The home of towering figures in world of literature, the island of Ireland is a place of pilgrimage for lovers of language.
With four Nobel laureates (Shaw, Yeats, Beckett and Heaney) and many other world-renowned literary figures including Joyce, Wilde, Swift, Kavanagh, O’Casey, Enright, O’Brien and O’Connor, Ireland boasts one of the world’s greatest literary heritages.
Across the island their legacy can be enjoyed not only in bookshops and great libraries, but also in festivals, museums, theatres, visual arts and even pub crawls.
Dublin is the place to start. It’s a UNESCO World City of Literature with a thriving cultural scene a host of literary attractions and a dozen literary-themed festivals every year.
On a stroll around the city visitors will encounter statues to Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh, George Bernard Shaw and James Joyce.
The Dublin Writers Museum presents the opportunity to delve further into their lives and genius with exhibits of their books, letters, portraits and personal items as well as lunchtime theatre and readings.
Aficionados of Joyce should visit the James Joyce Cultural Centre and make a date in their diary for 16 June, when Bloomsday bursts upon the city in a celebration of the novelist’s life and work.
For a light-hearted literary experience sign up for Dublin’s famous literary pub crawl led by two actors who perform scenes from the works of some of Ireland’s greatest playwrights.
The Chester Beatty Library is another definite must-see. It has been described as “the finest collection of manuscripts and books made by a private collector in the twentieth century.”
Many other places on the island also celebrate their literary heroes.
Northern Ireland honours one of the world’s favourite poets, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, in the recently opened Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, County Londonderry.
The HomePlace takes visitors on a journey through the poet’s life, his experiences and the people who inspired his writing, and features audio recordings of Heaney reading his work.
Literary fans couldn’t forget that County Sligo is Yeats country. The acclaimed poet spent much of his childhood there and is buried, as he famously wrote, “Under bare Ben Bulben’s head” in Drumcliff churchyard.
As well as visiting the graveyard and the many places that inspired him, Yeats’ fans can enjoy the Yeats International Summer School every August.