The Linen Hall Library, Belfast

Northern Ireland

When we published our first map we sent copies to blogs, publications and individuals whose work we admired. Among those was Richard Weston of Ace Jet 170, whose regular postings of found type, book covers and the belongings of the deceased inspired us then and continue to do so today.
Over the course of this month Richard has agreed to share with us some of his favourite things to see and do in Belfast, beginning with Linen Hall Library. You are in safe hands.

We headed to Linen Hall Library (which you’ll find, by the way, in the very heart of Belfast’s City Centre) for a book launch. I’d not been in before, but that’s not surprising; you’d hardly know it was there at all. Not unless, that is, you’re from around these parts or you have a specific reason to visit, as we had.

Or if you’re a spy and use the library, Northern Ireland’s oldest, as a dead letter box. Which is highly likely. In fact, after just one visit it’s obvious to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of espionaginal tradecraft that the library is the perfect place for all sorts of covert activities for our most secret of services.

Perfect for a number of reasons: it’s warren-like inside so there are plenty of nooks from which you can observe your prey safely; two entrances, the old one on Donegal Square and the new one around the corner on Fountain Street, means a swift and sneaky jaunt from one to the other, via various categorised sections, provides the ideal means to shake off that unwanted stalker; and the Library’s low key facade makes its cafe an off-the-beaten-track (but still very handy) rendevous point for when you need to slip a sealed envelope of top secret documentation to a fellow spook or, dare I suggest, enemy agent.

Linen Hall Library is largely old style; straight out of a le Carré or Deighton novel. Dark wooden shelves hold dusty volumes not touched for decades; its murky corners offer respite from the busy city immediately outside and I wish I worked nearby so I could take advantage of its well worn leather padded chairs when I need a quiet space to think.

I shouldn’t neglect to mention the Library’s modern side entrance, which opened in 2000. Not least because it offers a surprising treat: the atrium’s walls are covered in political advertising from the Province’s checkered past and there’s some real gems amongst them. Worth lingering over if you have the time (and you’re not being shadowed).

Published 5 October 2012

Our guides are printed in England on 100% recycled paper