We had decided to visit the 2013 City of Culture - Londonderry/Derry and decided to make our first stop the Siege Heroes Museum. This is right in the centre of the city and just beside the famous city walls. It is on a rampart overlooking the Bogside area of Derry. We easily found it - a lovely building, Neo-Gothic with a Scottish baronial facade. It was built in 1873 and is dedicated to the history and heritage of the Siege of Derry which happened in 1688-1689.
The museum is open weekdays between 10 am and 4.30 pm. We paid £2 each to go inside, and this included a souvenir booklet which was actually worth the £2 fee itself. The booklet had lots of historical information about the Siege and contained a really useful map of the city walls and all the points of interest. We used it later in the day during our walk of the walls and found it invaluable.
We had the museum virtually to ourselves - a school group were just leaving as we arrived, but apart from them, no-one else was there during our visit.
The Museum belongs to the Apprentice Boys of Derry - an organisation which commemorates the anniversaries of the shutting of the Derry Gates and the Relief of Londonderry every year. As well as the museum, they have their meeting rooms here and you can explore the whole building and see inside these meeting rooms.
We started off, as they recommended, on the first floor. Start with the little video/ film. It runs on a continuous loop every 16 minutes. We were lucky enough to arrive just as it started and it gives you information on the Siege and the situation in the city beforehand. It is full of historical information, very interesting and well laid out and a great way to get your bearings in the museum and the city. Even our 9 year old enjoyed watching it - he is not normally such a big fan of history.
They have 2 rooms upstairs filled with interesting artefacts and displays about the Siege. We saw a big statue of Lundy - they call him the "traitor" who wanted to open the city gates and surrender to the army of King James. The Walker Memorial model is also worth seeing. There are glass cabinets stuffed full of all sorts of bits and pieces, a Lambeg drum and much more. There is also a lot of material to read and get through, so whilst we found it fascinating, our son was keen to hurry us along. It is probably a little dry for children under 12.
They also give an overview of the Apprentice Boys organisation and how they were founded to commemorate the original apprentice boys who slammed the city gates shut when the army of King James was demanding entry to Londonderry. There are some interesting films and videos about the organisation nowadays, and their commemorations of the Relief of the city and the closing of the city gates. I found all of this extremely interesting and different.
Downstairs on the ground floor are a series of meeting rooms for different Loyal Orders. We wandered around and had a look in each of these. There are pictures on the walls and plenty of things to look at, I thought it was a shame they didn't provide some sort of little audio guide or at the very least a little leaflet to explain what the items in the meeting rooms were and their significance. We were not always too sure what we were looking at, a guide of some description would have been helpful and informative.
We spent about an hour in the museum, enjoyed our time there and would recommend it. It is a great place to start a visit to Londonderry - the Siege is such a big historical event, by coming here first, you get to learn more about it. The museum is also then extremely well placed to start a walk around the fantastic city walls.