Belfast author Anna Burns’ win in the U.K.’s Man Booker Prize for 2018 has highlighted Northern Ireland’s rich literary heritage. Here are 10 great experiences to explore across the region’s literary landscape.
1. Seamus Heaney Homeplace
The mecca for Seamus Heaney fans is in Bellaghy, County Londonderry, where he was born, grew up and is buried. Explore two floors peppered with the literary giant’s books and personal belongings, a recreation of his attic study in Dublin, video recordings from friends, neighbours and cultural leaders, and the voice of the poet himself reading his own work.
2. CS Lewis experience
Take a walk through Belfast’s CS Lewis Square, featuring seven bronze sculptures from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or check out the city’s CS Lewis Festival (3–7 November) for all things related to the creator of The Chronicles of Narnia.
3. Armagh Public Library
Head here 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 even a first edition of Gulliver’s Travels corrected in Johnathan Swift’s own handwriting.
4. Verbal Arts Centre
Celebrating all aspects of the spoken and written word, this wide-ranging literary destination is located right on the famous Walls of Derry. Call in for a coffee and browse everything from graphic novels and illustrated books to digital works by new and emerging writers across Ireland.
5. 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. A great place for conversation, food, craft beers and a trad session.
6. Heaney Country Tour
Laurel Villa guest house in Magherafelt, County Londonderry, runs five-star rated tours of Seamus Heaney Country; the owners knew the great man personally. The Guardian called the tours ‘One of the top ten outdoor activities in Ireland’. There are regular poetry readings and a Heaney exhibition in the house.
7. Writer’s Square
Take an hour and wander through Writer’s Square in Belfast’s thriving Cathedral Quarter and read about the city’s inspirational literary past in the stones beneath your feet. Quotations from 27 celebrated local writers are carved into the pavements.
8. The Brontë Homeland
The Brontë sisters’ story starts in Northern Ireland at the village of Drumballyroney, County Down, and the school where their father, Patrick Brunty – he changed his name later – taught. It has been restored as a small museum.
9. No Alibis
Belfast and Northern Ireland’s only independent crime fiction bookshop is a great place to have a coffee and browse for your next fix. Local authors love it and if you’re lucky you might hit on a poetry reading, book launch or musical performance.
10. Cave Hill
Cave Hill, towering over Belfast, is famous for its ‘Napoleon’s Nose’, a gigantic profile of a head staring up to the sky, thought to be the inspiration for Gulliver’s Travels. With fabulous views over the city, it’s somewhere to let your imagination be at one with a literary giant.