Ireland has so much more than just rolling green hills and pints of porter. Do you want a peek inside the heart of Irish poetry, art and literature? Here are the 10 best experiences for culturally curious travellers who want to further their understanding and appreciation for the rich cultural legacy of our small island.
Yeats Exhibit at the National Library
William Butler Yeats needs no introduction, one of the most widely recognised and internationally beloved poets, Yeats was a hugely influential figure. The ‘Yeats: The Life and Work of William Butler Yeats” exhibition is an award wining multimedia experience in the National Library that is a must see for fans of his work.
Joyce Tower at the Forty Foot
“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” As you may be familiar, this is opening of Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses. According to the Guardian it’s the greatest opening line of fiction. The stairhead of which Mulligan descended is still standing, it’s in the Martello tower in Sandycover, now named the James Joyce Tower. Joyce stayed there while writing Ulysses. Inside is an exhibit with some of Joyce’s belongings and ephemera associated with Ulysses, the living space is laid out to resemble it’s 1904 appearance. The tower is open 365 days a year and free to the public.
The Museum of Literature Ireland
The newest addition to the list, the Museum of Literature Ireland (or MoLI) opened on September 20th, Culture Night 2019. In the historic setting of UCD Newman House, the original UCD campus is where many of Irelands most historic writers studied such as Joyce, Flann O’Brien, Maeve Binchy and Mary Lavin. MoLI was named in honour of Molly Bloom, Joyce’s most well-known female character. Inside it features dynamic interactive exhibitions which bring the Ireland’s history of storytelling to life, from the early storytelling traditions to our modern contemporary writers. Moli will also be hosting regular events, readings, performances, debates and discussions, and have an in-house Radio Station broadcasting 24 hours a day.
The Museum at Coole Park (Copper Beech Tree)
Coole Park was the home of Lady Gregory of Coole, a passionate writer and literary enthusiast. In 1898 she invited her close friend William Butler Yeats to carve his initials on a Copper Beech tree in her walled garden. Over the following years many more famous writers would come to Coole Park as guests of Lady Gregory, and they each would carve their names on the copper beech tree, Sean O’Casey, George Bernard Shaw, Jack B Yeats, John Millington Synge, John Masefield and Augustus John all have their own markings. Coole Park is open to the public, and now a nature and wildlife reserve, hardly surprising since it’s been a source of inspiration for many of the writer who stayed there.
Seanchaí – Kerry Literary & Cultural Centre
Seanchaí is the Kerry Literary and Cultural Centre. Situated in a 19th century Georgian residence adjacent to Listowel Castle in Listowel Square, Seanchaí animates the lives of the most celebrated North Kerry writers with it’s unique audio-visual exhibit, such as John B. Keane, Bryan MacMahon, Brendan Kennelly, George Fitzmaurice and Maurice Walsh.
The interactive exhibit takes you on a journey through the history and scenery of North Kerry. You’ll learn about the places, people, traditions and customs unique to Kerry, that have influenced the great works that have come out of the area. Listowel is the tabernacle of Irish literature, and John B. Keane was its high priest. His son Billy carries the flaming torch, and will entertain you with tales in the family pub, both tall and short!
The Letterfrack Poetry Trail
Connemara has long been a boundless source of inspiration for Irish literature, and to commemorate Connemara Environmental Education and Cultural Centre commissioned nine poems by some of Ireland’s most eminent poets, Paula Mehan, Theo Dorgan, Louis dePaor, Mary O’Malley, Joan McBreen, Eva Bourke, Rita Ann Higgins, Michael Gorman and Moya Cannon who have written poems exploring the importance of place in all our lives. The poems are presented on specially commissioned plaques which you will find dotted around the Connemara National Park, Connemara West Centre and the village of Letterfrack.
Galway Poetry Trail
The Galway Poetry Trail is a collection of over 20 commemorative plaques scattered around the city of Galway containing the works of well known Irish and International poets.
Pieces of creative writing about Galway are celebrated by being cast in bronze or engraved in stone and situated in an environment that reflects their content. For example James Joyce’s poem “She weeps over Rahoon” is placed on the wall of Rahoon Graveyard, Gerald Dawe’s poem “The Tribune” is on the facade of the Connacht Tribune offices and so on. This collection is on going, new plaques are added every year, most of the time the poems have a connection with Galway. The Galway Poetry Trail and includes plaques with pieces by James Joyce, Mairtín Ó’Direáin, Seamus Heaney, Pádraic Ó’Conaire, Walter Macken, Louis MacNeice, Kevin Faller, Moya Cannon, Patricia Burke Brogan, W.B.Yeats, Gerald Dawe, Rita Ann Higgins, Gerard Hanberry, George Moore, Máire Holmes, and several others.
Seamus Heany HomePlace
‘A home for inspiration, echoing the life, literature and legacy of Seamus Heaney.’ Visit the birthplace of one of Ireland’s most beloved writers. The Seamus Heaney HomePlace is a purpose-built arts and literary centre, which celebrates the life and work of the late poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, and celebrates his legacy.
The Blasket Islands off the tip of the Dingle Peninsula are home to an extraordinary literary legacy – classics such as ‘The Islandman’, ‘Twenty Years A-Growing’ and ‘Peig’