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Worlds Within Wardrobes: A Literary Odyssey

Outside Jack Coffee Bar, 402 Newtownards Road, Belfast, County Antrim, BT4 1HU

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Journey to the brink of Narnia. Imagine a magical wardrobe. Commune with the spirit of Aslan. Yes, part of this experience will take place in your head.

CS Lewis was born in east Belfast in 1898. He became known and loved world-wide for his many books, especially The Chronicles of Narnia. Join professional tour guide and accomplished storyteller Lolly Spence for an introduction to parts of East Belfast associated with the Lewis family. Many of them were to exert a powerful influence on the young Clive Staples Lewis. Or ‘Jack’, as he was usually called.
The route you take with Lolly will vary according to time available and fitness levels - but it will usually include, among other stops, several of the ones we mention below.
Let’s start with the square named for the man himself. On C.S. Lewis Square Lolly will introduce you to a series of sculptures representing characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, including Aslan, the White Witch, Mr Tumnus and the Beavers. In the adjacent park you’ll also find a statue called “The Searcher”. It portrays Lewis himself entering that famous portal to Narnia. As Lolly will point out, the author is also remembered in Belfast today with murals, street names and an impressive Reading Room at Queen’s University. You enter it by passing through a wardrobe door! 

St Mark's, Dundela, is the church in which the baby Lewis was baptised in 1899 and was to attend as a boy. In his book The Screwtape Letters he wrote about the fight between the God he would have prayed to here - and the Devil.  Lolly will bring you to see the rectory next door where Lewis’s grandfather used to live. Imagine you are a small boy standing in front of its door - then look up at the doorknob: it has a lion on it - you can almost feel the magic.  

Also nearby is the site of Dundela Villas, the house where CS Lewis and his older brother, Warren Hamilton Lewis, were born.  Today a blue plaque marks where this first family home once stood. It wasn’t too far away from Little Lea, today in private ownership, where the family moved in the early 1900s. Here the young Lewis's imagination was fired by the house’s many rooms, views of the distant mountains and day-to-day life amongst the residents of Belmont and Strandtown, an area he always loved.

For one term, he attended Campbell College, a private school in East Belfast.  One of the first things you see in its grounds is a lamppost. The same one, perhaps, that young Lucy sees when she enters Narnia?

At the end of your tour, you might stop in at The Lamppost Cafe, near CS Lewis Square. It's a family-run cafe, designed to give you a flavour of Narnia.   Lewis once wrote, "Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably”. He also lamented that “you can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to please me”!   In the Lamppost Cafe, you can do both, while admiring the Narnian-themed artwork, the winter-wonderland decor and the CS Lewis touches all around.

Lolly may have time to mention the many features of the landscape outside the city that made their presence felt in Lewis’s writings. The impressive ruins of Dunluce Castle, for instance. The ancient stone megaliths which dot the countryside. Or the distant Mourne Mountains which may have inspired Narnia. As Lewis once wrote in a letter to his brother, 'I have seen landscapes, notably in the Mourne Mountains…which under a particular light made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge’.

Allow Lolly to conjure up that ‘particular light’ on this tour and who knows what you might see.

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Worlds Within Wardrobes: A Literary Odyssey

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