Discover C.S. Lewis’s Magical Narnia in Northern Ireland

November 9, 2016

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It’s no secret that Northern Ireland is home to some of the world’s greatest writers: Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Samuel Beckett, Louis MacNeice and of course, C.S. Lewis.

Discover more about Northern Ireland’s great writer and journey with us as we explore the people and places that inspired Narnia and his other works.

C S Lewis Narnia Northern Ireland

On the Trail of C.S. Lewis in Belfast

C.S Lewis spent the first ten years of his childhood in East Belfast.  During this time many of the people he met, the places he visited and things that he saw influenced him and, later, his writings.

CS Lewis Sculptures

Photo credit: Bradley Quinn 

Start at C.S. Lewis Square where seven sculptures created by Irish artist Maurice Harron are on display. Each sculpture is based on characters from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Aslan, Maugrim, Mr and Mrs Beaver, the Robin, the White Witch, the Stone Table and Mr Tumnus.

CS Lewis Square

Photo credit: Bradley Quinn 

Next up, visit EastSide Visitor Centre - located on the Newtownards Road – where you can access information on the city’s attractions, or simply enjoy a coffee at the JACK coffee bar affectionately named after C.S Lewis who was known as ‘Jack’ to his close friends and family.

CS Lewis Square Belfast

Photo credit: Bradley Quinn 

The Searcher, Belfast

Based on the character of Digory Kirke who was ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ in the story of Narnia, The Searcher statue is a wonderful dedication to C.S Lewis.

The status shows Kirke (depicted as C.S Lewis himself as he was in 1919) open the famous wardrobe which Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy enter Narnia from.

The sculpture was created by Northern Ireland artist Ross Wilson who in his own words wanted to capture the “great ideas of sacrifice, redemption, victory, and freedom for the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve” that lie at the heart of the ‘Chronicles of Narnia.’

C S Lewis The Searcher East Belfast

Saint Marks Church, Belfast

St. Mark’s Church is a great place of interest; it was Lewis’s local church and the place where he was baptised on the 29 January 1899.

There is a stained glass window in the church, donated by the Lewis brothers in memory of their parents, designed by the Irish artist Michael Healy.

C.S Lewis Reading Room – Queen’s University Belfast

A visit to the C.S Lewis Reading Room situated in the library at Queen’s University is a must. A replica of the wardrobe door used in the feature film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, marks the entrance to the room. The carpets and central table are also based on Narnia themes.

Located in the tower area of Floor 1 of The McClay Library, you’ll find a replica of the wardrobe used in the ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ which marks the entrance to the room.

C S Lewis Reading Room Queen's University Belfast

In addition, the university holds letters from C.S Lewis to his friend Captain Bernard Acworth – donated to the university in 2012 – the ten rare unpublished letters are held in the the C.S Lewis Reading room.

C . S. Lewis’s Narnia

Since ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ was published in 1950, children (and adults) all over the world have been mesmerised by the magical world of Narnia.

Etched in our childhood memories, Narnia is a place some never grow out of and some of its fictional inspiration was found right here in Northern Ireland.

It’s easy to find inspiration all over his native county, but it is the Mourne Mountains that is believed to have provided the inspiration for Narnia.

Mourne Mountains

In Lewis’s essay, ‘On Stories’, he wrote:

‘I have seen landscapes, notably in the Mourne Mountains and southwards which under a particular light made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge.’

C.S Lewis brought these giants to life in the Narnia story, ‘The Silver Chair,’ where Puddleglum and the children narrowly escape the giants as they make their way across the ‘wild lands of the North.’

C S Lewis Narnia

When living in England he spoke of the magic he felt present in his native home:

I yearn to see County Down in the snow, one almost expects to see a march of dwarfs dashing past. How I long to break into a world where such things were true.’

Upon your visit to the Mournes, you might feel just as Lewis did all these years later – it still remains very much a magical place.

Rostrevor, County Down

The Mournes remained a huge inspiration for Narnia but it wasn’t just the mountains, it was the area around the Mournes too, like the little village of Rostrevor.

You’ll find Rostrevor tucked in below the Mourne Mountains and it was here that Lewis told his brother Warren:

That part of Rostrevor which overlooks Carlingford Lough is my idea of Narnia”.

Carlingford Lough Rostrevor

Narnia Trail, Rostrevor 

Follow the Narnia Trail through Kilbroney Forest in Rostrevor where the story of Narnia is brought to life in a short family loop trail.

Enter the trail as the magical world through a Wardrobe which will take you to several interpretative stations with themes including The Tree People, The Beavers’ House, The Citadels and many more.

Narnia Trail Kilbroney Forest

Dunluce Castle, County Antrim

Along the Causeway Coastal Route you’ll discover more of the places that influenced Lewis’s early life.

In 1901, his mother wrote a letter to inform his father that “Baby was very anxious to get into the water.” And indeed, this anxiousness and love of water remained with Lewis throughout his entire life.

As a child he would holiday with his family in the little town of Castlerock, County Londonderry where they would stay for up to six weeks at a time and visit the ruins of nearby Downhill Demesne, as well as the coastal towns of Portrush and Ballycastle.

It is here Lewis would have first experienced the magnificent Dunluce Castle, and where the inspiration of Cair Paravel is believed to have been born.

Dunluce Castle Cair Paravel

We first visit Cair Paravel in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’:

‘The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of saltwater, and sea weed, and the smell of the sea, and long lines of bluish green waves breaking forever and ever on the beach. And oh, the cry of the sea-gulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?’

C.S. Lewis Festival 

Book a short break to Northern Ireland and discover more about this literary giant at the C.S. Lewis Festival. Now in its fourth year, the festival will showcase Lewis’ diverse works, his legacy as well as his strong connections to his childhood home of East Belfast.

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