Inspiring landscapes

Landscapes in Ireland can get under your skin, but for some writers, poets and playwrights, though, they can do even more. They inspire them to create.

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.”

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 center of Connemara for vast tranches of his childhood.

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

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.

The Burren and J.R.R. Tolkien

Ireland has inspired the settings for fantasy literature and film from Narnia to Game of Thrones. Now it turns out that our landscape may have inspired one of the world’s best fantasy novels, The Lord of The Rings.

The Burren, Co. Clare

Locals recall how JRR Tolkien was a regular visitor, to the lunar-like landscape of the Burren while working in Ireland in the 40s and 50s. When you consider that Tolkien was visiting the Burren around the same time that he was writing The Lord of The Rings, it’s easy to see how the stark beauty of this region might have inspired him.

Amongst the craggy fissures and creeping woods of the Burren there is a cave called Pol na Gollum (Hole of Gollum). If you’re a Tolkien fan no doubt your ears just pricked up! The notorious character Gollum is essential to the entire plot of The Lord of The Rings. Did Tolkien get the name for his miserable wretch from this cave? We certainly think so. 

Blasket Island Writers

Renowned for their wild ruggedness and beauty, the Blasket Islands located off the West Coast of County Kerry have inspired many of Ireland’s greatest Irish-speaking writers. In fact, no other island community of its size has yielded such a literary wealth. 

Although uninhabited since 1953, the island was once the subject of much anthropological and linguistic study around the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Encouraged by visiting scholars at the time, some of the islanders documented island life in their beloved Irish language and what resulted was some of Ireland’s greatest literary pieces. Renowned works from Tomás Ó Criomhthain (An tOileánach -The Islandman), Peig Sayers (Peig) and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin (Fiche Blian ag Fás - Twenty Years A-Growing) has led to an impressive literary legacy from this small island community.

Today you can still visit this inspirational land by ferry and learn more about its rich heritage at the Blasket Island Centre in Dún Chaoin. 

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 it 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.

Ben Bulben, Co. Sligo

Come be inspired for yourself !

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