From Seamus Heaney and Samuel Beckett to CS Lewis, Northern Ireland has been home to giants of the literary world who have drawn inspiration from the lands of their childhood to conjure up magical fantasy lands and poems that paint pictures on the page.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of World Book Day (3 March) and to celebrate Discover Northern Ireland has compiled a list of activities and attractions that feature the works of some of our greatest writers for the whole family can take advantage of it.
Northern Ireland’s cultural heritage and its stunning mix of rugged coastal areas, calm country lakes and soaring mountains have fueled the imagination of generations of esteemed writers.
Now you can write your own chapter of memories as you visit the lands that inspired some of the greatest literary figures the world has ever known. With most places just two hours from Dublin, you’ll be delighted to embrace Northern Ireland’s rich cultural history.
Seamus Heaney’s house
Seamus Heaney, nicknamed “Famous Seamus”, is widely regarded as one of the leading poets of the 20th century. Critically acclaimed, he is also highly regarded by the general public and has won an astonishing list of accolades and awards throughout his career, crowned by the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature.
He received the Nobel Prize “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt daily miracles and the living past”.
Today many of the places that inspired his work are celebrated at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, Derry, a special place where you can visit and expect to be guided on an inspiring journey through his life.
Situated between Heaney’s two childhood homes at Mossbawn and The Wood, and only a few hundred yards from St Mary’s Church, Bellaghy, HomePlace is a place where you can feel the warmth of Heaney’s relationship with the people and the local landscapes, and where you can immerse yourself in the literature of the Nobel Prize winner.
Seamus Heaney’s distinctive voice guides you through the exhibit as you learn about the people and places that inspired him and his words. Additionally, atmospheric video projections and touch-screen books, as well as personal items and a collection of manuscripts and original editions are among the exhibits.
The owners of the Laurel Villa (4*) guesthouse in Magherafelt are big Heaney fans and well worth a visit when you’re in the area. Not only is it a great place to rest after a day of exploring, but the five-star Seamus Heaney Country tours they offer are also not to be missed. These literary tours are well known for providing first-hand knowledge of Heaney’s world and there are also regular poetry readings and a Heaney exhibition, so you don’t have to go far to find out all you have need.
Belfast for book lovers
Overlooking Belfast, Cave Hill in County Antrim is notable for its famous ‘Napoleon’s nose’ and according to some the silhouette of the hill resembles a gigantic profile looking up to the sky and many say it was the one of the inspirations of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. .
Swift was a fan of Belfast, visiting frequently, and so Cave Hill is one of the most popular places to capture those all-encompassing views of the city. It is also ideal for walkers, hikers and cyclists who wish to explore the area and admire the magnificent sunrise or sunset.
Down the hill and into the city of Belfast, you won’t have to look far for cold refreshment and a great place to grab a tasty bite. Literary gastropubs don’t beat the John Hewitt in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter where you can mingle with local pub-goers, writers, musicians and more, before wandering the wonderful cobbled streets of the city and of course, Writer’s Square.
Inspiration for CS Lewis and Narnia
Rediscover The Chronicles of Narnia as you stroll through captivating CS Lewis Square, a public space commemorating Belfast-born author CS Lewis. Featuring seven bronze sculptures from “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, including Aslan, The White Witch, Mr. Tumnus, The Beavers, The Robin and The Stone Table, this is a superb art exhibition public.
CS Lewis Square is located at the intersection of the Connswater and Comber Greenways, next to the EastSide Visitor Center, where visitors can access information about the city’s attractions from interactive screens , interpretive panels and a wall map, connecting people to EastSide’s famous faces, places and locations. Industries.
The center also includes a cafe bar, named after the famous East Belfast author, CS Lewis, affectionately known as ‘Jack’ by friends and family. JACK Coffee Bar offers local produce and showcases products from local artists and food producers, what’s not to enjoy?
If you’re feeling energetic and ready for more adventure, head to the fascinating Morne Mountains in County Down, where Lewis spent much of his childhood holidays and was obviously a huge source of inspiration. inspiration for his spellbinding world of Narnia. When you are there, you can also participate in the Narnia Trail with Walk NI. This family loop trail takes you through the lovely forest of Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor where you can walk in the footsteps of CS Lewis and feel part of the creation of the magical world of Narnia.
Get to know Jonathan Swift and Samuel Beckett
At Armagh Robinson Library in County Armagh you can step back in time and feel the wonder of the oldest library on the island of Ireland. Put on your protective gloves and delve into the pages of literary history, culture and a treasure trove of rarities.
With a number of incredible first editions to explore, including illuminated manuscripts and first books printed before 1501, there’s even a first edition of the classic Gulliver’s Travels corrected in Jonathan Swift’s own handwriting.
While you’re in the area, discover the historic city center as you wander the beautiful streets and stroll along the tree-lined Georgian Mall in the heart of town. Soak up the ambience and admire impressive architecture before exploring the grand Museum of County Armagh.
A short distance from Armagh you will find Gosford Forest Park in Markethill. Gosford Castle was a place that Jonathan Swift regularly frequented as a guest of the Acheson family.
You can take walks in the beautiful forest park and sit in the “Dean Swifts chair” and maybe be inspired to write your own classic.
Chat with the Verbal Arts Center in Derry
Samuel Beckett and others continue to inspire writers in Northern Ireland and the Verbal Arts Center in Derry is at the heart of preserving and encouraging all aspects of speech and writing. The Verbal Arts Center is dedicated to literature and language arts and offers a dynamic program of events, workshops and education and training programs encouraging everyone to read, write and tell their stories.
The center publishes graphic novels and illustrated books by some of the most anticipated new and emerging writers, so why not take some time out and call in for a coffee and a snack and a walk?
There are many more past, present and future literary legends to discover across Northern Ireland, each with unique stories to tell.
For more information and to help you build your perfect literary inspiration itinerary, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com.