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County Londonderry facts for kids

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For other places with similar names, see Londonderry (disambiguation) and Derry (disambiguation).
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County Londonderry

Contae Dhoire
Coontie Lunnonderrie
Coat of arms of County Londonderry
Coat of arms
Auxilium A Domino  (Latin)
"Help comes from the Lord"
Location of County Londonderry
Province Ulster
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
County town Coleraine
 • Total 2,074 km2 (801 sq mi)
Area rank 15th
 • Rank 6th
Contae Dhoire is the Irish name; Coontie Lunnonderrie is its name in Ulster Scots.

County Londonderry, also known as County Derry (Irish: Contae Dhoire, Ulster Scots: Coontie Lunnonderrie), is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland. Adjoining the north-west shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of 2,074 km² (801 sq mi) and has a population of about 247,132. It is also one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland, as well as part of the historic province of Ulster.

Since 1981, it has become one of four counties in Northern Ireland that has a Catholic majority (55.56% according to the 2001 Census), with 57% of the Catholic population residing within Derry City Council. The county flower is the Purple Saxifrage.


The place name Derry is an anglicisation of the old Irish Daire (Modern Irish Doire), meaning "oak-grove" or "oak-wood".

As with the city, its name is subject to the Derry/Londonderry name dispute, with the form "Londonderry" generally preferred by unionists and "Derry" by nationalists. British authorities use the name "Londonderry", while "Derry" is used by the Republic of Ireland.


Cannon on Derry City Walls SMC 2007
A cannon sits atop the historic Derry Walls, which look over Derry City.
Map of County Londonderry, 1837


Mountsandel located near Coleraine in County Londonderry is "perhaps the oldest recorded settlement within Ireland".

County Coleraine and the Plantation of Ulster

At an early period, what became the county of Coleraine was inhabited by the O'Cahans, who were tributary to the O'Neills. Towards the close of the reign of Elizabeth I their territory was seized by England, with the purpose of checking the power of the O'Neills, and was made the county of Coleraine, named after the regional capital.

A short description of County Coleraine is giving in Harris's Hibernica, and also from Captain Pynnar's Survey of the Escheated Counties of Ulster, Anno 1618:

The county of Coleraine,* otherwise called O'Cahan's country, is divided, as Tyrone, by ballyboes and doth contain, as appeareth by the survey, 547 ballyboes, or 34,187 acres, every ballyboe containing 60 acres or thereabouts.

On 2 March 1613, James I granted a charter to the The Honourable The Irish Society to undertake the plantation of a new county. This county was named Londonderry, a combination of London (in reference to the Livery Companies of the Irish Society) and Derry (then name of the city). This charter declared that the "City of Londonderry" and everything contained within the new county:

shall be united, consolidated, and from hence-forth for ever be one entire County of itself, distinct and separate from all our Counties whatsoever within our Kingdom of Ireland-and from henceforth for ever be named, accounted and called, the County of Londonderry.

This new county would comprise the then County Coleraine—which consisted of the baronies of Tirkeeran, Coleraine, and Keenaght—and at the behest of The Irish Society the following additional territory was added: all but the south-west corner of the barony of Loughinsholin, then a part of County Tyrone, as it had sufficient wood for construction; the North East Liberties of Coleraine, which was part of County Antrim and the City of Londonderry and its Liberties, which were in County Donegal, so that they could control both banks of the River Foyle and River Bann.

The Irish Society was made up of the twelve main livery companies of London, which themselves were composed of various guilds. Whilst The Irish Society as a whole was given possession of the city of Londonderry and Coleraine, the individual companies were each granted an estimated 3,210 acres throughout the county. These companies and the sites of their headquarters were:

  • Clothworkers, based at Killowen and Clothworker's Hall (present-day Articlave) in the barony of Coleraine
  • Drapers, based at Draper's Hall, later called Drapers Town (present-day Moneymore) in the barony of Loughinsholin.
  • Fishmongers, based at Artikelly and Fishermonger's Hall (present-day Ballykelly) in the barony of Keenaght
  • Goldsmiths, based at Goldsmith's Hall (present-day Newbuildings) in the barony of Tirkeeran
  • Grocers, based at Grocer's Hall, alias Muff (present-day Eglinton) in the barony of Tirkeeran
  • Haberdashers, based at Habberdasher's Hall (present-day Ballycastle) in the barony of Keenaght
  • Ironmongers, based at Ironmonger's Hall (present-day townland of Agivey) in the barony of Coleraine
  • Mercers, based at Mercer's Hall (present-day townland of Movanagher) in the barony of Coleraine
  • Merchant Taylors, based at Merchant Taylor's Hall (present-day Macosquin) in the barony of Coleraine
  • Salters, based at Salter's Hall (present-day Magherafelt) and Salters Town in the barony of Loughinsholin
  • Skinners, based at Skinner's Hall (present-day Dungiven) in the barony of Keenaght
  • Vintners, based at Vintner's Hall, later called Vintner's Town (present-day Bellaghy) in the barony of Loughinsholin

19th century

As a result of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898, the city was detached from the county for administrative purposes, becoming a separate county borough from 1899. The county town of County Londonderry, and seat of the Londonderry County Council until its abolition in 1973, was therefore moved to the town of Coleraine.


Geography and places of interest

Downhill Strand, Derry - Londonderry - - 1124323
Downhill Strand.
Benone Strand
Benone Strand, Northern Ireland

The highest point in the county is the summit of Sawel Mountain (678 metres (2,224 ft)) on the border with County Tyrone. Sawel is part of the Sperrin Mountains, which dominate the southern part of the county. To the east and west, the land falls into the valleys of the Bann and Foyle rivers respectively; in the south-east, the county touches the shore of Lough Neagh, which is the largest lake in Ireland; the north of the county is distinguished by the steep cliffs, dune systems, and remarkable beaches of the Atlantic coast.

The county is home to a number of important buildings and landscapes, including the well-preserved 17th-century city walls of Derry; the National Trust–owned Plantation estate at Springhill; Mussenden Temple with its spectacular views of the Atlantic; the dikes, artificial coastlines and the noted bird sanctuaries on the eastern shore of Lough Foyle; and the visitor centre at Bellaghy Bawn, close to the childhood home of Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney. In the centre of the county are the old-growth deciduous forests at Banagher and Ness Wood, where the Burntollet River flows over the highest waterfalls in Northern Ireland.



(population of 75,000 or more with a cathedral)

(population of 18,000 or more and under 75,000 at 2001 Census)

(population of 10,000 or more and under 18,000 at 2001 Census)

(population of 4,500 or more and under 10,000 at 2001 Census)

(population of 2,250 or more and under 4,500 at 2001 Census)

(population of 1,000 or more and under 2,250 at 2001 Census)

(population of less than 1,000 at 2001 Census)

  • Articlave
  • Ballerin
  • Ballymaguigan
  • Ballyronan
  • Clady
  • Culnady
  • Desertmartin
  • Downhill
  • Drumsurn
  • Feeny
  • Glenullin
  • Gulladuff
  • Lettershendoney
  • Macosquin
  • Ringsend
  • Swatragh
  • Tobermore
  • Upperlands


Downhill Railway Runnel - - 1197950
Downhill Tunnels near Castlerock railway station.

Translink provides a Northern Ireland Railways service in the county, linking Londonderry Waterside railway station to Coleraine railway station (with a branch to Portrush on the Coleraine–Portrush railway line) and onwards into County Antrim to Belfast Central and Belfast Great Victoria Street on the Belfast-Derry railway line.

There is also the Foyle Valley Railway, a museum in Derry with some rolling stock from both the County Donegal Railway and the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway, and is located on the site of the former Londonderry Foyle Road railway station. The Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway continued as a private bus company based in the city but operating predominantly in County Donegal until it closed in 2014. Bus services are now provided by Ulsterbus.

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