Thousands enjoy Halloween in the north-west as Derry’s celebrations return

Up to 100,000 revellers have been enjoying a spooktacular weekend as the north west’s world-famous Halloween celebrations return.

The three-day festival is the biggest event on the island of Ireland since the Covid-19 pandemic began, and this year’s theme centres around five different ‘worlds’, each representing a different spirit of the ancient Irish tradition of Samhain.

Three of the worlds are in Derry city, with one in Donegal and another in Strabane, Co Tyrone.

With the spooky celebrations cancelled last year due to lockdown, and the return of nightclubs and dancing also coming into full force from Sunday night, the buzz around the walled city has been undeniable.

Public transport provider Translink is running extra late night services for people travelling to and from Derry city on Sunday night, with more shuttle buses in operation between 5pm and 10pm across the entire weekend.

Many have travelled from all around the world, while some from Northern Ireland were visiting the city for the first time just because of its fame for this time of year.

Couple Aoife Loughran from Carrickmore, Co Tyrone, and Dominic Parker from Castlerock on the north coast said they are staying for the first time at Halloween as it’s halfway between their homes and they have heard so many great reviews about the city’s eerie events.

Usually entitled ‘Awakening the Walls’, this year Derry City and Strabane District Council changed the festival’s name to ‘Awakening the Walled City’ as the walls’ narrow paths, which are normally packed, have been closed for coronavirus precautions.

That hasn’t held back ghouls and ghosts though, because as the walled city reopens to visitors from all over, it has also reopened the pathways of the Halloween travellers from its past, with ‘ancient spirits’ flooding the streets from 5pm onwards.

St Columb’s Park has been transformed into the lair of the Phantom Queen Morrigan, an ancient master of war who was rejected at the hands of Irish folklore legend Cú Chulainn.

Meanwhile, across Guildhall Square and the Diamond, the first earl of Ulster Walter de Burgh and his ancestors are turning the confines into their very own ‘City of Bones’.

This year also marks the 35th anniversary of the city’s Halloween festivities, which began in 1986 when the council introduced a small live music stage in Guildhall Square.

Since then, the festival has expanded dramatically, with over 120,000 visitors enjoying the four-day event in 2019 pre-Covid.

There’s definitely plenty of fun for all ages throughout and even if you’re not a fan of horror or all things that go bump in the night, these celebrations are appearing to be well welcomed by everyone after the last year and a half.

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