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The Little Book of Irish Landmarks by Cathal Coyle

Cathal Coyle © 8 February 2018.
Posted in the Magazine ( · Interviews · Non-Fiction ).

The early inspiration behind writing a book on the various historical, geographical and cultural landmarks in Ireland was derived from trips to The Aran Islands, The Burren and The Cliffs of Moher when I was eleven; thirsty for more knowledge about these places that I had only heard or read about.

On a school trip to County Clare, I enjoyed the journey south from Tyrone to discover and learn more about these iconic landmarks in the province of Munster. I recall a coachload of American tourists one Thursday afternoon in June 1986 near the famous cliffs: there’s always been a close link between our cultural heritage and tourism in Ireland, and it dawned on me that people travel thousands of miles to visit Ireland because of these wonderful landmarks!

I visited the Aran Islands a few months later with my family; it was part of our summer holidays, our base was in Salthill. My father was always keen for us to explore our national landmarks and heritage. Walking to the edge of Inis Mór and looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, I was intrigued by him telling me that Boston was the next parish across!


These landmarks are now key features of the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ tourism initiative by Fáilte Ireland that has been a roaring success in promoting our west coast.  I’ve always enjoyed getting out and about, driving around Ireland; from Malin Head to Mizen Head. In the summer of 2012 my wife Louise and I embarked on a week-long road trip with our children, and one of my personal highlights was the time spent travelling from Bantry to Killarney through the Beara peninsula and marvelling at the views and landmarks that attract people to visit from all over the world!

I live just a few miles from one of Ulster’s most notable landmarks – Tullaghoge Fort, situated on the main road between Cookstown and Stewartstown in County Tyrone. Much of the history of the O’Neill clan can be linked to this area and in recent years I have become involved with a historical group named ‘Cineál Eoghain’ that promotes the history and heritage of the O’Neill clan and its associated links such as the Hamill and Kelly clans, to whom I have many relatives.


Together with my experiences of visiting landmarks in rural, urban and coastal settings across Ireland, I approached the editor of The History Press with the idea of adding to ‘The Little Book’ series; I had already written ‘Tyrone’ and ‘Donegal’.  Delighted to be commissioned to write ‘Irish Landmarks’; I embarked on a journey to many landmarks around the country, taking in many places I had previously not visited such as Dundrum Castle in County Down and St. Nicholas’ Church in Galway, making notes and observations about them. I spent just over one year researching and writing ‘Irish Landmarks’ keeping in contact with the editor throughout the process.

I launched the book in Coyle’s Cottage during November 2017 – a landmark I have close affection for, as my ancestors lived there many decades ago. It is a thatched cottage located near Ardboe Cross on the shores of Lough Neagh, and it is now used by the Muntirevlin Historical Society to host local history talks and other cultural events.

As a regular contributor to a number of magazines over the past decade, it had been an ambition of mine to produce non-fiction books. As someone with a range of interests in themes such as heritage, politics, sport and the arts – I was naturally inclined to follow this up by writing about aspects of these.


When submitting a non-fiction proposal to any publisher, always ensure that you have a concise summary of the book’s content; your writing and/or career experience that is directly relevant to the book; an outline of your marketing and promotion strategy; and the audience – i.e. to whom the book is intended to appeal.

After I received the tremendous news back in 2013 that The History Press had accepted my proposal to write The Little Book of Tyrone; I began with the best source available to any writer/researcher who is writing about a non-fiction topic that is local to them: the local library.

With online access 24/7, one doesn’t need to go out on a wet and windy night after work to check the shelves to see if a book is available. The flexibility of the library is its strength, and I was able to order copies of books about rugby legends, poetry, customs and ghost stories relating to Tyrone directly from my local library in Cookstown.

After gathering the information sources, the next consideration was which information to select for the book – and what to leave out. As space was limited in order to fit the format of ‘The Little Book’ series, and mindful of the time constraint, this was perhaps the most demanding part.

My advice is to be ruthless: you simply don’t have time weighing up the pros and cons about inserting items of information. As my book was a ‘snapshot’ of Tyrone in terms of a potted history in Chapter One, I could afford to be more selective in this area, while Chapter Seven focused on sporting successes, I was careful not to overlook any key events or achievements by individuals or teams.


For The Little Book of Irish Landmarks I sought the services of a professional illustrator to produce the images required to accompany the text. Adam Kee, a native of Cookstown who now resides in Staffordshire, England; provided a number of these to accompany the text. The Dark Hedges in County Antrim, made famous by the TV series Game of Thrones, is my favourite illustration in the book.

Another valuable source are those colleagues, friends and relatives close to you.  Never be too proud to ask for advice or information. I was fortunate to have great support from Ronan Colgan and Nicola Guy in the History Press, and they were always an email or a phonecall away.

Another piece of advice I would offer to any aspiring author is: persevere and keep the faith. Outline your non-fiction idea to your publisher confidently and convince them that your work will appeal to an audience. “If at first you don’t succeed…try, try and try again.”

(c) Cathal Coyle

About The Little Book of Irish Landmarks:

is a compendium of fascinating, obscure, strange and entertaining facts about some of Ireland’s most iconic landmarks and popular tourist attractions.

Here you will find out about the Giant’s Causeway, Bunratty Castle, Blarney Castle, Newgrange, Cliffs of Moher, GPO Dublin, Tory Island, Skellig Michael, Hill of Tara and much more.

A reliable reference book and a quirky guide, this can be dipped into time and time again to reveal something new about the people, the heritage and the secrets of the Emerald Isle.

Order your copy online here.


Cathal Coyle is a librarian and freelance writer based in County Tyrone and most recently the author of ‘The Little Book of Irish Landmarks’, and previously ‘The Little Book of Donegal’ and ‘The Little Book of Tyrone’. He also contributes regularly to a variety of publications such as Ireland’s Own and The Irish Times on themes of history, culture and heritage. He is hosting a writing workshop for aspiring non-fiction writers in Seamus Heaney Home Place on Saturday 14th April 2018; further details available from: www.seamusheaneyhome.com
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