The walled city of Derry is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and boasts a long, fascinating history. It is also ideally located for a visit to Giant’s Causeway or a scenic trip along the Wild Atlantic Way. Visitors to Derry will need to apply for the new UK ETA. Read on to find out all you need to know before you start your trip.
The History of the Walled City
Derry is the only city on the island of Ireland to be fully surrounded by walls. These well-preserved 17th-century walls have never been breached and have withstood several sieges during the city’s long and often troubled history. The most notable of these was the 105-day Siege of Derry in 1689, part of the Williamite War that pitted the former Catholic monarch against his Protestant successor. Lined with 22 cannons, the walls today are fully accessible to walkers. The walk is approximately one mile long.
The Derry Walls
The Derry Walls were built as part of the Plantation of Ulster, which saw Protestant settlers from Britain move to Northern Ireland, a fiercely Catholic region at the time. This resulted in the construction of St Columb’s Cathedral.
St Columb’s Cathedral
St Columb’s Cathedral is the first non-Catholic cathedral in Western Europe and the first purpose-built Protestant cathedral worldwide. The legacy of this historical event is still felt today, as it led to conflict between those loyal to the British crown, largely Protestant, and those who favoured full Irish independence, mostly Catholic.
Derry During the Troubles
Much of Derry’s history has been marked by conflict. Today it is a thriving, modern city, but its past is complicated. Even the name of the city has problems. Officially, since 1613 it has been known as Londonderry. The original name, Derry, is in common use, and many road signs have been vandalised to remove the ‘London’ prefix. Londonderry is the name favoured by unionists, while Derry is more popular with nationalists. As the city has a large Catholic majority, the name Derry is more popular today.
During the second half of the 20th century, it was the site of some of the most brutal events of the Troubles, the long struggle between Northern Ireland’s unionist and nationalist groups. Many attribute the start of the Troubles to Derry’s Battle of the Bogside, a 3-day riot in 1969 that led to British troops being deployed in Northern Ireland. Traces of the sectarian conflict remain in the city’s political murals, its many museums, and its memorials dedicated to those who lost their lives.
Bloody Sunday Monument
Early in the Troubles, Bloody Sunday took place in Derry. The 30th of January 1972 saw 13 civilian deaths, several of them under 18, when British soldiers opened fire on nationalist protesters. The memorial to the victims is a simple stone monument where flowers are frequently laid. Today, walking tours explain the history of the Troubles.
The pedestrian Peace Bridge connects the two sides of the city. It was built in 2011 in an attempt to improve relations between the unionists and nationalists. Its striking modern silhouette has become one of the city’s most distinctive sights. The bridge is curved in an S-shape, which is said to symbolise the fact that the path to peace is never straightforward.
St Mary’s Catholic Church
Derry’s most celebrated writer was undoubtedly poet Seamus Heaney. Born in 1939, he grew up in County Derry. Although he spent much of his adult life in Dublin and the United States, the poet maintained strong links with his homeland and is buried in the humble St Mary’s Church in Bellaghy, a village close to the city.
Seamus Heaney HomePlace
A few hundred yards away is Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a museum dedicated to his life and works. Many of Heaney’s works were directly inspired by his youth in Northern Ireland. Some draw on the local nature and rural traditions, while his later poems often took a political turn. Some of his most famous pieces are reflections on the Troubles. In 1995, Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and his death in 2013 saw tributes from writers, artists and politicians from around the world.
The UK ETA for Derry
As Derry is part of Northern Ireland, it falls under the new British travel programme, the ETA. This incoming system is part of an ongoing effort to digitalise the borders, ensuring that the government is able to control and track entries to the country.
At present, travellers from many countries do not require a visa to enter the United Kingdom. However, when the new system is put in place, they will need to complete the ETA form before they can enter. A list of these countries is available.
The ETA will be required for travellers who are planning to stay for a period of fewer than six months and will not be working while in the UK. Those who wish to work or plan to stay for a longer period will need to apply for a visa through a separate process.
Requirements for the UK ETA for Derry
Travellers to the United Kingdom will need to comply with the ETA requirements. The online form is expected to be a straightforward process and will contain questions about both a traveller’s personal situation — including address, date of birth, criminal or immigration history and more — and their travel plans.
The ETA is expected to take up to 72 hours to process. Travellers who want to enter the UK will need to have approval before they begin their trip. This means it is essential to begin the process in advance. If an ETA is denied, travellers may have the chance to apply for a visa instead.
Completing the ETA form
The ETA application must be completed online. There are no alternatives available, as this is a fully digitised process. Travellers will need a valid biometric passport. Depending on their country of origin, this may need to have three or six months of validity beyond their entry date into the UK.
In addition, travellers should be prepared with information about their journey. They should have the address at which they will stay while in the United Kingdom, whether a hotel, friend’s home or private accommodation. If they plan to move from one city to another, they may need to provide all the addresses at which they intend to stay. There will be questions about the purpose of the visit and about the applicant’s past.
A processing fee will be attached to the ETA. This must be paid before the application can be processed.
The ETA when travelling in the UK and Ireland
The UK ETA for Derry is a requirement for travellers who want to enter the United Kingdom. Many visitors to the island of Ireland plan to cross the border as part of their trip. Ireland is a geographically small island, so combining a holiday to Dublin or Galway with a visit to Derry and Giant’s Causeway is common.
While Irish citizens will not need an ETA to enter the United Kingdom, citizens of other countries will. If you are not an Irish citizen and you are planning to cross the border, regardless of whether you are travelling by plane, car or train, you should complete the ETA.
The UK ETA for Derry will allow visitors to travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain without any extra steps. A traveller can enter Derry and then fly to London or Edinburgh after completing the ETA process, as all these locations are within the United Kingdom.
More information about the ETA can be found in a series of frequently asked questions here.
Travelling to Derry with a UK ETA
Derry is a vibrant city that appeals to those who have an interest in history, as well as visitors wanting to explore the wonders of Northern Ireland’s natural scenery. Complete the UK ETA form several days in advance for peace of mind. Then you can look forward to hassle-free entry when visiting this fascinating, unique destination.