Ireland brings us an incredible amount of things to experience: from the countryside’s picturesque landscapes to the wonders of its many monuments, and the great number of historical places to visit. That and the country’s literary tradition combined, make it a fantastic place for those who are really into literature.
Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Anne Enright… They all walked Ireland’s streets at some point, and their legacy still remains. You can see what they saw, the places that inspired them for the creation of their work, or where they took their first steps into this world. Dublin has even been granted a UNESCO City of Literature recognition. Here we have compiled a list with 10 of the best spots that you can go and see!
The Mourne Mountains
C.S. Lewis, born in Belfast, grew up watching the Mourne Mountains’ summits get covered with snow year after year; as well as their surrounding forests, and natural wonders. They inspired him to write about the fictional land of Narnia, in his 7-book series The Chronicles of Narnia. You will get transported to this magical world by wandering this national park in Northern Ireland.
Dublin Writers Museum
Located on Parnell Square, this museum brings you the opportunity to go through Ireland’s literary history. You can find illustrious Irish authors’ possessions, letters, portraits… They even have first edition copies of many remarkable works of literature.
This peculiarly-shaped mountain, located in County Sligo, was one of the many inspirations for poet and playwright W.B. Yeats. “Under Ben Bulben” was one of the last great poems he wrote before his death. Sligo’s landscape was crucial for Yeat’s inspiration, so a walk through the bay, Lough Hill, and Glencar Lake are also highly recommended.
One of the best ways to get to know Ireland’s culture is by spending some time sitting in a pub. They have also been a source of inspiration for many authors, with many of their works written there. Davy Byrnes is one of the most famous literary pubs, known to have made its appearance in James Joyce’s Ulysses, so go there, order a pint, and experience the place the author got his inspiration from.
There are a few theatres we could mention, like the Olympia or the Peacock, but the Abbey is considered the cradle of Irish drama and culture. W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory founded it with the purpose of it being Ireland’s national theatre and, since its creation in 1904, it has been a source of support for many authors.
University College Dublin and the National Library of Ireland joined forces to create a unique exhibition of Irish and international literature. With its permanent exhibition being focused on James Joyce’s life and work, it is a must-see destination in Dublin City Centre, with a spectacular 1700s baroque style building holding it.
Dublin pays tribute to Ireland’s great figures with many statues of them scattered around the city, and a good number of them belong to prominent writers. If you walk through Merrion Square, you will get the chance to meet Oscar Wilde, who is laying on a rock; and James Joyce will be waiting for you on North Earl Street, with his walking stick and a hat.
Another way to celebrate Ireland’s literature is by attending its literary festivals, like Bloomsdale. This festival includes interpretations of Joyce’s work Ulysses as a way to honor him, with readings, retracing the route that the main character – Bloom – takes in the book, and dressing up as the characters. In 2020, the festival was adapted to Covid-19, and it was celebrated online, so you can check their website to participate in 2021, even if you are not in Ireland! There are many other festivals, like the International Literature Festival, or the Dublin Book Festival.
This café is the perfect place to take a break and rest for a while. You can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, and immerse yourself in a spot that has hosted famous figures such as Samuel Beckett, Patrick Kavanagh, or James Joyce among others.
Libraries and bookshops
You can get lost between the shelves of many libraries and bookshops around Ireland, and that should be a mandatory stop for any self-respecting literature lover. We have an article dedicated entirely to the ones you can find in Dublin: 10 of Dublin’s Best Bookshops & Libraries. Of course, there are many more for you to discover!
These 10 places are just a small sample of the many literary places Ireland has to offer. Take your time, walk the streets, and you will get to discover tons more if you pay enough attention!