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The ultimate Halloween experience


The ultimate Halloween experience is in Derry/Londonderry!

If you like the night of the dead, darkness, spiders and wearing extraordinary costumes and make up, then say good bye to trick or treating on the 31st of October and feel the adrenaline of fear at the Halloween Festival in Derry. Named by USA today as the best Halloween destination in the world in 2015.

I was invited by Visit Derry to be part of this year #Screamteam. A group of 8 people from different DMC and event agencies, challenged to life this adventure.

Our trip started the day before Halloween, half way to Derry from Belfast, at The Jungle NI. Northern Ireland’s leading outdoor adventure activity center. There was no better way to kick start this terrifying expedition than assisting in The Jungle’s award winning “Fright Night”, where the creepiest creatures were waiting for us.

We had a hair-raising evening of activities such as The Circus, a labyrinth full flashing lights and scary clowns trying to get us lost. Brave enough, we also accomplished the Inbred Horror House and The Hellish Hay Cart.

To catch our breath and calm our nerves before making our way to Derry, we head to The Burger Bar and Cafe for a cheese burger and fries.

After a 45 minutes’ drive we arrived at our hotel, the City Hotel Derry, for a good night sleep before the big day. We stayed in “The Collection”, their luxury suites on the 7th floor, where our costumes for the Ball next day were waiting for us.

The awaited day had arrived, it was already Halloween and it promised to be LegenDerry!

We started our day having a breakfast demo at Brown’s in Town Restaurant, with it award-winning chef Ian Orr cooking in front of us while explaining the production and preparation of their local source products.

Believe it or not, I ate marinated lamb and potato pancakes for breakfast which was delicious, tender and perfectly cooked. We also tasted an English breakfast with sausages that were out of this world.

We needed to burn those calories, so we went for a short walking tour of the city, led by Martin, an enthusiastic guide who briefly gave us the history of the 17th Century Walled City and its Halloween tradition. The first Halloween event, organized by Derry’s council, was in 1986. Since then this tradition has being growing, attracting every year thousands of people from all over the world.

The tour was followed by a site inspection of different hotels in town, to learn about their spaces for meetings, private dining experiences and gala dinners as well as their rooms.

A kind vampire gave us a show around at the Bishop´s Gate Hotel, a Grade B-1 listed building that was a former gentlemen’s club and retains the original building’s charming character, that you can feel enjoying an afternoon tea in their old library.

We also visited the Shipquay the newest five-star hotel boutique in town. This property was once an old bank and it has now 21 rooms overlooking the Old City Walls and Derry’s famous Guildhall plus a delightful restaurant with a private dining room for up to 10 people.

Located within a 3 minutes’ drive from the city centre, the Hastings Everglades Hotel opened its doors  to show us their new ballroom with space for up to 990 guests. Outstanding levels of service and luxury amenities are guaranteed in this well-established venue.

We  also explored the possibilities of venues such as St Columb’s Hall, where a chorus greeted us by demonstrating the acoustics of the time-honored theatre with a song. This original temperance hall is perfect for gala dinners up to 350 people. The best of all was waiting for us at Londonderry’s biggest event venue, the Millennium Forum. There we learned the steps of “Thriller” in a fantastic dance masterclass in the auditorium.

It was time to refuel, so we went to the Walled City Brewery for a tasting of their locally brewed craft beers. This quirky pub has been recently named as the best Gastropub in Ireland and was transformed into a witch coven for this celebration.

After the exquisite lunch, make-up artists transformed us into our alter-egos for the night!

Back at our hotel, we put our costumes on, so we were ready to watch the “Out of This World carnival parade” and fireworks display from its marvellous decorated private dining room.

We had well-prepared food and drinks followed by the Halloween Ball – hosting lots of weird and wonderful characters such a Star Trek live band, which helped us to show off playing Thriller!

This trip wouldn’t be the same without the LegenDerry girls of the #Screamteam. A special thank you to our great host Aoife, for making this a Halloween to remember.

Author and the lucky participant: Laura Roca

Projects Team @ C-WISE