Literary Travels: Dublin


“When I die Dublin will be written in my heart.” – James Joyce

Emerald rolling hills, the sweet heaviness of lingering mist triggers the imagination to paint the image of faeries and wee-folk playing along the hills and streams. With some of the loveliest, most welcoming people you will ever meet and a rich history,  Ireland never ceases to inspire.

Many of the world’s greatest authors and poets spent their formative years in Ireland and Dublin is a city that treasures and celebrates not only their contributions to their individual genres but also the love for Ireland that they have fostered in the world. Many readers feel a sort of “homecoming” the first time they visit Ireland and Dublin will receive you, with arms stretched open.

When you step out onto the streets of Dublin,  exploring the juxtaposition of old and new, the din of modernity fades away around one corner, giving way to the echoes of the past. You almost hear the footfall of shoes from bygone eras, and imagine the sights that were beheld by some of those very writers.

Here are some of our favorite sites to quell that bibliophile thirst (or maybe whet it to desperation) found in Dublin.

Chester Beatty Library – With collections from all over the world, cultivated by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875 – 1968), an American engineer, The Chester Beatty Library is now a museum and research library for scholars the world over.

Book of Kells – Located at Trinity College Dublin, the illuminated manuscript made by monks sometime around the year 800AD. The exact origins of the manuscript is much debated, however it is clear that the manuscript was created by several individuals as their style of illumination and handwriting differ.

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The Long Room – Also located at Trinity College Dublin, you can visit this iconic library of ancient texts. Arched entrances to alcoves of shelves packed with rare manuscripts protected from the many hands of visitors. Anyone may visit but only a few are given permission to see the actual books kept here. More than a museum, the Long Room is  an active library, used by researchers and students. The Long Room was built between 1712 and 1732 and originally was only one level. As the library was given the rights to claim one free copy of every book published in Britain and Ireland, the second level was built in 1860. The Long Room is undoubtedly the dream library of every bibliophile who visits.

The Palace Bar – Established in 1823, The Palace Bar is found on Fleet Street in Dublin. An institution in the city with a rich history, it remains one location that visitors seek to visit. With the stained glass and rich woods, the Victorian beauty of this place remains unchanged by the passage of time. The Palace Bar was visited by some well known writers and a bronze bust of Flann O’Brien stands outside. Here you can have a drink and take in the beauty where writers who went before you may have sat.

Dublin Writer’s Museum – Since 1991 this museum has honored the writers of Dublin. Of course you will find Yeats and Wilde represented here, but you will also find Shaw, Joyce and Beckett represented through their writings both professional and personal.

James Joyce Tower and Museum – If you love Joyce, you must visit this museum, housed in a demilitarized tower where Joyce once lived. Joyce used this Napoleonic tower as the setting for the opening of his most well-known work, Ulysses. 

Marsh’s Library – The first public library in Ireland opened its doors in 1707. The interior has remained relatively unchanged and offers a glimpse into the beauty of the Renaissance and Enlightenment era. The library houses a great many rare works of literature as well as a conservation bindery.

Ulysses Rare Books – Founded in 1969, they specialize in 20th century Irish Literature and have an unbelievable collection of rare an early editions of the works of Yeats, Wilde, O’Brien, Joyce and other great Irish writers.

Hodges Figgis – Dublin’s oldest bookshop, Hodges Figgis opened in 1768. While they have a vast variety of genres available, from old to new, they have the largest selection of books relating to Ireland in the world.

The National Library of Ireland – No visit to Dublin would be complete without a visit to the National Library. While not a lending library in the usual sense, you can read in one of the reading rooms available. While it began in 1877, the library became autonomous in 2005. The National Library has several collections available to view from photographs and drawings to books, newspapers and maps as well as manuscripts spanning nearly 1000 years.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral – At about 800 years old, with the current building as it is dating from 1220-1259, Saint Patrick’s is an icon of Dublin. It is believed that Saint Patrick used a well on the site where the cathedral now stands, during his visit to Dublin in the 5th century. The site has had a building as early as 890 when the King of Scotland, Gregory’s visit is documented. However in 1190 the Archbishop selected the site for the erection of a cathedral. A stunning site to behold, both inside and out, you can choose to wander the site, light a candle , or stay for Mass. Be sure to stop by the gift kiosks as well. Often there are events either in the cathedral or in the gardens beside, so be sure to check out their calendar when planning your visit.

There are so many sites to visit in Dublin where history and culture intertwine with literature. A visit to Dublin to see them all would require a several week stay, but these are some of the sites that left an impression on us, and we yearn to visit again.

“Keep your heart open, a suitcase packed and wonder often, for the world is wide and adventure awaits.” ~ Emylee



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