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C. S. Lewis Tour--The Antrim Coast


On the second full day of our C. S. Lewis Tour we drove from Belfast north around the Antrim Coast. We saw the former fishing village of Larne where Jack spent his last holiday with his mother before her death in 1908.



As we made our way around the coast, we paid a visit to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. The bridge was first erected by salmon fishermen in 1755. The site is now operated by the National Trust. Given how many times Jack Lewis visited the Antrim Coast, especially in his youth, this is probably a site with which he would have been familiar. 



Today you can take a walk across the rope bridge just like the fishermen of old.


The next stop along the Antrim Coast is at the Giant's Causeway, a World Heritage site. In the photo above my son Josh is standing on the giant's boot. Lewis would have been familiar from childhood days with the mythical tale associated with the Giant's Causeway. His one mention of the place is in a letter to his Belfast boyhood friend, Arthur Greeves, written on January 30th, 1930....
What you can hardly feel as I do is the value of such words as 'Causeway' and (even 'Portrush'. Not that I care or know about the places; but they are places to which people in my Irish life have always 'gone'--they call up the feeling of antediluvian holiday arrangements and put me back for the moment in a world where Castlerock & Newcastle seemed as far away as Edinburgh and Paris do now.

 Our final stop along the Antrim Coast is at Dunluce Castle. The castle was built in 1500 so perilously close to the cliff edge that parts of it have fallen off into the sea over the years and the site is now merely a ruin. It seems quite likely that this is the castle that inspired Lewis' creation of Cair Paravel in the Narnia stories. We first read of this great castle in chapter XII of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe....
And Peter with his sword still drawn in his hand went with the Lion to the eastern edge of the hill-top. There a beautiful sight met their eyes. The sun was setting behind their backs. That meant that the whole country below them lay in the evening light--forest and hills and valleys and, winding away like a silver snake, the lower part of the great river. And beyond all this, miles away, was the sea, and beyond the sea the sky, full of clouds which were just turning rose colour with the reflection of the sunset. But just where the land of Narnia met the sea--in fact, at the mouth of the great river--there was something on a little hill, shining. It was shining because it was a castle and of course the sunlight was reflected from all the windows which looked towards Peter and the sunset; but to Peter it looked like a great star resting on the seashore.
"That, O Man," said Aslan, "is Cair Paravel of the four thrones, in one of which you must sit as King. I show it to you because you are the first-born and you will be High King over all the rest."
And then in chapter XVII we read of the Pevensies first arrival at their new home....
The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and sea weed, and the smell of the sea, and long miles of bluish-green waves breaking forever and ever on the beach. And, oh, the cry of the sea gulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?
In the latter passage it is almost as if Lewis the author is sending some coded message to a friend. And in fact, Lewis mentions Dunluce twice in his letters to Arthur Greeves. The first mention in in a letter dated 5 October 1915....
I once visited Dunluce Castle years ago when I was staying at "Castle Rock", but being a kid did not of course appreciate it as much as I would now.
And then in another letter to Arthur, dated 6 June 1916, Lewis writes....
I have some vague memories of the cliffs round there and of Dunluce Castle, and some memories which are not vague at all of the same coast a little further on at Catlerock, where we used to go in the old days. Don't you love a windy day at a place like that? Waves make one kind of music on rocks and another on sand, and I don't know which of the two I would rather have.
Of course in the second Narnia tale, Prince Caspian, Cair Paravel is in ruins, making it very much like Dunluce Castle as Lewis would have experienced it as a child.... 

Tomorrow we will continue our C. S. Lewis Tour as we set sail across the Irish Sea to England just as Lewis himself did countless times....

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