Attraction allowing people listen to Heaney’s poems in significant locations opens in Derry

Open Ground features listening posts and panels explaining each place’s link to Heaney’s poetry

The Strand at Lough Beg, a place of ‘special memories’ for the poet, has been made accessible to visitors for the first time

The Strand at Lough Beg, a place of ‘special memories’ for the poet, has been made accessible to visitors for the first time


A new outdoor visitor experience, which allows people to listen to Seamus Heaney reading his poetry in the locations which inspired him, will begin in Co Derry on Monday.

The Open Ground experience, which is part of the Seamus Heaney Home Place in Bellaghy, link Heaney’s poems to five places in south Derry, which held particular significance for his writing.

The Strand at Lough Beg, a place of “special memories” for the poet, has been made accessible to visitors for the first time.

“The names of the locations that make up this particular Open Ground – Bellaghy, Magherafelt, Toome, Moyola, Lough Beg – are familiar to people from this locale but they have also become familiar to readers of my father’s poetry throughout the world,” said the poet’s son, Christopher Heaney.

“The development of five sites linked to different poems was a great idea from the start and there is something special and genuinely powerful hearing the poems read in their own ‘home places’,” he said.

Open Ground – which has been developed by Mid Ulster District Council, which manages the Seamus Heaney Home Place – features on-site listening posts and interpretation panels explaining each location’s connection to Heaney’s poetry.

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There is also a dedicated Open Group app, which uses elements of augmented reality to add to the experience.

At the Strand at Lough Beg, a newly constructed boardwalk has facilitated access to a clearing with views across the Lough of what the poet described as “Church Island’s spire, its soft treeline of yew”.

A listening post in the area.
A listening post in the area.

Riverside walk

A riverside walk along the Moyola river, where Heaney walked, fished and thought, has also been made more accessible to visitors.

A new sculpture at the Eelworks in Toome, Co Antrim, symbolises the twists and turns of eels as they swim, and reflects Heaney’s fascination with both the life cycle of eels and the fishermen who trapped them.

In Magherafelt, Co Derry, sculpted silhouettes of people walking towards the town’s bus station – who featured in Heaney’s poetry – have been affixed to an alleyway, with the “agitated rooks” from the poem Route 110, named after the number of a local bus, flying above their heads.

An extended and newly-landscaped seating area has also been added to the existing Turfman sculpture in Bellaghy, which commemorates Digging, one of Heaney’s best-known poems.

Open Ground will be launched on Monday by the poet’s widow, Marie Heaney, and the chairman of Mid Ulster Council, Cathal Mallaghan.

“This is a truly unique development, which brings Seamus Heaney’s poetry alive in the places which were so much a part of his formative years and had such an influence on the body of work which brought him literature’s highest accolade, the Nobel Prize,” Mr Mallaghan said.

“If you read Seamus Heaney’s speech from the day on which he became a Nobel laureate, you will be left in no doubt about his roots being in south Derry and their significance on his journey from his home in the ‘traditional thatched farmstead’ to the stage on Stockholm.

“I consider it an honour to be launching Open Ground and to celebrate further the man, his work and his deep connections to this area.”

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