The adventures of the Booktrail bus – Ireland

The booktrail bus is on the road!
The booktrail bus is on the road!

Fancy a trip around Ireland?

Not sure what you should visit?

Hop on the booktrail bus and off we go. Those on the bus today are those who entered our Facebook competition to win some Irish fiction. Oh the comments were fab so we just had to treat them all to a tour….

Think Coach Trip with books – there’s no couples on this tour – just lots of hungry booktrailers with literary locations in their eyes and novels under their arms.

There’s no voting off either – but there may well be a few tasks to enjoy…

So, we’ve packed the sandwiches, the juice boxes with those awful straws you can never open least of all get any juice out with and we’re off on the booktrail coach trip to Ireland!!! Whoohooo!

The tour around Ireland starting with the Birkenhead to Belfast part of the journey...
The tour around Ireland starting with the Birkenhead to Belfast part of the journey…

We leave from the UK and take the ferry from Birkenhead – Teresa Starr’s recommendation:

“If you’re going to Northern Ireland, consider the Birkenhead to Belfast ferry, it may take much longer than the Holyhead to Dublin ferry but the miles saved driving at the Belfast are well worth it….just bring plenty to do, if you don’t want to watch the on board films.

Also the Premier Inn in Carrickfergus and the restaurant are excellently priced and a good base for touring in County Antrim.”

Teresa brought travel scrabble so we played that trying to only have the names of book titles and book related words allowed. Teresa won with ‘Quidditch’ Think she’s played this before. Says she hasn’t but, hmm not so sure 😉

Stopped off for a morning coffee and bacon buttie at the Premier Inn as suggested (yummy!) and then set off for Shelley’s literary location of the Giants Causeway:

Shelley Jessup- “I remember visiting the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland & finding the place fascinating especially with the tales of the Irish Gods & Irish mythology”


Teresa Majury agrees – The Giant’s Causeway is a must see!

But it’s her next comment that takes us back into the city of Belfast for some lunch…..”the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast has fabulous bars for a pub crawl and great eateries too…..”   Well now….

Oh it’s great to be in Ireland. Diane Cundick is very excited – “I’ve never been to Ireland but my favourite Irish author has to be Cathy Kelly ….”

So she squeals when she realises we’re off to Cathy Kelly country after lunch…


First stop is Dublin’s pretty Golden Square, a great location in Cathy Kelly’s book ‘Homecoming’

It’s where Eleanor re-reads her mother’s comforting words and watches life unfold from her window in Dublin’s pretty Golden Square…


Fancy a piece of Watermelon? We’re all getting a bit parched here. That Dublin sun can get quite hot even in March –

Watermelon by Marin Keyes – On the day she gives birth, Claire’s husband says that he’s leaving her. Left with her new baby and a broken heart she heads home to Dublin to be with her quirky family. Her man-eating sister Helen, might be up for a bit of a party in Temple Bar Janice?

Janice Clint Atkinson – I’ve had two fantastic weekends in Dublin and my tip would be to head to Temple Bar for the nightlife and the great people.

Further Irish recommendations? Well there’ll all coming out now. A drink in the Temple Bar and we’re chatting which books set in Ireland we love –

Suzanne Smith recommends the book “One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern. “The message that everyone has a beautiful story to tell is amazing” she says.

Carol Clint Best – I have only been to Dublin and had a great time. Very friendly city with lots to do. I enjoy reading Maeve Binchy books.

County Waterford – Ardmore

Bube Petreska – “My favorite books set in Ireland are the ‘Born In’ series, The Gallaghers of Ardmore and The Dream Trilogy by Nora Roberts.”

Well Bube your luck is in today as the next stop on the tour is here – Ardmore setting of the Gallaghers of Ardmore books. This afternoon’s task is to make ‘fairie’ cakes as inspired by the book’s theme:


Bube wins the task with ease. A Mary Berry in the making we think!

Right back on the bus you lot! Off to Cork. Just a short distance. What about some music? Maria Ellis has a suggestion –

“A few years ago went to Ireland on holiday and hired a bright purple Astra and drove round Southern Ireland listening to The Riverdance tape – every time I hear it now it takes me back to that wonderful holiday”

So the music of those of the fastest moving legs in history goes on and by the time we reach Cork, there could well be a small mutiny on this bus….

But look what I see!

It’s only the famous Blarney Stone and Castle!

The end of the trip but what a highlight!
The end of the trip but what a highlight!


The music of Riverdance ringing in our ears,  the group disperses to have a wander around. The task is to find something green to wear from the gift shop and then go and kiss the stone. Well, you always get one don’t you – someone who wants to be different…hehe

After the trip Gwen Carter’s lasting memory?

“One of my best memories of visiting Ireland was being suspended upside down kissing the Blarney Stone”

She almost fell in. We had to pull her out and bring her round with smelling salts. But we all made it back on the bus in one piece and back to the UK with books in our hands and Ireland in our hearts.

thanks to all our participants and of course our guides – 

Cathy Kelly @cathykellybooks

Marian Keyes @MarianKeyes

and Nora Roberts 

For more information on our trip and things we did, please visit these lovely people as they know everything there is to know about the Emerald Isle – 

St Patrick’s Day in books


Well today is of course St Patricks Day so what better way to celebrate than by reading a book set in Ireland/Northern Ireland?

Follow the map – image courtesy of Google Maps







Screen shot 2014-03-17 at 10.59.25



Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson 

Jake Jackson and Chuckie Lurgan are good friends. But one is Catholic and the other is Protestant–their journey and experience around their sectarian set at a time when Belfast was in the middle of  ‘The Troubles’, this is a poignant and often very funny look at Belfast.

“All stories are love stories” is the first sentence of this book. It’s not a love story in the traditional sense but a delicious tribute to the city of Belfast.



Broken Harbour by Tana French

In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin –  two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy at first thinks its a sad case of a man’s financial woes troubles ending in the slaughter of his family. But many things just don’t add up…

To make matters worse, this case is a strange and painful reminder of what happened to his own family at the same places, when they were kids.



‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’ by Sebastian Barry

The tensions surrounding the Irish struggle for independence lie at the heart of this novel set in the town of Sligo about the tensions surrounding the Irish struggle for independence

A man joins the British-led police force the Royal Irish Constabulary, but ends up being labelled a traitor. As a marked man he goes on the run, but he sneaks back to Sligo whenever he can.

This is his journey and more of 20th Century Ireland, and of a man and a country both fighting to exist.



‘Juno and Juliet’ by Julian Gough

This is a story of identical twins during their first year at university which sees them adjusting to life in the city, drinking in the bars and sometimes attending classes A coming of age story in which Galway itself is one of the main characters.



Tipperary by Frank Delaney  – A novel of Ireland

The story of an itinerant healer born in 1860 who travels the countryside dispensing cures, discovering the story of Ireland through its people, and witnesses at first hand, the birth of land-reform measures destined to lead to Irish independence.

When he falls in love with April Jones who rejects him and so he returns to Ireland and decides to preserve an abandoned estate in tipperary which may belong to april and her father. As he travels and works, he meets such figures as Charles Parnell and George Bernard Shaw.

This is the story of a man’s passion for the woman he loves is intertwined with his country’s emergence as a nation.

This is only  a short tour of Ireland. But just goes to show that a small country has a wide wide range of literature and is covered with books set in various places all over its fair green isle!
Happy St Patrick’s Day!!!

Deadly deeds in darkest Dublin 1841

This is the  fictionalised yet utterly fascinating and intriguing account of a real life murder case which rocked Victorian Ireland.


– John Delahunt was hanged in 1842 for the murder of a young boy Thomas MacGuire.

On a cold December morning, a small boy is enticed away from his mother and his throat savagely cut.

The killing causes an outcry even in a city already ridden by violent crime and unrest in all its forms. Yet, Delahunt seems not to feel any kind of revulsion or guilt – in fact  he feels no regret at all.

As he sits awaiting execution in Kilmainham Jail, he starts to write an account of events leading up to his incarceration.

Kilmainham jail - image courtesy of Wikipedia
Kilmainham jail – image courtesy of Wikipedia

My warder is a  man named Turner, an old Kilmainham guard with a grey moustache stained yellow and one eye turned inward. He treats me well enough because of my refined manners and clean habits. The details of my conviction don’t seem to bother him.

It’s set among Dublin’s dark alleyways, taverns and tenements and you can almost feel the wet cobbles underneath your feet and the smells of the dark and dank streets as you follow John around as he creeps and hides in the shadows –

Map of central Dublin  - Google maps showing the castle (A) and the streets around Merrion Square, St Stephens Green and Castle Street
Map of central Dublin – Google maps showing the castle (A) and the streets around Merrion Square park, St Stephens Green and Castle Street

Despite the hour, shadowy figures walked along the footpaths. We skirted the enclosed park, tall houses and grand public buildings , then turned right into York Street.

He led the way through sloping cobbled streets, still slick from the evening showers…..

The character list reads like something straight out of a Dickens novel – there are plenty lowlives and blackmailers hiding around every corner not to mention  the sinister agents of Dublin Castle. Delahunt is an informant and in the pay of those at the Castle. As one of the agents himself says –

‘I know there’s some stigma attached to the Castle’s methods, but it’s undeserved. As if we live to skulk in the shadows and pry into the business of honest men.’

But almost in his next breath, he commiserates with the fact that Delahunt has reported a death ‘too early’ as if he had waited another day, then he would have received a bigger reward as 

‘Murder,’ he said. ‘That’s where the money is.’

Murder is not far behind – for on one cold December morning, a small boy is enticed away from his mother and his throat savagely cut.

The entire novel is laced with dark humour, and you can almost smell the alcohol and the damp taverns as you turn the page. This is a gripping historical thriller about a man who betrays his family, his friends and, ultimately, himself. It’s a world of predators, every man for himself. The raw descriptions of life on the streets and hiding in Dublin’s underbelly makes, at times, for a difficult and gut churning read.

All the more shocking that it is based on true facts.


You won’t want to visit this kind of Dublin for real, but in the literary setting of this debut novel, then it is quite a journey. Thank goodness for being able to visit this side of Dublin from the comfort of an armchair. Yet, within a few lines, the soft furnishings had turned into a hard wooden chair, in a dark dank tavern with the stale smell of beer imbued in the pages.

As John Delahunt says himself –

Nothing delights the general public so much as the trial of a murderous woman.

Replace ‘woman’ with ‘a man called John Delahunt’ and oh the irony…