sorry mural) of the Fab Five main characters a beacon of what Derry is now post-Troubles.

Near the border too of my Dear Old Mum’s beloved Donegal in the Republic, Derry is a delightful destination for tourists.

And yes Hastings as everywhere in Northern Ireland is where to stay.

Derry good: The Everglades

Yes, it’s tale of two new cities Belfast and Derry

Where, you say to stay in Derry? The Everglades Hotel.

Ducks on parade: And Hastings to the fore

How do I know? Well, a little Hastings duckie told me.


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