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.
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.
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.”
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’.
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.