Indulge your love of literature by taking two days (or more if you have time to spare) to travel through the Mid Ulster landscapes, places, towns and villages that have given inspiration to writers for hundreds of years.
Start off your visit at Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a purpose-built arts and literary centre in Bellaghy, which celebrates the life and work of the late poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, and contributes to his legacy. It’s situated just 45 minutes from both Belfast and Derry City and is just off the main road which links the two cities. Seamus Heaney himself was born and raised within the area and chose Bellaghy as his final resting place.
Immerse yourself in the extraordinary world of words and literature, and explore through the poets’ words and imagination, the people and place that so inspired him.
Described by Michael Longley as “an echo chamber for the poet’s beautiful lines”, Seamus Heaney HomePlace features a fully interactive exhibition over two floors, filled with personal stories, images and the voice of the poet himself. A recreation of his Dublin study will transport you back to 1995, when Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Previously unseen artefacts, transcripts and books kindly donated by the Heaney family are also on display, ensuring a truly unique and illuminating experience for all.
Continue by experiencing for yourself the landscape and environment made famous by the poet through a bespoke Tourism NI 5 star grade tour taken by Eugene Kielt, Blue Badge Guide for over 20 years and fervent Heaney fan.
Stop for a late lunch at the HomePlace Café, or travel on to Magherafelt, a busy, bustling town with lots of choice for coffee, light bites or more substantial meals. In the afternoon, you can take the iconic number 110 bus from Magherafelt to Cookstown, a journey immortalised in Heaney’s poem ‘Route 110’. When you arrive, stop in to Sheehy’s bookshop, a fifth generation family run establishment that is a treasure trove of classic and contemporary literature, with a focus on local literary gems.
The C.S. Lewis Connection
Cookstown is also the location of Lissan House, home to the Rt. Hon. John Staples PC, MP and his wife Henrietta Molesworth, whose great great grandson was Charles Staples (CS) Lewis, author of the Narnia books so beloved by countless children and adults alike.
You can take a fascinating tour of the enchanting 400 year old country house, set at the heart of a 267 acre estate and nestling in a prime location in the valley of the Lissan Water, and venture through ancient woodland, along forest trails and riverside paths.
Return to Seamus Heaney HomePlace in the evening to enjoy an intimate performance, reading or conversation with literary luminaries and musical maestros in The Helicon, a 190 seater performance space that has featured many international musicians and authors, including Van Morrison, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Palin, Bernard MacLaverty and Paul Muldoon.
William Carleton’s Clogher Valley
Day two sees you travel to the beautiful Clogher Valley to gain an insight into the childhood of the acclaimed poet and novelist William Carleton (1794 – 1869) who spent his childhood there. His honest depictions of the living conditions of the poor in Ireland in the first half of the nineteenth century have become one of the prime sources of information on the language and culture of pre-famine Ireland. The annual William Carleton Summer School is held in celebration of his life and works in the region by the William Carleton Society, providing an opportunity to learn more about the social, political and historical background to his writing.
Where to Stay
Laurel Villa Guest House, Magherafelt
Ardtara Country House, Maghera