Literary tourism is of increasing importance within the field of cultural and heritage tourism yet remains under-represented in academic literature. Smith, et al. (2010, p. 108) define it as a “tourism activity motivated by interest in an author, a literary creation or setting, or the literary heritage of a destination”. The typical profile of a literary tourist is that of a well- educated holidaymaker who is seeking an authentic experience, may have heard about the place’s linkage with a writer but may not have high levels of knowledge about the actual work of the writer. The socio-economic characteristics of literary tourists indicate a pre-dominance of more educated visitors from a higher social class and income grouping (Smith, et al., 2010; Timothy & Boyd, 2003). These characteristics are particularly relevant to the concept of the ‘literary pilgrim’ who has an emotional connection as well as a “more intimate relationship with the author” (Robinson and Andersen, 2004). Gentile and Brown (2015) describe the “widening scope of literary tourism, its arguable transition from niche to mass tourism, and its attempt to link high and popular culture”. The growing popularity of literary festivals as well as other related literary trails, routes and events provides evidence of this.

This study focuses on the importance of Yeats’s literary connection and legacy in attracting visitors to Sligo and it provides a profile of the literary tourist that includes the literary ‘pilgrim’ or enthusiast visiting Sligo. The study further explores characteristics, motivations, and literary awareness as well as experiences and levels of satisfaction among visitors or literary ‘pilgrims’ attending the Yeats Winter School in 2016. Overall, respondents are positive about their experiences of Sligo as a literary destination and consider Yeats’s legacy to be valuable from a tourism perspective. However, the outcomes of this study indicate a need for a more strategic and collaborative approach to the development and marketing of Sligo as a literary destination including a cohesive communications strategy.