Inspiring landscapes

Landscapes in Ireland can get under your skin, but for some writers, poets and playwrights, though, they can do even more. They are inspiration itself

The Great Blasket seen from the mainland provided by Wilf Judd
The Great Blasket seen from the mainland provided by Wilf Judd

For a landscape to move artists to create, it has to have a special edge. It has to be transformative. “The Irish landscape isn't always straightforward,” Lonely Planet author Etain O’Carroll told CNN. “Its many layers of stone walls and hedgerows and its constantly changing light means that it unfolds slowly as you walk, cycle or drive by.”

The Mourne Mountains, County Down
The Mourne Mountains, County Down

O'Carroll may well have been thinking about Connemara when she said that. Endless green or golden hills, buttery bogland and scatterings of glassy lakes – this is a place of splendid isolation. All of which and more is captured in the work of writer and cartographer Tim Robinson, who found himself at the centre of Connemara for vast tranches of his childhood.

From those memories and later visits, Robinson created a book that renowned Irish author Joseph O’ Connor believes, “…understands the emptiness of the region, the peacefulness that has drawn tourist and novelist alike."

But in terms of inspirational landscapes, Connemara is just the beginning.

Yeats' Country

Further up Ireland’s untamed west coast sits Ben Bulben – a brooding bump on Sligo’s coast. As one commenter noted on Discover Ireland’s Facebook page, “an image does not really do this distinctive crag justice. You have to see if for yourself to really be inspired.”

Fringed by hot pink lupine flowers, it broods over Sligo Bay and is one of the island's most impressive natural sights. Irish poet and playwright WB Yeats felt its presence keenly, so much so that it moved him to write the poem Under Ben Bulben.

As Stella G Mew of the Sligo Yeats Society tells us: “For Yeats, Sligo’s Table Mountain represented something strong, constant, eternal.” And his relationship with Ben Bulben continues to this day – he was buried in its shadow, in the churchyard of Drumcliff village.

Real Narnia

It seems that Ireland’s mountains inspire more than most and trigger that sense of fantasy in a writer. County Down’s Mourne Mountains, popping out of the landscape and rushing towards the Irish Sea, are one such place. The Mourne Wall, a dry stone magnum opus, cuts through their middle while the tops of Slieve Donnard and Slieve Binnian are dusted by early snow falls. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe author CS Lewis, born in nearby Belfast, imagined Narnia as a boy when the Mournes were his playground.

Think a friend might enjoy this article? Click to save and share

Later in life, he gave a clue as to how that childhood and those mountains informed and inspired him: “I have seen landscapes [in the Mourne Mountains] which, under a particular light, made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge.”

Be inspired

It’s this ability to jolt the imagination that has seen Ireland’s landscape become home to many writers’ retreats, places where the surrounding area can become a potent cure for writer’s block.

Sue Booth-Forbes of Anam Cara Writers Retreat on West Cork’s Beara Peninsula has an idea about what sets the island’s landscape apart: “No matter where you are in Ireland, the landscape plays a central part in the life here. I have found that many writers from abroad recognise its importance immediately and are inspired to match, no matter what they are writing, the solid sense of place the landscape offers...”

A sense of place. And maybe even a bestseller? What do you think?

Save this page to a Scrapbook:


Save this page to your Scrapbook:

Add Add

You have Scrapbooks created. Click below to see all of your saved pages.

See Scrapbooks

Create a new Scrapbook:

Cancel Create

This page has been save to your Scrapbook


Hmm, don't know that email. Can you check it and try again? Note: Please fill in your email address manually instead of copy/pasting it.

Getting here

Excited your interest? There are airports throughout the Island with international arrivals. Discover airlines flying to Ireland from your location.

Find flights

Places to stay

No results match your search criteria