From rugged mountains to enchanting forests, travellers are invited to discover the landscapes that inspired literary legend CS Lewis to create his famous Chronicles of Narnia.
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898. A prolific writer and academic, he produced an immense body of work during his lifetime as well as holding positions in English literature at both Oxford University and Cambridge University.
However, it was The Chronicles of Narnia for which he is best known. A series of seven fantasy novels, published between 1950 and 1956, the Chronicles captured the public's imagination and have become part of our culture, having been adapted for radio, television, the stage, film and even video games.
Here, we take a look at the places in Northern Ireland where Lewis drew inspiration for his magical tales.
For fans of CS Lewis, the first stop has to be the great writer's home city of Belfast. At CS Lewis Square, visitors will be greeted by seven Narnia-inspired bronze sculptures by Irish artist Maurice Harron – Mr Tumnus, Maugrim, the White Witch, Mr and Mrs Beaver, the Stone Table, the Robin, and Aslan!
There are also a number of tours like the CS Lewis Tour that cover key sites including where Lewis was born and christened, his early family home, the CS Lewis Reading Room at Queen's University and even tracing the footsteps of the author to pick up on clues to his inspiration.
The magical Mourne Mountains
The picturesque Mourne Mountains of County Down south of Belfast bewitched Lewis with their majestic peaks and panoramic views. This granite mountain range includes the highest peaks in Northern Ireland and welcomes walkers and hikers of all levels.
In his essay On Stories, Lewis famously noted that a giant wouldn't be out of place amid this vast and mythical landscape.
On the southern slopes of the Mourne Mountains, Tollymore Forest Park feels like it has been lifted straight out of Narnia and placed in Northern Ireland. As well as being an area of outstanding natural beauty, Tollymore is peppered with gothic-style gate arches, bridges, grottos and caves.
There is even an almost life-sized stone head of a lion on the classical water fountain along the Azalea Walk, which according to local legend, is Aslan.
A hop and a skip away is The Narnia Trail in Kilbroney Forest Park, where Lewis spent much of his school holidays as a young boy, no doubt dreaming up magical creatures and fantastic lands, which would eventually become Narnia. The looped walk goes through a pretty woodland, complete with quirky features along the way, including The Lamp Post, The Beaver's House and Aslan's Table.
The real-world Narnia
From the vibrant Belfast city and the mighty Mournes to spellbinding forest trails, Northern Ireland is well and truly the real-world Narnia. With his classic literary creation, CS Lewis has ensured that his home place will forever be sprinkled with a little bit of magic.
The adventure of a lifetime awaits at www.ireland.com.
All images courtesy of Tourism Ireland.
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