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Is the Doorway to Narnia in Northern Ireland?

Posted on May 07, 2017 by Dawn Rainbolt

“Narnia! It’s all in the wardrobe just like I told you!”

Once upon a time, a child called Lucy climbed into a large, wooden wardrobe in an English manor during a game of hide-and-seek. It was in that wardrobe that she stumbled onto a doorway to a magical world – Narnia. And children have been climbing into wardrobes worldwide on the off-chance Narnia might be there ever since. 

Hiking the Causeway Coastal route - Narnia in Northern Ireland inspiration

A lamppost in the forest, just like in the magical Narnia. Lewis’ inspiration is everywhere.

C.S. Lewis, author of the celebrated children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia, is most often associated with Oxford, England. Yet, the author of was actually born in Belfast in 1898, where he spent his early childhood.

Although the recent Narnia films were filmed largely in New Zealand, your best chance of ‘finding’ Narnia (short of climbing into all of the wardrobes of the world!) is by hiking through the meandering and magical countryside of Northern Ireland.

Lewis grew up in an elegant Victorian home (not unlike the homes lived in by his characters) at the edge of Belfast, and his childhood was spent roaming the countryside, reading folklore, and playing with animals. He was intrigued by mythology – Norse, Greek, Roman, Irish – and Christianity, all of which helped him create Narnia.

But more than anything, his native Northern Ireland was his biggest inspiration for the magical world of Narnia. Lewis said so himself: “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 next ridge,” he wrote in his essay On Stories. He writes, “I yearn to see County Down in the snow, one almost expects to see a march of dwarfs dashing past. How I long to break into a world where such things were true.”

Tollymore Forset - Mourne Mountains - Narnia in Northern Ireland Inspiration

Magic is in the air in Tollymore Forest in Northern Ireland, another inspiration for Narnia

So, put on your hiking boots and head out to the countryside – you’ll start to see Narnia in Northern Ireland everywhere you look! The woods of the Mourne Mountains feel magical, as if a lamppost and centaur or two wouldn’t be out of place. The sweeping vistas down to the coastline remind one of the wide plains of Narnia where talking animals, stomping giants and dryads made of flowers could roam the land.

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The crumbling Dunluce Castle, which clings to a basalt outcropping in Co. Antrim, is cited as the inspiration for Narnia’s royal seat, the castle of Cair Paravel, described as “towering up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and seaweed, 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!” And in Prince Caspian, set hundreds of years later, the castle was in ruins – very close to Dunluce Castle’s current state. 

In creating Narnia, Lewis was looking for “the lost simplicity of country pleasures, the empty sky, the unspoilt hills, the white silent roads on which you could hear the rattle of a farm cart half a mile away” of Ireland, left behind when Lewis moved to England.

Dunluce Castle - Narnia's Cair Paravel - Causeway Coastal Route - Narnia in Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle is said to be C.S. Lewis’ inspiration for Narnia’s royal castle

And in a letter to his brother, he said point-blank: “That part of Rostrevor which overlooks Carlingford Lough is my idea of Narnia.” Carlington Fjord, marking the eastern border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, is one of Ireland’s three glacial fjords – certainly a magical place.

The best way to see the “Narnia of the heathery mountains and the thymy downs, Narnia of the many rivers, the plashing glens, the mossy caverns and the deep forests” as described in the Chronicles of Narnia, visit the low, wooded landscapes of Co. Down, which hugs the North Channel. It fits the above description of Narnia in Northern Ireland to a T!

Short of a magical wardrobe, the best way to experience Narnia is by hiking through the landscapes that shaped C.S. Lewis’ youth and continued to inspire him for the rest of his adult life. You may not get to meet Aslan (but then again, not many people do!) or sail on the great Dawn Treader (but then again, there are plenty of non-magical ships in the harbours of counties Down and Antrim), but you can find your own version of Narnia in Northern Ireland, the one that Lewis found a hundred years ago.

To visit Narnia in Northern Ireland, see our trips below.

Trip Date Name Price Availability Book
20th Apr - 26th Apr 2019 Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal €1,7106 place(s) leftBook Now
4th May - 10th May 2019 Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal €1,7108 place(s) leftBook Now
1st Jun - 7th Jun 2019 Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal €1,7108 place(s) leftBook Now
17th Jun - 28th Jun 2019 Bike Tour - Five Countries €3,5204 place(s) leftBook Now
22nd Jun - 28th Jun 2019 Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal €1,7106 place(s) leftBook Now
20th Jul - 26th Jul 2019 Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal €1,7106 place(s) leftBook Now
10th Aug - 16th Aug 2019 Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal €1,7108 place(s) leftBook Now
31st Aug - 6th Sep 2019 Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal €1,7106 place(s) leftBook Now
9th Sep - 20th Sep 2019 Bike Tour - Five Countries €3,5208 place(s) leftBook Now
14th Sep - 20th Sep 2019 Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal €1,7108 place(s) leftBook Now
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If you’re looking for a tailor made tour, visit our Interactive Holiday Builder to build the trip of your dreams!

See more exciting Wilderness Ireland hiking trips here! Or, browse our other active trips in Ireland.

About the author

Dawn Rainbolt

American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture, intriguing history, ancient castles, cheery locals and sweeping landscapes of Ireland.

Read more articles by Dawn


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