It is impossible not to be inspired by Dublin. Whether it's the worn cobblestones of the Temple Bar district or the aroma of Guinness along the River Liffey, there's something about the Irish capital that seems to encourage creativity. Not only does the city boast four Nobel Prize winners for literature among its sons, but it continues to nurture and encourage writers to the extent that it has been recognised by UNESCO as a 'city of literature', a credential it shares with just four others: Edinburgh, Iowa, Reykjavik and Melbourne.
A visit to Dublin's Writers Museum – with its extensive collection letters, books, rare editions, pens, portraits, busts, typewriters and personal items of men of letters from the last three centuries – is enough to demonstrate the prolific literary history of the city. But if you are a writer yourself, or if you have a passion for reading, there's nothing better than imbibing the atmosphere as you quench your thirst at the favourite watering holes of the literary great and good. Raise your glass and imagine that Samuel Beckett sat on the seat at your side and planned out his works, maybe Flann O'Brien chuckled to himself as he noted down a particularly witty line or Yeats sighed as he dreamed of The Lake Isle of Innisfree.
First of all, take a visit to the Guinness Storehouse and enjoy a pint in the Gravity Bar looking out over the city to get your bearings. Breath in the inspiration but watch what you say: take note of who's jotting down notes at the next table – they may be a budding Laureate or People's Poet and your conversation may end up in books around the world! Then head on out and check out the haunts where such geniuses as James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift, Brendan Behan and Seamus Heaney have found their inspiration.
Just a short walk from Christ Church Cathedral, the Brazen Head is said to have been a favourite with Jonathan Swift, the great satirist and creator of Gulliver's Travels. It now has a reputation for being one of Ireland's foremost music venues. Over the centuries, the pub has welcomed a host of literary figures – and revolutionaries, too – which is hardly surprising since it dates from 1198 and is the oldest pub in the country.
In 1931 the aspiring poet and novelist, Patrick Kavanagh set out on foot from his home in County Monaghan to Dublin, some 80 kilometres away, to meet the leading literary figures of the time. Later, when he himself gained recognition as a writer, he had a run in with the author Oliver St John Gogarty who sued him for libel. It is Gogarty that the pub is named for, the real life character who was inspiration for the character Buck Mulligan in Joyce's Ulysses. Whether your conversation is poetic or pure stream of consciousness, after sitting a while in the bar, check out Trinity College Library, with its over four million volumes, just around the corner.
In James Joyce's Ulysses, Leopold Bloom says of Davy Byrne's: "Nice quiet bar. Nice piece of wood in that counter. Nicely planed. Like the way it curves." The bar retains its charm, and has played host to many important literary figures over the years. Unsurprisingly it is especially popular during the Bloomsday Festival, which commemorates the author Joyce and his masterpiece each year on June 16th.
Author of the autobiographical Borstal Boy, and regular visitor to the city, Brendan Behan loved this late Victorian pub and it's easy to see why. It's best to try and get here early to get a seat in one of the cosy little lounges or stay in the main lounge and simply enjoy the wit and wisdom of Dublin pub conversation. After a busy day shopping in Grafton Street there's nothing better than a comfy seat in a welcoming pub.
The poet and playwright William Butler Yeats wasn't a great pub-goer, so the fact that he was a regular visitor to Toner's clearly says something about the place. Decorated with antique wood and stone floors, Toner's is a fine example of a Victorian pub. Art lovers will be pleased to know that the pub is just two minutes from the National Gallery and the Natural History Museum, placing Baggot Street firmly in the heart of an area of great interest to culture vultures of all types.