Ireland, the land of saints and scholars!
Visitors to Ireland are drawn to the island for many reasons, and for some, it’s the rich literary heritage of its poets, writers and playwrights that is the biggest determining factor. From Northern Ireland to the South, there are so many literary aspects that you can incorporate into your literary tour of Ireland. Here are some suggestions to get you started!
“When I die Dublin will be written in my heart.” – James Joyce
Ireland’s capital city, which was declared a UNESCO City of Literature and is the home to four Nobel Prize Laureates in Literature, is a great place to begin! The city has spawned such past luminaries as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. The tradition continues to this day with modern writers, including the New York Times bestselling author Colum McCann for his novel Apeirogon, and Cecilia Aherne for her hugely popular PS, I Love You, which was made into a movie starring Hilary Swank and was filmed in County Wicklow.
Interesting sites to see when walking around Dublin
See statues of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. There are also three bridges in the city named after writers: the Samuel Beckett Bridge, the James Joyce Bridge and the Sean O’Casey Bridge.
Literary Experiences in Dublin
Pubs and literature – two things that Dublin is not short on! Put them together and you get the Literary Pub Tour. A two-and-a-half-hour crawl around the city with actors will tell you the story of the pub and the poet. Enjoy this entertaining stroll interspersed with comic recitations of pieces by Wilde, Joyce, Behan and Beckett.
Check out the Museum of Literature Ireland, MoLI. Opened to the public in 2020, this museum is a collaboration between University College Dublin and the National Library of Ireland. MoLI celebrates all of Ireland’s world-renowned literary culture and heritage through dynamic and immersive exhibitions. The museum also holds the first printed copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
The National Library of Ireland is a reference library and holds many archives and personal notes from prominent Irish writers such as James Joyce, Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats.
For the Joyceans, a trip to Sandycove on Dublin’s southside allows you to see the Martello Tower, which is featured in the first chapter of Ulysses. Now a museum dedicated to the life and works of the author, you can walk in the steps of the characters from one of the world’s best-known novels.
Of course a literary tour of Ireland would not be complete without a visit to the Trinity College Library in Dublin, one of the most famous libraries in the world. Did you know it contains about 200,000 books? Make time to see the most famous book in the college,the 9th century gospel, The Book of Kells.
Sligo – Yeats Country
“I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” –W.B. Yeats
While traveling through Sligo on the Wild Atlantic Way, you can experience the spiritual home of the poet W.B. Yeats and see the landscape that so inspired him. Born in Dublin, Yeats’ family relocated to Sligo and the county set the tone for many of his poems.
You can visit Lough Gill and see the Isle of Innisfree, which inspired his poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” Take a trip to Lissadell House, where he was a frequent visitor, and where you can now see an exhibition dedicated to him. It’s also possible to pay respects at his resting place at Drumcliffe Graveyard. Although Yeats died in France, his wish was to be buried in Sligo. On limestone quarried near his resting spot is the following inscription: “Cast a cold eye On life, on death. Horseman, pass by!”
Clive Staples Lewis, better known as C.S. Lewis, was the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, amongst many other notable works. C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898. Take the free walking trail to see where he was born, and stop at C.S. Lewis Square, which features seven Narnia-inspired sculptures.
Seamus Heaneywas one of Ireland’s most well-known, loved and respected modern-day poets. Recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, Heaney’s works and memory are celebrated in the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy, halfway between Belfast and Derry. Learn about the author’s life, literature and inspiration.
Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir is a Pulitzer Prize-winning 1996 memoir by the Irish-American author Frank McCourt, which recounts stories of the author’s childhood in Brooklyn and Limerick.
Take a walking literary tour in Limerick and see some of the locations featured in the book, including Arthur’s Quay, Windmill Street, Leamy’s School, Parnell Street and more.
The book was made into a movie in 1999 starring Robert Carlyle and Emily Watson.
The Chick-lit Legacy
We can’t forget the modern genre of chick-lit! Ireland has plenty of acclaimed female writers of all genres, so if you’re looking for something lighthearted, look up Marian Keyes, Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, authors of The Complete Aisling series, and Cecilia Aherne, author of the much loved PS, I Love You.
Visit County Wicklow, see the Sally Gap, where Holly and Gerry first meet, and take in the Blessington Lakes, where Holly and her friends take a boat trip and have to be rescued. In Dublin, enjoy a pint in Whelans Pub where Gerry sings “Galway Girl” to Holly.
We will watch this space and see if there will be a movie made about the sequel to this book, Postscript!
Written by Director of Product and Vendor Relations Liz Aungier
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