By Jake Flanagin

The Library at Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland)

Pretty spectacular. The rows and rows of antique tomes stacked against a backdrop of dark wood and white marble sets a tone that is nothing short of Hogwartsian. The library is also home to a permanent exhibition that features the Book of Kells, a medieval book of hours that may be the oldest bound book intact today. Trinity College is also the alma mater of writers like Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett.

Literary tourism has its cliché destinations. London, Oxford, New York and Paris have been thoroughly exhausted by globetrotting bookworms. Stop at McSorley’s on a Friday night or try to navigate the narrow space between shelves at Shakespeare and Company in Paris and you’ll see what I mean.

But before you set off to find Kipling’s birthplace in Mumbai, there are places closer to home that can satiate that need for an off-the-beaten-track pilgrimage to the lands of your favorite authors. Ireland and Scotland — often overshadowed by the literary prominence of their  neighbor — are founts of quality reading. Many writers considered quintessentially English (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for example)  are in fact Celtic sons.

So without further ado, a directory of must-see Irish and Scottish literary sights for the book-lover abroad.


 St. Patrick's Cathedral (Dublin, Ireland)

Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal, was not only a highly religious man (he also wrote An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity), but also the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, the seat of the Church of Ireland (the Episcopal Church stateside). When you face the front of the sanctuary just inside the front door, there's a wall plaque dedicated to his memory and achievements, both clerical and authorial.

American College Dublin (Dublin, Ireland) 

At the heart of Merrion Square is one of Dublin's most iconic parks. It's only fitting that one of Ireland's most iconic writers was born at its edge. Now occupied by the American College in Dublin, the birthplace of Oscar Wilde is tucked on the edge of a row of lovely old Georgians. 


M.J. O'Neill's (Dublin, Ireland) 

M.J. O'Neill's is a restaurant and pub located in central Dublin. It was a favorite haunt of famed Irish drinkers/writers James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. It's also known for its unique Victorian architecture and décor. The maze of rooms includes several nooks and hidden side-rooms that were meant for women to drink in secret when the Church forbade co-ed pubs.

Davy Byrne's (Dublin, Ireland) 

Davy Byrne's is located on Duke Street steps from Dublin's lively Temple Bar neighborhood (the Irish capital's answer to the Bowery). It's a central spot in Joyce's Ulysses: Leopold Bloom stops in for a gorgonzola sandwich and glass of red — now two of the most popular items on the menu. It's also just down the street from the Duke Pub, where the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl meets most evenings.

The Scott Monument (Edinburgh, Scotland) 

What other city in the world has erected such a magnificent monument to a novelist ? The Scott Memorial in Edinburgh, located in Princes Street Garden, is an inspiring piece of Gothic Victorian architecture spiraling high above a handsome statue of the man himself. An appropriately romantic tribute to the greatest Scottish romantic.


The Conan Doyle (Edinburgh, Scotland) 

The Conan Doyle is a pub on Picardy Place in Old Town, Edinburgh dedicated to the life and writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and all things Sherlock Holmes. Just across the way is the house Doyle was born in, but the pub is a far grander (and more comfortable) tribute. Their array of Scottish ales is only matched by the number of Holmes novels they have stacked on the wall-to-wall bookcases.

Smailholm Tower (Smailholm, Scotland)

Smailholm Tower would be more aptly named Smailholm Tall House. The four-story "tower" is more of a hillside fort, built by an ancient Scottish family of nobles but eventually inherited by Walter Scott. Although he only spent a little time there, the surrounding Scottish Borderlands were undeniable inspiration for many of his epic poems. Each floor contains information about the tower's history, as well as about two-dozen dioramas depicting scenes from some of Scott's most loved poems and plays. Smailholm is a bit out of the way, but if you've got a driver's license, you can stay in nearby Kelso or Selkirk, both of which boast a selection of cozy B&Bs.