The climactic scenes of Episode VII: The Force Awakens may have seemed otherworldly but they were actually filmed in the very earthly haven of Skellig Michael in Ireland – with very little computer enhancement needed!
Access to the Skellig Islands was limited before the film’s release in December 2015, and has only become more so now that everyone knows where Luke Skywalker has been hiding out all these years. Thankfully, County Kerry isn’t short of stunning natural landforms and attractions. What’s more filming on Episode VIII resumed in Ireland in early 2016, so if you want to visit a ‘galaxy far far away’ you could visit Malin Head on Ireland’s far northern coast or Ceann Sibal and Dunmore Head in County Kerry.
Game of Thrones
Proving that the wild sweeps of Ireland are as well-versed at hosting tales of fantasy as they are science-fiction and history, much of Westeros in HBO’s insanely popular TV series were filmed in and around Northern Ireland.
Whilst Kings Landing is based in Croatia, the iconic Kingsroad – formed from gnarled beech trees – is actually the appropriately titled Dark Hedges near Armoy in County Armagh. With locations in Northern Ireland hosting everything from the fortress of Winterfell to the coasts of Dorne and the Dothraki plains across several series, you could explore much of the Seven Kingdoms in one lovely location.
It’s worth noting that Ireland has also hosted filming for The Tudors and The Vikings, so you can explore some of the finest TV series’ most glorious locations in one break!
Saving Private Ryan
The opening scenes of Steven Spielberg’s World War II classic really showed the impact of war. And despite the real D-Day beach landings taking place in Normandy, for the purposes of filming they were actually captured on the white sands of at the beautiful Ballinesker Beach in Curracloe.
The stunning long stretches of sand in County Wexford hosted the film crew for nearly 2 months. Machine gun nests and ‘hedgehog’ fortifications were built on site and many of the hundreds of extras were from the Irish Army Reserve. After filming finished (at a cost of $12,000,000!) it was restored to its usual beautiful and barren self.
Whilst Mel Gibson’s Oscar winner of 1995 seemed like a long love letter to the majestic expanses of the Scottish Highlands, in truth, a large part of it was captured in the stunning rurality of the Emerald Isle.
Trim Castle in County Meath stood in for the city of York in the film. The county’s Dunsany Castle also hosted filming for Edward II’s wedding and much of the film was captured in the beautiful Wicklow Mountains National Park. But it’s the bloody battle scenes that stick in the mind and, yes, those too were captured in Ireland.
The Battle of Stirling Bridge – notable for the lack of an actual bridge! – was captured on the expansive plains on the Curragh in County Kildare. Similarly, the fields around Ballymore Eustace in County Kildare were used for the Battle of Falkirk scenes.
The Princess Bride
This cult classic from 1987 used Ireland’s fairy-tale beauty to add to a magical fable about romance, adventure and derring-do, with pirates, giants, princesses and more.
The memorable climb up the imposing ‘Cliffs of Insanity’ in the film was captured at the stunning Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. Thankfully, an appreciation of the view from the cliffs doesn’t need to follow a slow climb to the top, so you can just walk along and admire incredible views of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, mountain ranges to the north and Loop Head to the south.