Beyond the malls

 

A casual visitor to Derry - one of the cities that has snuck into this series on towns - might get the impression that all roads lead to its large shopping malls, the Foyleside and Richmond centres. But Christmas gift shoppers who venture outside these sheltered mega-stores will be well rewarded. The purpose-built Craft Village, tucked in off Shipquay Street, may seem a bit lifeless as its units are not all occupied but it should be top of the list of shopping stops.

The Craft Centre and its sister shop, Saavo, sell tasteful, well-designed and keenly priced crafts and art products, many of which are made locally. In the front window of the Craft Centre lie two huge, kiln-formed glass platters which are crying out to be adorned with smoked salmon and other Christmas party nibbles.

These dishes, by Joan Cavanagh and Fearghal Bonner from Burt in Co Donegal, are made from two layers of glass with copper designs sandwiched along the borders. A rectangular platter with a fish border pattern costs £75 and a larger round dish with fish skeleton design is £125.

There are also smaller versions of these fun plates for around £50 and chunky, square paper weights made of six glass layers decorated with copper wigwams, stars and bulls heads for £20.

Watch out too in the craft centre, which is owned by Paula McNelis, for the fine selection of exotically shaped perfume bottles and delicate glass flowers with long, curved stems in subtle shades by Randolph Repass, a Californian-born member of the Hare Krishna community in Co Fermanagh.

There's also a range of sculptural wall decorations including large blue and black ceramic masks by Roger Harley from Westport, Co Mayo, which are durable enough to hang on a patio. They're £38 each.

For stocking fillers, elegant two-tone candles in a variety of colours made by Sheila McClements from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, burn for 14 hours and cost £4.50 for a set of two.

The Donegal Shop on Shipquay Street caters for more traditional tastes. In addition to a wide range of pottery there are tweed and woollen caps for men and women for between £13 and £30 and traditional woollen sweaters from £40 to £80. Attractive Celtic jewellery ranges in price from £6 to £80 and exquisite hand-painted silk and velvet scarves by Lucy Simpson cost between £75 and £85.

Knitwear designer Edel MacBride, who has won prizes at the Late Late Show Fashion Awards, recently opened a shop at Castlegate. In addition to funky hand-knitted dresses and richly coloured coats which cost between £160 and around £300, there is a range of machine-knitted sweaters in MacBride's designs for around £60.

Gracious Interiors on The Diamond is a wonderfully cluttered shop with lots of well-priced gifts, including a selection of unusual mirrors and clocks.

Mosaic-framed mirrors by Marian Sheils from Letterkenny, Co Donegal, cost about £165 while smaller, tile-framed mirrors by Cathy Taylor from Derry are between £15 and £55. Timber, slate, tin and oxydised copper are the main materials for a selection of Welsh-made clocks which cost between £30 and £40.

Large elegant bottles of oils and vinegars infused with herbs and chillies would be a great present for any serious cook. They're made by a Wicklow-based company, Twine Inc, and cost under £30.

The What Not antique shop on Bishop Street is even more cluttered and could distract the undisciplined Christmas shopper for hours. It has an eclectic selection of gold and silver jewellery, pipes, whiskey flasks, pocket watches, chandeliers, teapots, decanters and furniture.

Gold and silver cuff-links cost between £55 and £125: an elegant gold toothpick and chain in a slim holder is £185 and an ebony and sliver two-piece pocket baton in its original box, £145.

The basement McGilloway Gallery, also on Shipquay Street, has a wide selection of traditional oil and watercolour paintings, mostly landscapes, priced from about £150 to around £600.

Parking: Despite the amount of multi-storey parking in the city's shopping malls, finding a parking space can be a problem, particularly at the weekends.

Lunchstop: For a quick bite, try The Sandwich Co on The Diamond. A cheerfully painted cafe with large windows, it is a prime spot for people-watching. Rhubarb and Custard on Waterloo Place is a small, largely vegetarian cafe which does great bakes and melts and homemade pastries. Prices range from about £1.65 for a soup and roll to about £3 for a vegetable pasta bake with side salad.

Hinterland highlight: Try Edel MacBride Knitwear at Convoy Woollen Mills in Co Donegal, about a 30-minute drive from Derry. At this factory outlet, which stocks current designs as well as styles from last season, you can see knitters working at small hand looms. You can also place special orders and meet MacBride herself.