A Stroll through LimavadyReaders are advised that this little stroll took place some fifteen years ago. A few buildings have gone and Main Street in particular has changed somewhat. An update is under consideration.
We may as well begin
our little stroll at the
top of Main Street, just outside the former cattle market. This
potentially lucrative plot was once a very contentious piece of real
estate and the stage of a
drama involving the council, hard-nosed property developers, at least
one nice old lady and even national television. All has calmed down and
the former Market Yard is now one of those lingering building sites
patiently waiting for something to happen. However, we are keen to get
going so we won't hang about.
As we look down Main Street we notice Benevenagh in the distance - a calm and noble mountain. Our more immediate surroundings are dominated by what looks like a driver's free-for-all. Even though the place is coming down with double yellow lines and various other kinds of traffic symbolisms, drivers abandon their cars anywhere and anyhow they like. Those with a perverse streak of humour park so that their vehicle blocks one or even two empty legal parking spaces, which forces the next driver to triple park just beside a delivery lorry that is blocking the rest of the street. Drivers actually on the move - mainly the ones looking for an empty parking space - navigate around all these obstacles in a slalom-like manner with great speed and nonchalance. Nobody seems to mind the chaos - not even the police - and most drivers are polite and good natured, unless, of course, you complain about their parking!
The first interesting
building we pass is our
rather nice little Court House. Notice the
remarkable pagoda tower - unique in the town. The ugly little security
abode at the front left is
a recent addition with a hopefully short life span. It is my personal
opinion that its
architect also designed the Northern Bank, Brian Brown's prize winning
"who needs windows?" office block and that strange bus terminal, which
we will meet later on. There are moves
afoot to close the court house for courting and the solicitors in town
- preferring Limavady to the big place down the road - are very angry
about all this. We of course, couldn't care less and move on.
Is it a building? Is it a monument? Is it a ruin? Who can say!
It is in fact what is left of the old Alexander Memorial Hall - front elevation. This used to be the town hall but - as is quite evident - the actual hall has been removed.
Because the council
forgot to ask for the
proper planning permission the place can't be
rebuilt any time soon. In the meantime we are left with this rather
dangerous looking monument. After the shock of looking at the only
hall-less hall in town we are obviously ready for a drink.
We walk down the street and halt opposite a strange, dry fountain. It was donated to the town in 1909 and has only recently been returned to this, its original site. The structure used to grace the entrance to the Market Yard we have just left behind. When they moved it, the builders unfortunately forgot to install either running water or a drain, thereby converting a useful civic amenity into a rather peculiar ornament. This is what it says:
is placed here
in memory of
born May 15th 1838
died Oct 4th 1908
1878 --- 1888
He was a man
who loved Limavady
and always tried
to promote its interests
His kindness of heart
and honesty of purpose,
gained him the affectionate
esteem of all who knew him
As they say
around here: "If you
believe that, you believe anything!" Where else in the world would one
come across a waterless fountain close to a hall-less hall?
All this wondering and walking is very exhausting and we are seriously thirsty again. I suggest that we have another couple of quick ones in the bar of the "Alexander Arms Hotel" a few steps down the road. It is in much better working order than this honourable, but rather murky looking well.
Main Street is suddenly very busy: there must be a parade in town! Let's run for the bar before everyone else gets there. Some time later we leave the place suitably refreshed and admire the scenery.
The crowd has gone and all is back to normal, i.e.
everyone is either
driving like mad or
parking their cars all over the place.
More or less opposite the hotel we spot the house where Jane Ross once lived. 'twas she who pinched that famous melody "The Londonderry Air" i.e. "Oh Danny Boy" from a blind fiddler called Jimmy McCurry.
blue plaque reads:
1810 - 1879
who recorded the
Not a word about blind Jimmy. I
sometimes wonder who the fiddler was, Jane or poor Jimmy.
Enough of these philosophical reflections. Let us continue down Main Street. Various shops line both sides of the road. The right hand side of Main Street is changing so rapidly that we don't show a picture.
There seems to be lots of money about and the town is being regenerated at an alarming rate.
We cross to the
left in order to
take a closer look at Frank Owen's pub, another favourite - indeed
famous - drinking place in town. F O's is popular with those who like a
nice quiet pub with no noisy music, hence it is a favourite with some
of the students who populate - you've guessed it - the nearby Technical
College. The entrance to that enlightened place of learning is just a
few yards down the road.
We know the boy who is doing the paint-job and join him in for some refreshments. Some time later we stagger on.
Down the road and to the left is Christ Church.
Limavady has nearly as
churches as it has pubs, and this particular example of the genre was
built in 1743.
You will no doubt have noticed that not only are the grounds very
some fine old trees, but they also harbour Limavady's only means of
It is a somewhat sobering moment when you realise that the barrel points straight at the town!
The monument behind the artillery piece
commemorates the victims of a famine - not the
famine but an earlier one. Unfortunately the inscription can't be read
and nobody thought to copy it when it could still be read.
|We march on and pass by a strange building which, until recently, housed the post office. It is massively big and built in a style unique in Limavady. Is it possible that the architect came from Amsterdam?||Further on you can find a fine example of the school of fully rounded architecture: the bus terminal. It stands opposite some fine old Georgian houses and a rather nice old red-bricked school donated in bygone days by the Ogilby family.|
The bus terminal was built on the
site of the old railway station. In times gone by
Limavady was connected to the main Derry - Coleraine railway line via a
spur and there
was also a connection to Dungiven. The large dip in the road outside
the bus station used to be spanned by a bridge, but it was taken town
after the rails were removed.
The line reached the town along what is now the Back Burn. After the ironware had been removed, the Back Burn lingered as a dilapidated, stinking and rather muddy dump; a natural depository for old boots, broken prams and other unwanted household items.
Recently the place has been converted into a
rather nice park where people can walk
themselves and their dogs and where children play and enjoy the rainy
From here you can walk all the way
up to the Roe Valley Hospital; which, by a strange
coincidence, is exactly what we are going to do. The task is a rather
pleasant one and
our destination is hardly ten minutes away, unless we meet someone we
know, in which case
all depends on the length of the obligatory conversation and on for how
participants feel that they have to complain about the weather.
Here is the former hospital. A splendid old place. It was built 150
years ago and is
unique in all of Ireland as the best preserved example of a former
were an early solution to the problem of the urban poor. Nowadays one
would call such a
place a forced labour camp. Luckily morals changed with time and the
place was long ago converted into a rather nice and friendly cottage
|In this new century morals have changed again. Hence the last patients were moved out some years ago and the place is now serving a different purpose. We, however, have to continue our walk. A last lingering look at the park and we head towards Irish Green Street.|
You will notice instantly that
Irish Green Street is not the nicest road in the area. The
town planners must have been aware of this, because in an
uncharacteristic fit of humour
they allowed three of the largest schools in town to be built near this
very spot. Twice
daily, when parents deliver their unruly offspring or pick up what's
left of them,
thousands of cars descend from the surrounding countryside and jam into
this small spot,
competing with school buses, fleeing pedestrians, exhausted looking
teachers and cursing drivers eager to find a parking space.
Recently, whilst in an equally witty mood, the council decided to build a roundabout right in the centre of all this chaos.
Now, Limavady drivers do not appreciate roundabouts. They tend to aim for the centre and assume that no one else has a right of way or indeed any rights at all. There are some traffic signs that say: "Give Way", but most people ignore this as an unwarranted infringement of their civil liberties. The result of all this determined traffic confusion can be quite astonishing and is well worth a visit on its own!
move on, avoid all that traffic and turn
right into Connell Street.
Here you can admire the police station, the council offices, the
library and Limavady's
only bronze statue. To find out more about the surprised looking
gentleman in question, you have to study the History of Limavady.
If you haven't the time: his name was Massey, and he emigrated to New
Zealand some time ago where he became prime minister, no less.
Strangers in town can get tourist information at the council offices.
you call outside office hours, not all is lost because there is a
centre built into the front entrance.
The library is a very friendly and welcoming place and well worth a visit to while away a rainy day - i.e. about seventy five percent of the year. Some people in Limavady are very well read!
We continue our little stroll across one of the two central car parks. It isn't much to look at, like most car parks, but is in a class of its own.
observation will show you
that the only people buying parking tickets come from outside the
town. The natives just dump their cars and run. On certain days this
stops, because a large man
dressed in yellow walks around to check for parking permits. As
Limavady people are very
communicative this news spreads rapidly and hardly anybody parks their
car at that time.
Notice that even in a carpark with empty spaces there is an illegally parked lorry quite happily enjoying the splendid afternoon sun. This is quite normal behaviour and is explained here. We just walk across, nearly get knocked down by some skate boarding kids and continue our walk along a connecting passage.
|We are now at one end of Market Street - the throbbing heart of our town. A good fraction of the population will be promenading up and down the street and wondering what all the others are doing here. Surprisingly, everyone seems to know everyone else and there is nothing quite as informative as a good old fashioned high-powered Limavady yarn, which also explains the peculiar murmur you may have noticed ringing in your ears for the last few minutes.|
Over there on the left we see Robert getting the shop
ready for another
of the century, the third this year. Further on you may bump into
up the customers while John opposite is re-arranging the vegetables.
On a nice sunny day you may even have the chance to get your war paint renewed. The council provides this public service every once in a while and it is very popular with the younger people in town.
Suddenly we have to jump out of the way because three
approach us, each carrying a tray with a very large glass. One of their
customers further up
the road must have suddenly found himself without a drink and they are
responding to the
emergency in true Limavady style!
We watch in amazement, snatch one of the drinks and walk on.
We make a little detour to the
right in order to examine Newtowne Square. Years ago all this space was
occupied by the gardens of the houses in the centre of town, then it
became a rather ugly
Recently the council decided to give it the new name and put in some
benches and a few small trees.
Many new businesses have opened here but basically the place is still a
rather ugly carpark.
you, it is amazing how many new and old
businesses have opened shop here. You can eat in Lucilles, buy
something in the animal charity shop, say "Good bye Sandra" walk past
Sally's and buy a peacock
(we haven't tried this) and go into the pooch cleaning shop to get its
feathers cleaned. We haven't even mentioned singing in an annoyingly
loud voice, joining the Roe anglers, breaking various kinds of glass or
buying artistic materials.
We haven't the energy to do any of these things and decide to return to Market Street. This is easier said than done. Limavady shopkeepers know that advertising pays and hence they are very keen practicioners of the art. Unfortunately this tends to block the way for us poor pedestrians. We manage to squeeze through at the third attempt though.
corner facing the "Oven Door" coffee
shop at the end of Market Street is a
rather important site in the town. Should anybody have only the
slightest bit of serious
loafing or hanging-about to do, he or she will head for this spot like
If one has nothing much to talk about one can always engage in a spirited discussion about the meaning of the watery new monument that has been erected here. It is somehow connected with blind Jimmy and his famous tune because "from glen to glen and down the mountain side" is inscribed on the one side of the monument that can't be easily seen by pedestrians.
right and try to walk down
Catherine Street. The first thing you notice is the
over-abundance of traffic. Everywhere you look there are cars or taxis:
parked, abandoned, broken down or all of these.
A scientific study would quickly establish that anything on wheels in the town of Limavady must drive through Catherine Street at least twice a day.
We approach -
only just in time -
another one of those much loved alcoholic Limavady landmarks.
This one is called "The Thatch". Students of architecture will easily
that this name's claim to reality is more likely to be a reference to
the hairstyle of
the owner of the establishment (or lack thereof), rather than to the
condition of the
However, we are past caring. All this monumental walking has made us very thirsty and we enter this haven of rest for some much needed refreshment.
|The next building we look at is our fire station which was built in the famous late 1950's "What do you mean, imagination?" style of architecture. Limavady boasts two fire engines and before you get any silly ideas, the vehicle leaning against the computerised convenience on the right is not one of them.|
Nowadays fire alarms are raised via radio. In days gone by a loud siren used to call Limavady's finest to duty. It is a pity that this has stopped, as it was fun to see the firemen break all the few remaining traffic rules as they made their hurried way to the fire station.
The first man to get there gets a bonus, hence the rush (in case you thought they hurried because of the fire). A repeated siren would also give one a good idea as to how many attempts it took to finally extinguish the blaze!
|We tiptoe carefully along the footpath. Even though Catherine Street is the widest street in town and the footpath is suitably spacious, this is also the habitual hangout of street traders, who like to display their wares where no-one dares to walk anymore. Here you can buy flowers, fish, boots and all kind of other wares. All told there are only three traders, but they sure know how to make their presence felt.|
We continue the walk
cautiously and approach
the Northern Bank building, possibly the
worst architectural crime ever committed in Limavady. If you want to
see it, just take a
look at the Limavady News
because here our attention is instantly occupied with the Catherine Street bus stop.
This has been given a face-lift ...... and what a lift. It is without a doubt the most magnificent and elaborate bus-stop in the whole of Northern Ireland, boasting six huge twin street lamps, ten hanging flower baskets, an old fashioned looking shelter, three benches and a small garden.
Another problem with bus-stops in Limavady is that there generally is no room for the bus to stop, as the illegally parked cars take up all the available space. A solution to this problem has never been found.
To finish our
little walk we head
down Linenhall Street. As most of the traffic into the
town has to do the same thing, the environment is noisy and not very
nice to look at.
Although some of the buildings are old and well built, nobody wants to
be here because of
the traffic and the narrow footpaths.
We walk a little faster, past the former Electricity Board offices - now neglected, and the Masonic Hall - recently renovated, and find ourselves at the starting point of our walk, the nice old court house.
Just one more
look down Main
Street. Nothing much has changed except that our walk is
over. In the distance we can see a part-time teacher racing out of the
pursued by several studious looking characters. They nearly collide
with a farmer who is
double parking his wagon and bump into a policeman who was looking the
other way. All
else is quiet and as it should be.
We rest on the strange double bench outside the court house and take a well deserved breather.
Those who still feel fresh
enough and are
possessed by a restless curiosity as
well as a clear head and a good pair of legs, may want to join me on a stroll along the banks of the river Roe.
Just use the link or
click on any of the pictures below. (But be warned, the only drink you
get there is likely
to consist entirely of water.)
For those prospective visitors with an even more enquiring nature, I provide a small map of this historical tour of the town.