Derry’s guide to his father’s legacy and what makes his hometown unique
The return of walking tours to Derry after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions was a welcome sight for all in the city.
The familiar yellow jackets of the Martin McCrossan City Tours groups along the city walls gave us a sense of normalcy.
Earlier this week, MyDerry sat down with Charlene McCrossan, director of Martin McCrossan City Tours, to learn more about this family-owned business and what she says makes Derry unique to visitors.
“My father started the business 27 years ago until he passed away in 2015,” she said.
“When he passed away, he received the title of Mr. Derry because he was the first tour guide and the first business to establish itself in the city.
“So this is my family business, we are a small family business, the oldest operating travel company in town and the only 5 star walking tour company in town.”
As well as running her father’s business, Charlene is the UK’s youngest blue-badge tour guide, a proud fact that she takes with her on her walking tours.
Charlene said: “I am the youngest blue badge tour guide in the whole of the UK at 33, I make sure to tell everyone about this as I am in my mid thirties and not working. ‘won’t shoot it for much longer for everyone to hear about it. “
During our chat with Charlene, we talked about many landmarks and sites that are becoming favorites for tour guides. For Charlene, it was the city’s Guildhall.
Charlene said: “Our town hall, the Guildhall, was originally built in 1890, was destroyed by fire in the early 1900s and rebuilt in 1912. It was also renovated in 2013.
“When they were renovating the building, they found a stone, along with a time capsule of newspaper clippings and coins from the late 1800s, and it is now on display on the first floor of the Guildhall.
“It’s such a beautiful building inside and out, I often hear visitors asking which church it is? This is the Gothic Revival style of architecture commonly used in churches. .
“It is the focal point of many events that take place in the city; Halloween meetings, demonstrations, events. Everything happens here in the Guildhall or in front of the Guildhall. “
Of course, we had to discuss the hit comedy Derry Girls on Channel 4 when we spoke to Charlene and how the show has changed tourism in the city.
In collaboration with Hastings Hotels and McComb’s Coach Travel, Martin McCrossan City Tours offers groups a day trip “The Derry Girls Experience”.
Charlene said: “Derry Girls has dramatically changed tourism. Over the years many visitors have come here to view the Bogside murals, which tell a difficult story about the difficult times the city has gone through.
“But when you get to the Derry Girls mural now, especially over the last couple of years, it’s funny, it’s people standing out front shouting that I’m a Derry Girl and that’s a positive aspect of the city and the people who came from here.
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“It put the city on the map as a tourist destination, a lot of people look at it all over the world and say it looks like a fantastic city, fantastic culture, friendly people, I’m a big fan of the show I want to go.
“One of the most important aspects of the show is that it very subtly reminds you that normal life has continued for the majority of people through some rough times and that there is still a lot of humor here, not a lot. no matter what happens, we still have our humor we still have our fun. “
For Charlene, she is surrounded by promoting her hometown in her day-to-day life, recounting walking tours of the history and culture of Derry. We wanted to know what makes Derry unique and what sets the city apart.
Charlene said: “I think the most unique thing about Derry is our positioning and where we are on the island.
“We’re right between the Giant’s Causeway Coast Road and the Wild Atlantic Way, and you have a lot of people using it as a stopover, whether they’re in Belfast or on the Giant’s Causeway towards Donegal.
“When they get here they are like oh my god I should have spent a lot more time here. I had no idea it was a fantastic and prosperous city and I think the location is one of the big ones things for us.
“Obviously our beautiful walls are also, we are the only completely intact walled city in the UK and Ireland and it’s actually something a lot of people don’t find out about until they get here . “
Martin McCrossan City Tours run daily at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., departing from the top of Foyleside Shopping Center on Carlisle Road.
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