A Literary Jaunt around Ireland…

I didn’t set out to take a literary tour of Ireland but, being the country that it is, words and writers will cross your path no matter the purpose or direction of your travel. I took a wee roadtrip with friends last week, and it was a feast of a literary journey.


In county Donegal, we passed through the seaside town of Bundoran.

I recently re-read The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe, a darkly funny and haunting novel. In it, the tragic protagonist, Francie Brady, travels to Bundoran, to a guesthouse where his younger mother and father took a holiday and where he naively imagines they were once happy.

It’s a devastating but tremendous read – I highly recommend it. These guesthouses along the seafront were exactly as I imagined them in the story.

Bundoran, Co. Donegal

Travelling south to Galway, we drove through Drumcliffe in Co. Sligo and stopped by the church-grounds and graveyard where WB Yeats is buried. We stood by the grave and I did my best deep, trembling recitation of The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Yeats' Grave, Co. Sligo.

Later that day, we reached Galway which is the gateway to the Aran Islands. There’s an ATM on Inis Mór these days but, to a passing traveller, it seems little has changed since JM Synge wrote an account of his life on the The Aran Islands – with its “low stone walls and small, flat fields of naked rock.”
Thatched Cottage, Aran Islands

Onwards to my hometown of Dublin, it was great to reconnect with the old familiar places like the Saturday book market in Temple Bar Square and enjoy a beautiful brunch at the bookshop & restaurant ‘The Winding Stair’.

Saturday Book Market on Temple Bar Square

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Restaurant

We then took a literary pub crawl, following the old haunts of Joyce and Beckett, Wilde and Behan, and too many more to mention here. There was a time when I purposely avoided reading Irish the great Irish writers, favouring fresh and foreign voices and – god forbid – a woman writer or two. But in recent years my interests have returned to that rich and impressive heritage and I was invigorated to wander in the city and its history.

I was happy, too, to be back on the city campus of Trinity College where I did my Masters. I always appreciated its beauty and am proud to have studied there but I’m embarrassed to say that, in all my time there, I never made time to visit the Book of Kells or the Long Room in the Old Library. It was always something I kept meaning to get around to… and it was certainly worth the wait and the long line.

One of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. I hope to return some day and stay a little longer – both to the library and another journey home.

The Long Room, the Old Library, Trinity College.

The Long Room.


6 thoughts on “A Literary Jaunt around Ireland…

  1. What wonderful pictures! Thank you for reminding me of some of the fine sights I saw when in Ireland, and for adding the insights of a native. I have fond memories of the Buttery at Trinity College, where I took a summer course, and of Kerry, Galway, in short actually of everywhere I went and stayed. What a wonderful country. Is there still no income tax there for writers and poets?

  2. Deborah, I can’t thank you enough for this post. Perfect in every way, timing, theme, feeling, and on and on. I have two friends traveling Ireland at the moment, just got a back shot of one of them standing in a crowd outside Trinity College, ridiculously brandishing David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest over his shoulder. Sounds to me as if waiting until now to visit Book of Kells was good timing on your part. I’m writing the final chapters of my first novel, setting is Doolin and the Burren. What timing! More of this, please. Thank you.

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s