Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
In 2014 there was great excitement in Kerry as Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens came to the Kingdom. Filming was on a remote Irish Island, under a veil of secrecy, off the coast of south-west Ireland. Skellig Michael (or Great Skellig) is the larger of the two Skellig Islands located 11.6 km west of the Iveragh Peninsula in Co.Kerry, Ireland. A Christian monastery was founded on the island between the 6th and 8th century and remained occupied until the late 12th century. The remains of the monastery, along with the island itself, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
The island was closed to the public as the crew to film the JJ Abrams-directed blockbuster. Hundreds of sci-fi fans flocked to the village of Portmagee to catch a glimpse of the Star Wars cast. Filming of these Star Wars episodes is expected to bring “hundreds of thousands” of extra tourists to Ireland.
We now know the Skellig Michael was chosen to represent a barren forgotten planet in the series. This is where Luke Skywalker chose to live after the events of the original trilogy. Therefore, this is where Rey and Luke meet in her quest for the First Jedi Temple.
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
Little did we expect, but in 2016 Star Wars returned to Ireland to begin work on Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. This time they chose to use 2 locations in Kerry as well as sites in Donegal, Clare & Cork. For the Kerry shoots the returned to Skellig Michael but also chose to use Ceann Sibeal on the Dingle Peninsula.
As mentioned above, Skellig Michael was used as the home of Luke Skywalker and the home of the First Jedi Temple at the end of Episode VII and the start of Episode VIII. Ceann Sibeal was also used as this location, with a number of beehive huts constructed there to resemble those on Skellig Michael. This is where the scenes with Rey training in the ways of the Force begins.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is not the first movie to be shot on the landscapes of Kerry so we have listed some here just to give you a feel for what awaits you in Ireland on a holiday with Ireland Walk Hike Bike.
Ryan’s Daughter (1970)
Hollywood descended on Dingle in 1970, and the sleepy fishing village was never the same. David Lean’s sage won two Oscars – one for cinematographer Freddie Young and another for supporting actor John Mills. The cinematography is particularly lush, with panoramic scenes of the beach at Inch and the bluebells in Killarney. The film tells the story of a headmaster’s wife who has an affair with a British Officer during World War 1, and it still brings film fans to the area each year. The remains of the schoolhouse built for the film still stand overlooking the Blasket Islands. See these locations on our Dingle Way Self Guided Tour.
Excalibur ( 1981)
John Borman’s fantasy based on King Arthur’s rise to power was filmed entirely in Derrynane, County Kerry. Boorman’s interpretation tells the story of the magical sword Excalibur from when it is first embedded in a rock by the evil Uther Pendragon (Gabriel Byrne). Other major stars include Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart, and Helen Mirren. Director of photography Alex Thomson even got an Oscar nomination. See these locations on the Kerry Way Self Guided Walk.
Far & Away (1992)
This is a great feel-good romance about Irish peasants forced to immigrate to the United States in the 19th century. Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and director Ron Howard scattered Hollywood gold dust in Dingle once again when they arrived to recreate a Famine-era village in Dunquin, on the Dingle Peninsula. See this location on the 10 Day Dingle Peninsula Self Guided Hike.
Harry Potter & The Half–Blood Prince (2009)
The most famous Irish scene from Harry Potter was shot at the dramatic Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare, but scenes from Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince were also filmed in Kerry. Not many people know this, but after the scene at the cliffs, Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry and Ian McKellen’s Dumbledore appear on the famous Lemon Rock in Kerry. Lemon Rock is situated near Little Skellig and Skellig Michael.
This is just a small sample of the movies which have been shot in Ireland over the years with more recent TV series such as Vikings and Game of Thrones also highlighting the rugged beauty of our little Island. We look forward to see you all soon to explore this mystical land.