Lovely places in Ireland for bookworms to curl up and read

Beach, cafe or library? You don’t need to go far to find somewhere special to get lost in a favourite book

Searching for somewhere special to curl up with a good book? Then look no further, as we’ve handpicked some of the loveliest literary spots in Ireland. From buzzy New York-inspired book bars, to fairytale woodland cottages and remote beaches with a tropical vibe, this list has something to suit every bibliophile’s tastes.

The Writer’s Cottage, Co Laois

This charming Airbnb cottage, which sleeps two people plus a furry friend if you so wish, is like something straight out of Hansel and Gretel. The tiny property is tucked away in the old kitchen garden of Roundwood House in Mountrath, Co Laois, and is set on 18 acres of beautiful woodland and meadow.

Complete with a writing desk, stove, lamps and armchairs, it’s the cosiest reading cocoon imaginable. And as an added literary bonus, guests staying at the Writer’s Cottage have access to the Library of the History of Civilisation in the old coach house, which contains more than 2,000 books.

You are also welcome to relax with a book in the main house’s drawing room, as long as it’s not booked for a private event.

READ MORE
  • What to read: Brothers Grimm Fairytales

Marsh’s Library, Dublin

This 18th-century gem in the middle of Dublin city is a book lover’s dream. With its ancient leather-bound tomes, ghost stories and Bram Stoker associations, the capital’s oldest public library has serious dark academia vibes.

The library’s old reading room is still open to the public, and you can see the table where luminaries such as James Joyce worked. However, as this is part of the public visitor experience, it might not be the most relaxing spot to curl up with a book.

Instead, head downstairs to the hush of the current reading room, which is much more suited to quiet literary pursuits. Although it is generally frequented by researchers, in theory anyone can access the room as long as they make an appointment.

Alternatively, head out to the museum’s hidden garden, a perfect oasis for escaping the city crowds and losing yourself in a good book.

  • What to read: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dog’s Bay Beach, Co Galway

Two miles from the fishing village of Roundstone, Co Galway, you’ll find one of the most breath-taking beaches in Ireland: Dog’s Bay. This stunning horseshoe-shaped strand has an almost-tropical vibe thanks to the pure white sand and crystal clear water. All you’ll need is a fold up chair, a flask of tea, a blockbuster novel and voilà – a foolproof recipe for literary escapism.

You’ll finding a similarly gorgeous beach reading experience at Garnish Beach on the southern tip of the Beara Peninsula in west Cork. Also known for its white sand and clear blue water, it boasts beautiful views over Dursey Island and Garnish Bay.

  • What to read: Beach Read by Emily Henry

The Book Bar, Waterford

The Book Centre, located in a converted 1920s art deco cinema in Waterford City, has been in business for over 50 years, and managing director Maeve Ryan says it was one of the first bookshops in the world to serve coffee “back when it wasn’t a fashionable thing”.

Ryan took the “books + coffee” concept to another level two years ago, with the opening of the Book Bar on the shop’s mezzanine floor. The décor is plush, with high velvet stools at the bar, and banquette seating with classical books in old-fashioned covers lining the walls behind.

Ryan finds that lots of people come in on their own, order a glass of wine and and just read happily by themselves.

  • What to read: The Amusements by Aingeala Flannery

Dlr Lexicon, Dublin

The iconic Lexicon library in Dún Laoghaire is one of Ireland’s most stunning reading spaces. Book lovers in search of serenity should head up to Level five – it’s favoured by serious studiers, so it’s super-quiet. Cosy up on one of the couches by the big picture windows, and enjoy the breath-taking view over the pier and Dublin Bay beyond.

The view from Level four is also impressive. By the window area is the children’s section which has a lively, sitting room feel, with families cosying up there after school and on weekends, all reading together. Level three is the place to go if you want to read the free daily newspapers while enjoying the sea views. “Everyone finds their own space here,” a staff member tells us.

  • What to read: For adults – This is My Sea by Miriam Mulcahy; for children – Wider than the Sea by Serena Molloy

Linnane’s Lobster Bar, Co Clare

Why not take the advice of Seamus Heaney in his poem Postscript and: “make the time to drive out west. Into Co Clare, along the Flaggy Shore”?

Right next to the beautiful Flaggy Shore coastline trail, you’ll find the perfect place to read – Linnane’s Lobster Bar in the Burren village of New Quay. During the summer months, the terrace is ideal for relaxing with a book, while watching the water flow into Aughinish Bay. In the winter, retreat indoors and stay snug by the roaring fire.

Adding to the atmosphere are the many literary connections in the area. Aside from Heaney’s Postscript, which captures the beauty of the Flaggy Shore, Linnane’s is just a stone’s throw from Mount Vernon, which was once Lady Gregory’s holiday home, where she hosted luminaries such as W.B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw.

Meanwhile, if you’re passing through Salthill in Galway, drop into Linnane’s sister restaurant Barnacles, which is named after James Joyce’s wife Nora Barnacle. There are plenty of books for customers to read, displayed on old bookshelves from the Druid Theatre in Galway.

  • What to read: 100 Poems by Seamus Heaney

National Library of Ireland, Dublin

People sometimes mistakenly assume that this national resource is reserved for use by an academic elite. However, while it’s true that the magnificent Reading Room in the National Library of Ireland has been used by many generations of writers, artists, historians and researchers, since the Kildare Street facilities began welcoming visitors almost 150 years ago, it belongs to the people of Ireland.

“We welcome people to visit to read, research and write in this wonderful Reading Room,” an NLI spokesperson says. Anyone over the age of 16 can access it free of charge, once they have a reader’s ticket (details on how to apply for a ticket can be found on nil.ie).

From the soaring domed ceiling to the clubby green lamps and desks, the design of the main Reading Room is extremely conducive to losing yourself in literature for many happy hours. Also contributing to the atmosphere is the fact that writers such as James Joyce and W.B. Yeats used this facility.

“James Joyce set the ninth episode of Ulysses in the NLI, wherein Stephen Dedalus is depicted pontificating about Shakespeare’s Hamlet,” the spokesperson tells us.

  • What to read: Ulysses by James Joyce

Linen Hall Library, Belfast

Founded in 1788, the Linen Hall is the oldest library in Belfast and is a true urban gem. Housed in a former Victorian-era linen warehouse, it oozes atmosphere and character and is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

Described as Belfast’s sitting room, the Linen Hall’s packed general lending shelves offer the best classic and literary fiction. You’ll find a myriad of cosy nooks and crannies in which to relax with an absorbing read, with plenty of armchairs and couches dotted around. Alternatively, browse the Michael McLaverty archive, and then retire to the Linen Hall Café for refreshments and a view of Belfast’s historic Donegall Square.

  • What to read: Collected Short Stories, Michael McLaverty

Museum of Literature Ireland Readers’ Garden, Dublin

MoLI Readers’ Garden

The MoLI Readers’ Garden is a favourite with in-the-know bookworms. Unlike other green spaces in the capital, it doesn’t attract large, boisterous crowds on sunny days, meaning that it’s always a tranquil place to catch up on a spot of reading.

The noise of traffic from St. Stephen’s Green is drowned out, leaving only birdsong. In fact, it’s so relaxing that MoLI staff members are often to be found out there on their breaks.

You don’t need an entry ticket to enjoy the Readers’ Garden. Just bring along a coffee and a good book and chill out on the benches, or lounge under the protected ash tree that James Joyce was photographed leaning against.

On less clement days, retreat inside to the Commons Café to enjoy lunch courtesy of the Kemp sisters, Domini and Peaches, while soaking up the literary atmosphere provided by the Ulysses-inspired artwork on the walls.

  • What to read: Snowflake by Louise Nealon

John McGahern Library, Co Leitrim

John McGahern Library, Co Leitrim

Fans of writer John McGahern will be drawn to the library in Lough Rynn Castle, which is dedicated to Leitrim’s master wordsmith. The John McGahern Library is an atmospheric setting, in which to browse the hotel’s collection of some of the writer’s most admired work, while also enjoying afternoon tea.

Adding to the character of the room is the fact that it was once used as the castle’s kitchen, and boasts lot of original features such as the hooks in the ceiling that would have been used for hanging dry goods. Next door to the library is the reading room, which has comfy couches and lots of natural light flooding through the large windows.

And in the Baronial Hall, you’ll find the enticing inglenook fireplace with small benches on either side of an open timber fire. Whether you’re staying in the hotel, or just a day-tripper, it’s an ideal haven for disappearing between the covers of a book.

  • What to read: Amongst Women by John McGahern

The Strand Inn, Dunmore East

Picture the scene – you’re sitting on your own private balcony with a page-turner and a glass of something crisp, and in front of you is an uninterrupted view of the ocean. If this is your idea of heaven, then why not book yourself a beach-style room at the Strand Inn in Dunmore East? Six of the bedrooms at this family-owned inn have sea views and their own balconies, with prices for these rooms starting at €180 per night (including breakfast).

Mere steps away is the lovely Dunmore East strand, where you can get a blast of fresh air before returning to your cosy literary retreat.

  • What to read: Molly Keane: A Life by Sally Phipps – a fascinating biography of the Anglo-Irish author who lived further along the Waterford coast in Ardmore