The dramatic landscape of the Burren in Co Clare may have been the inspiration for JRR Tolkien's forbidding Misty Mountains, according to fans of the 'Lord of the Rings' author.
Academics have compared the topography of the Burren – in particular around Gortaclare Mountain – with the Misty Mountains from Tolkien's Middle Earth and have found a remarkable similarity.
The English writer, pictured, is known to have spent time in the Burren when he was an external examiner for University College Galway from 1949 to 1959.
Peter Curtin, Burren native and chairperson of the Burren Tolkien Society, said the world-famous site could have inspired Tolkien's masterpiece.
"We believe that Tolkien denied the Burren links when his masterwork was published in 1954 as he might have felt that Irish influences would have been unpalatable to his largely English audience," he said.
"In the few years leading up to his death in 1973, however, Tolkien spoke more openly about how his writings were influenced by the themes and ideas of Irish and Celtic mythology."
Mr Curtin said Tolkien spent considerable time in the Burren during the 1950s – when he was revising and publishing 'Lord of the Rings'.
The society is holding a convention exploring Tolkien's links with the Burren in May. It will feature writing workshops, lectures and guided walks of locations frequented by the writer, including Poll na Gollum Cave, which organisers believe influenced the creation of the famous character.
The Burren Tolkien Convention runs from May 9-16. See www.burrentolkiensociety.ie.