This summer we visited my home in Northern Ireland where we danced and sang to Irish music, drove over the hills and through forests, walked on cliff tops and stood in front of temples. This landscape was also the home land of C S Lewis. And in the heart of Northern Ireland I can see the heart of Narnia. C S Lewis once said ‘There are no ordinary people’ and this is a quote that I hold dear to my heart and one which inspired all my books. I believe Lewis was right; there are no ordinary people. All people are extraordinary. Miracles are happening in every household. That’s how I felt about Dan in A Boy Called Hope. He seemed like an ordinary kid but he wasn’t because he had an extraordinary amount of hope and the same could be said of Becket in The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair and Adam in my third book. No one is ordinary. What is ordinary anyway? Is it the same as normal? Who is normal?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (published 1950) is one of my favourite books (others include The Enchanted Wood, Wishing Chair stories, Famous Five, Malory Towers and St Clare’s by Enid Blyton). Ever since reading it I’ve imagined meeting Mr Tumnus. But I had one special little secret. I felt I was already living in Narnia because the sweeping landscape of Northern Ireland inspired Narnia. Not long ago I paid a visit to Dunluce Castle, which was said to be the inspiration behind Cair Paravel and I felt like I was walking in the footsteps of not only C S Lewis but Aslan.
‘The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of saltwater, and sea weed, and the smell of the sea, and long lines of bluish green waves breaking forever and ever on the beach. And oh, the cry of the sea-gulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?
If you ever visit Northern Ireland then it’s worth a visit to this medieval castle which sits on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim. There are steep drops around it and not only has it inspired C S Lewis but it has appeared in lots of movies and on the cover of albums. According to legend part of the kitchen of the castle collapsed into the sea and only a kitchen boy survived as he was sitting in a bit that didn’t plummet. Other magical places to discover are the Mourne Mountains which was one of Lewis favourite childhood destinations of which he wrote, ‘I have seen landscapes, notably in the Mourne Mountains and southwards which under a particular light made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the ridge’. The giants came to life in ‘The Silver Chair’.
If like me, you’re a fan of Lewis you can visit Little Lea 76 Circular Road in Belfast, where he spent his boyhood years. Or make a trip to Dundela Avenue to see the blue plaque that marks his birthplace. Would you like to see the lamp post that inspired C S Lewis? Make your way to Campbell College and the lamp post is on the drive way. The temple I mentioned at the beginning is Mussenden Temple (see above) and worth a special trip (Downhill). From the beach below it there’s a ‘tunnel’ referred to by Lewis that goes underneath Mussenden Temple. Perhaps you like to see The Searcher which was based on Digory Kirke in The Magician’s Nephew. This statue shows Kirke (depicted as Lewis) open the famous wardrobe which led to Narnia. There’s also a stained glass window in St Mark’s Church which is in memory of Lewis’ parents.
In his letters Lewis also mentioned Giant’s Causeway and I’ve been there many times but have yet to go in good weather. But what matter, there’s something magical and mystical about standing on hundreds of hexagonal rocks as the sea crashes around you and you’re draped in a veil of grey mist. Ireland isn’t about weather (unless it’s rain), so don’t go expecting sunshine. Pack a mac, I’d say. And another thing you should pack is a good book. May I suggest C S Lewis? You won’t be disappointed!