The real life Narnia Trail: a Memorial to CS Lewis Pt1

posted in: Photography | 41
Last weekend I found myself back in Ulster where I grew up and where CS Lewis spent part of his childhood.  Throughout his school, university and most of his adult life he returned every year to Northern Ireland and shared his love of the land with his newly wed.
It was a place dear to his heart
‘Heaven is Oxford lifted and placed in the middle of County Down‘.
A bible inscription carved onto the rock at Tollymore Forest Park, Newcastle, Co Down in the Mourne Mountains


It was a  place where CS Lewis went exploring as a child and was inspired by the Mountains of Mourne.  He loved the granite mountain range with their peaks and valleys, rivers, forests and legends of giants.  Memories that in later life he would use  to write about the magical land of Narnia  in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Chronicles.
So would you like to come  on a little journey with me?   Lets open the wardrobe door just like Lucy and step inside only this time to find ourselves in County Down in Northern Ireland where it is known as the real life Narnia.


Tollymore a Narnia landscape 1
Tollymore Shimna River Narnia 2 .
The Hermitage Tollymore Northern Ireland Narnia 3
Tollymore Newcastle Northern Ireland Narnia 4
 Tollymore Newcastle Northern Ireland Narnia Spring flowers
Northern Ireland sadly was not known for its literary heroes in my childhood days but for only for conflict and the football legend George Best.  I knew the story of “The Lion, The witch and The Wardrobe” as a child and for me it was a story of escapism  into a land of make believe where even the animals spoke.  No one spoke of this author coming from Northern Ireland…………….. few even realised.
Newcastle beach Co Down Northern Ireland the words of the famous song by Percy French
a coastline CS Lewis knew ever so well

Dundela Villas

Clive Staples Lewis  (known as Jack)  was born in East Belfast on 29th November, 1898.
CS Lewis birthplace Dundela Belfast
His birth place at Dundela overlooked the Belfast Shipyard where The Titanic would soon be built.
The house is no longer there but here is an artists impression of what it would have looked like before the flats were built.
CS Lewis Birthplace 5Dundela Villas
[Painting courtesy of Mr Alan Seaton]


Little Lea

In 1905 he and his family moved to Little Lea.  This is the original location of the magic wardrobe.  There was one room upstairs where Jack and his brother Warren had a telescope where they used to watch the big ships going up and down Belfast Lough.
‘almost a character in my story. I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstair indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes and the noise of the wind under the tiles. Also of endless books…From our front door we looked down over wide fields to Belfast Lough and across it to the long mountain line of the Antrim shore.’
 little lea CS Lewis home
Little Lea is a private residence today so I wanted to be discreet as I took the photographs from the public footpath. The park that my children played in is across the road from here and I pushed a pram past this house for years.
This view shows the back of the house but  from the front of the house was a view down to Belfast Lough and the shipyard which he used to call “the Belfast Symphony” due to the pounding of the works down in the Harland and Wolfe yard.  When he lived here my children’s great grandfather was helping to build the Titanic only a few miles away. little lea CS Lewis home
The blue shield on the wall pinpoints the little room that Jack and Warren played in.
This is also the home where the large wardrobe was that Jack and Warren used to hide inside.
The following picture is not mine but I have been given permission to add it here.
Mr Richard James who took the photos was given a private tour of Little Lea with his son in law and he took a photo of the front of Little Lea and inside the little room where Jack and Warren played.

The Lion on the Hill – St Marks

St Mark’s (Church of Ireland) first Rector was Rev Thomas Hamilton. He was the grandfather of CS Lewis. His parents were married here and he was baptised here by his grandfather on 29th January 1899.
St Marks Dundela Lion on the Hill
and here is the window that he and his brother Warren presented to the parish in memory of their parents in 1933. Three Saints are shown, 2 of them gospel writers St Mark and St Luke on either side of St James.
St Marks CS Lewis stained glass window
 From the Latin To the greater glory of God and dedicated to the memory of Albert James Lewis, who died on the 25th September 1929, aged 67, and also of his wife, Flora Augusta Hamilton, who died on the 23rd August 1908, aged 47.
The church is dedicated to the gospel writer Saint Mark where it is claimed that his body was brought to Venice and buried in the great church in San Marco.  His symbol, and the symbol of Venice is a winged lion and St Marks church has always called itself “The Lion on the Hill”. Its tower can be seen for miles around.
Even the door handle of the Old Church Rectory is in the shape of a lion.  CS Lewis would have used this door handle so many times in his childhood.  I am convinced that the link to St Marks lion, the biblical “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” and this door knob must have influenced him in later life while writing the chronicles about Aslan. I used to take my children to Mothers and Toddlers at this church each week.

St Marks Aslan door handle on old manse

I  never realised until recently that CS Lewis did not write “The Magicians Nephew” until just before “The Final Battle”  – while book publishers these days would have us read that book first.   What order have you read the Chronicles in? 

Follow Rosie Nixon:

Photography Tutor and Gardener

Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh. She also writes and shares her nature images on

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41 Responses

  1. Laurrie

    I have such a vivid memory of my 10 year old son (he's 30 now) lying on the couch reading, and clearly being in another world. He laughed, he chortled, he sighed and made all kinds of unconscious noises as he traveled on the other side of the wardrobe. I could not reach him then, he was so completely far away in CSL's imagination. Thanks for a wonderful post about this interesting author!

  2. kilbournegrove

    Rosie, a fascinating post, but I was even more fascinated by the close connection we share. My great grandfather, and also my grandfather worked for Harland and Wolfe. My great grandfather worked in Belfast on the Titantic when my grandfather was young and then they moved back to Glasglow and both of them worked there.

  3. Noelle

    Hi Rosie,

    Oh, I have so been looking forward to this post! I can't wait for the next one. I love the door handle….

    I read them in the traditional order, not the chronological.

  4. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress

    I had no idea he was from Northern Ireland. I just loved the Narnia books and remember my sister and I reading the whole series. I took my daughter to the first movie, and now she's been reading the books.
    What a beautiful place he's from. I really enjoyed the post and learning more about the Narnian trail.

  5. leavesnbloom

    @kilbournegrove He came over from Glasgow too to work on the ship – he was a foreman. He too went back to the Clyde shipyard in Glasgow after it was built – only he brought a wife with him.

  6. Edith Hope

    Dear Rosie, A fascinating account of the life of CS Lewis who, I had not realised, came from Belfast, a city I visited many years ago just prior to the 'Troubles'.

    'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' I read as a child several times over and enjoyed more on each reading.

  7. Curbstone Valley Farm

    Rosie, how could stand to leave Narnia!? Such beautiful photographs, and I especially love the little stepping stones over the top of the weir. I had no idea that CS Lewis spent so much of his life in Northern Ireland. A fascinating post! I can't wait for the second installment.

  8. jodi (bloomingwriter)

    What fun for you, Rosie! Loved the Chronicles of Narnia, and a little of Lewis's other works, though I didn't care for his apologist writings, not sharing his particular spiritual beliefs. I did enjoy Surprised by Joy, despite our differing worldviews.

  9. noel

    aloa rosie,

    i loved your narnia tour, thanks for taking us there…i can see now how the area inspired his creations and adventures in Narnia, this area does inspire and btw, i really love that door handle, i wonder if someone makes copies of those…i would love one!

  10. Melody

    Now I want to reread the series, so I can picture the real-life Narnia as I do. It is a beautiful area – I never realized that the places in the books were based on actual places.

  11. jaydubblah

    I am a great fan of C.S.Lewis, read all the Narnia books as a child and later the 3 sci-Fi books as well as many of his theological works. Thinking I might go through the Narnia books again. Lovely mosaics too. Here's mine

  12. A Garden of Threads

    I loved you tour of Northern Ireland, must visit some of the sites you mentioned when I visit this June. Thank your for sharing and take care.

  13. 32˙North

    I've been to Ireland and it is indeed a magical place. Thanks for taking us along on such a charming visit!


  14. Ginny

    Hello Rosie from Scotland!! So much to say, but where to begin? First, thank you for commenting on my blog and welcome. My blog's goal is just to show how I see God in my everyday happenings. My great grandfather came here to the states from Scotland and I lived with him from the age of five through my teens. John Frasier. We went to the Blackwatch picnic in Washington D.C. many times. I have always loved everything Welsh or Irish, adore Celtic music and have quite a bit of it on C.D.. I love your pictures, and feel like I have toured C.S. Lewis beloved places now. So many of the pictures just look dreamlike and enchanting. What a treat! St. Mark's is beautiful!! and I loved learning about the Titanic stuff, didn't know how close it was to Lewis' home!!

  15. Bonnie

    What a fantastic post.

    Thanks for taking the time to help identifying my plant. I am excited to learn more about them.

    I really enjoyed your blog and I will be back!

  16. Kimberly

    Rosie, I LOVE the Narnia chronicles and the recent movies have brought the books to life for my children. What a wonderous place, Ireland! My side of the family originated from Ireland, although I've never visited. Your photos are so brilliant, and your history lesson is wonderful. I've really enjoyed this post and look forward to Part II!!

  17. Ginny

    What a wonderful post! I love C.S. Lewis – the Chronicles of Narnia and his fiction and non-fiction for adults. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful pictures.

  18. Coastcard

    A truly fascinating post, Rosie. What a great time yuo must have had. We often think of CS Lewis as we drive down the Golden Valley near Hay on Wye, when we go to the Festival.

    As for the order in which I read the books first time around, well, I think it was as follows… (but I may be a bit confused as my husband always tells me that he had a different order!).

    The Lion, the Witch…
    Prince Caspian
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
    The Silver Chair
    The Horse and his Boy
    The Magician's Nephew
    The Last Battle

  19. Queen of Dreamsz

    Rosie, what a beautiful mosaic post! What a magical part of the truly is the real Narnia.♥

    Thank you for visiting me on this Mosaic Monday….do come back anytime!

    I hope you are enjoying some fabulous weather.

    Stephanie ♥

  20. maiaT

    This holiday trip was a rich source of inspiration for you.
    What a lovely post with beautiful memories, history and amazing photos.
    I enjoyed reading and traveling along with you, through you photos.
    About the meme: don't worry about the photos, there will be other weekends to come (I hope), you'll participate when you can and feel so.
    Have a nice week!

  21. Jeri Landers

    I am embarrassed to say I never read The Chronicles of Narnia", but I read "Mere Christianity" many times. This has been a very interesting journey through C.S.Lewis life, I never realized he was from Ireland either. Such a beautiful place.

  22. cherry

    What a wonderful and fun post. Your pictures are beautiful I can't wait to see the rest of visit.

    hugs from Savannah, Cherry

  23. debsgarden

    Pure magic! Thanks for this post. I very much enjoyed it. C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite writers, and it is especially great to see where he came from. I am sure you are right about that lion's head door knob!

  24. Jayne

    Wonderful post, Rosie. I really enjoyed my tour. Your mosaics are really well done. I'm originally from England and I'm one of those who had no idea that C.S. Lewis was from Northern Ireland.

  25. Wendy

    What a wonderful trip you took me on. Thanks for sharing and for stopping by.

  26. Andrea

    Hi Rosie, i am back from a month detour. That trip you gave us is certainly wonderful, and your collaging the smaller photos are very artistic indeed. I dont know how to collage yet, hehe. ARe you the one touching the lion knocker? very beautiful. Glad to meet you Rosie.

  27. James Missier

    I had fallen in love with the majestic Lion of Judah when I first saw Narnia – movie.
    It truly moved my faith.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  28. Autumn Belle

    Thank you for thanking us along to this wonderfully intriguing place. I have watch the Chronicles of Narnia movie with my kids. Now it is even more meaningful. The views are awesome, so I'm eagerly waiting for the next part.

  29. VP

    Hi Rosie – fantastic post. I worked in Oxford for a while and used to go to the pub where CS Lewis and Tolkein drank. And at our bloggers get together at Malvern in May we'll be on the trail to find the lampost which inspired the one in Narnia 🙂

    Thanks for visiting my blog – I haven't seen your entry over so it's entirely up to you!

  30. Sue

    Wow – Awesome story and photos. I love The Lion, the witch & the wardrobe!

    Thanks for sharing this♥

  31. Jan (Thanks For Today)

    Hi Rosie, I so enjoyed your 'first' post about CS Lewis/Narnia. How wonderful to live so close to all of that history! I've read them all, to both of my kids, and my daughter has the whole collection. She's been to Scotland, where you live (but in Edenburgh)…Also, she's probably not aware of the CS Lewis/Ireland connection. I'm so glad I stopped by today. I tried to 'follow' or 'fan' you on FB/networked blogs or whatever you have there, but I cannot find it. Can you send me the link? Thanks for following me there;-)

  32. Regina

    Beautiful place and post! I love CS Lewis books.
    Thank you for sharing great and wonderful photos.

  33. DoanLegacy

    I love CS Lewis' books and read them all to my children. His magical imaginary characters are very classic and fascinating!

    Wonderful post!

  34. Gerry Snape

    Rosie! how exciting to find your blog! Ihave put up two poems with photos of the forest at the back of hollywood where I go to walk with my sister also Rosie when I'm back in Belfast. I'm off again to visit next week and will no doubt have a walk there.I don't know how to follow your site as it doesn't have a follow bit at the top.Help!!! I found you through a comment on one of my blogs.

  35. Michele

    Dear Rosie,

    You have made my year. Many times reading through C. S. Lewis's biographies I've imagined Little Lea and all the books lying around in all of the rooms that he had access to – his imaginary worlds that he created and sadly, the passing of his mom. Thank you, for posting photos of Little Lea – I still have chills of happiness!

    I found you through Amber's blog. Your photos made my heart leap for joy. Someday we hope to visit The Kilns, but I may have to add Ireland. Thank you for taking all of us with you on this beautiful journey.

    I read The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe first because our school library had only that book. When I got into middle school I was able to check out the entire series. I still enjoy being transported to Narnia, especially now when reading with my children.

    xoxo michele