Study Room at Armagh Public Library, one of the oldest libraries in Ireland.
Lose yourself in the magic of a literary world by exploring the many places in Northern Ireland associated with great authors and great writing. Here are 10 of the best…
1. Seamus Heaney HomePlace
Do some ‘Digging’ at the new mecca for celebrating the life and work of home-grown literary giant Seamus Heaney at his Homeplace. It’s in Bellaghy, where the poet was born, grew up and is buried. There are two floors peppered with Heaney’s books and personal belongings. There’s also a recreation of the poet’s attic study in Dublin, as well as dozens of family photographs, video recordings from friends, neighbours and cultural leaders, and the voice of the poet himself reading his own words.
2. C.S. Lewis Experience
“Heaven is Oxford lifted and placed in the middle of County Down” said C.S. Lewis, and you can experience the places of his muse with a walk in the beautiful Mourne Mountains, his childhood holiday destination and huge inspiration for Narnia. Follow in his east Belfast footsteps on the C.S. Lewis Experience with an Authentic Ulster tour, or in November try the C.S. Lewis Festival.
3. Armagh Public Library
Head to the Armagh Public Library to feel the wonder of the oldest library in Ireland. Don protective gloves and delve into the pages of Irish history, culture and a treasure trove of rarities. There are valuable first editions to explore, illuminated manuscripts and incunabula – early books printed before 1501. There's even a first edition of the classic Gulliver's Travels corrected in Jonathan Swift's own handwriting.
4. The John Hewitt
Literary gastropubs don’t get better than the John Hewitt in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, where you can mingle in the literary vibe with local writers, musicians, journalists, students and artists. It’s named after the late poet, socialist and Freeman of Belfast who was a mentor to Seamus Heaney and other top Northern Irish writers. A great place for conversation, food, craft beers and live music.
5. No Alibis
In a world that’s slowly losing its good bookshops, Belfast’s friendly No Alibis offers the antidote. Built around a community of people who love books, this is a great place to have a coffee and browse for your next fix. Local authors love it; novelist Glenn Patterson is a fan. If you’re lucky you might hit on a poetry reading or musical performance.
6. Heaney County Tour
The four-star Laurel Villa guest house in Magherafelt runs five-star rated tours of Seamus Heaney Country and the owners knew the great man personally. These literary tours are esteemed for their authentic, first-hand and professional uncovering of Heaney’s world. The Guardian called them ‘One of the top ten outdoor activities in Ireland’. There’s also regular poetry readings and a Heaney exhibition in the house.
7. Writer's Square
Take an hour and wander through Belfast’s Writer’s Square in the historic Cathedral Quarter and read the city’s inspirational literary past in the stones beneath your feet. Quotations from 27 celebrated local writers are carved into the pavements. The words of Louis MacNeice, C.S. Lewis, Sam Hanna Bell and more will soon have you reaching for your pen or laptop.
8. Verbal Arts Centre
This wide-ranging literary destination is located in a beautifully refurbished listed building right on the famous Walls of Derry. The centre celebrates and encourages all aspects of the spoken and written word. Call in for a coffee and a snack and browse everything from graphic novels, illustrated books and digital works by new and emerging writers across Ireland.
9. The Bronte Homeland
"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day." So begins Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. However, the Brontë sisters own story starts in Northern Ireland, and there is every possibility of enjoying a tour of the Brontë Homeland. It starts at the village of Drumballyroney, County Down, and the school where the sisters’ father, Patrick Brunty – he changed his name later – taught. It has been restored as a small museum.
10. Cave Hill
Cave Hill, towering over Belfast, is distinguished by its famous 'Napoleon's Nose’. Its silhouette resembles a gigantic profile staring upwards to the sky. It’s thought to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Swift lived in nearby Carrickfergus and visited Belfast frequently. With fabulous views, Cave Hill is an enchanting place for a walk, and somewhere to let your literary imagination be at one with a giant.