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December Girl is set in the Boyne Valley, Ireland, at a small, picturesque, grassy stone age tomb called Dowth. The tomb was built around 2000 BC and shares a solar alignment with nearby Newgrange.

 

Every year on the winter solstice, the sun at dawn streams into the tomb at Newgrange. In recent years it was discovered that the evening sun also reaches into and lights up the tomb at Dowth. This is touched upon in December Girl and the main character, Molly Thomas, who is born on the winter solstice, comes to realise she has an inner strength and spiritual connection to her homeland.

 

While Newgrange has a dedicated tourism centre and is protected, Dowth burial chamber has been left practically untouched and is accessible, in a small field by a stile.

 

 

 

The River Boyne plays a major part in the storyline of December Girl. For Molly, it is her favourite place to go, and she remembers it fondly, when her life, later spins out of control.

 

Townley Hall is a magnificent country mansion, set at the end of a laneway and surrounded by Townley Hall Woods. The house is located a few miles from where author Nicola grew up and she was lucky enough to visit it as a child. The outer descriptions of the fictional Brabazon House are based on Townley Hall.

 

Dowth Hall would have been the true home of the fictional Brabazon family as imagined in the novel. It is located very near to the Thomas (Elcock) home. Originally December Girl was written with hunt scenes and a hunt ball, but after Nicola attended Dowth Point to Point and researching the racetrack which existed from the 18th century at Dowth, race scenes were added and the race balls and entertainment are key points of the story.

 

READ ABOUT NICOLA'S VISIT TO DOWTH HALL

Drogheda is a medieval walled town founded around 800 A.D. It is a valley town, with the River Boyne cutting through it, leading to a bustling port and the Irish Sea. Some of the old town walls still remain and St. Laurence’s Gate, a medieval barbican tower stands majestically at the top of Laurence Street, the setting of Nicola’s second novel, The Nanny at Number 43. Drogheda’s streetscape has barely changed in hundreds of years and it was easy for Nicola to set her historical novels there, using old photographs and archives of the time.

 

READ NICOLA'S BLOG AN ODE TO MY HOMETOWN

On the left, you’ll see the original advert from the Drogheda Conservative, January 1880. It was this advert that inspired The Nanny at Number 43 and it has been reproduced in the book, word for word. If you’ve read December Girl, you’ll notice the family name is Thomas too.

 

 

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