Years back, I was browsing through the huge book collection of the English Book Depot in Dehradun. A teenager wonder-struck by all that was around, including those strong wafts of coffee. This was before the Harry Potter marvels changed the world of literature for ever; and the most marvellous find there was the seven-book series by CS Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. A massive collection, it weighed quite a bit and, of course, took all my carefully guarded school money. I took it home for Christmas break, dove headfirst into its world, and never came back (I like to think so).
The more I read, the more I lost myself in the magical lands of Narnia and CS Lewis, the man who conjured it all. It is believed that Mr Lewis, born in Belfast, was inspired by Irish landscapes. So much so that Ireland is where you can come closest to Narnia in this mortal world. Over the years, I figured that a trip to Narnia would always stay on the wishlist but a CS Lewis trail in Belfast, his birthplace, is for real. If you, too, dream of a Narnian trip and can swear in Aslan’s name, this one is for you.
You can start your CS Lewis trail from The Searcher in Belfast. This sculpture, along with a few others from Narnia, stands tall in the CS Lewis Square. Quite life-like, it borrows from the famous wardrobe that finds good mention in the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. People frequent it for a Narnia themed photo op; a statue of Digory Kirke, another Narnia character, stands by the wardrobe.
The Searcher stands in memory of the writer, and is surrounded by other statues and carvings of Lucy, Aslan and Narnia’s fabled lamp post among many others. With some luck, you might even have a snowy cover to make things better.
Dundela Avenue This is where CS Lewis was born; while the Lewis’ house no longer stands here, a blue plaque marks the spot where it once stood. You can also visit the rectory, where the writer was christened. The place is right beside St Mark’s Church, and has a doorknob that is modelled after Aslan, one of the central characters in all the Narnia books.
If you have always wondered as to what led to Mr Lewis’ fertile imagination, a visit to Belfast’s Campbell College is essential. You would know what led to the writing of the famous lamp post that we read about or watched in the first book/movie of the Narnian series, for this is where it stands for real.
The Old Inn
The Old Inn is more like a slice from Mr Lewis’ life rather than Narnia and its fantasies. You can pay a tribute to the writer with a visit here, for this is where he would often come with his wife, Joy. The restaurant here is named Lewis, and it is believed to be his favourite hangout place with other writers.
For those with a keen interest in hitting the CS Lewis trail, Belfast tourism officials conduct Lewis tours. Wonderfully well-planned, these tours also include retelling of anecdotes and a good dose of trivia from the writer’s life.
We would love to hear from you if you have been on the CS Lewis trail in Ireland! Do drop in a comment below and tell us how you found it; happy tripping.