It’s Reel Beautiful Around Here – Ireland on the Big Screen
Cliffs of Moher, County Clare
In the age of computer-generated imagery (CGI), green screens, robotic actors and virtual sets; it is plain to see that the movie and TV industry is undergoing a technological and digital revolution. However, some real-life locations are so rugged, beautiful and breath-taking that they cannot be replicated digitally or fabricated on a movie set.
Our beautiful island of Ireland is home to some spectacular locations highly favoured by movie-makers and location scouts for the entertainment industry. Our unique perch at the edge of Western Europe means our land has been battered by the wild Atlantic and several glaciers over the millennia, giving us unmistakable geographical landscapes. Irish Experience Tours brings you to some of the finest spots in the land which the movie and TV buffs amongst you may recognise.
Dark Hedges, County Antrim
Beginning with the sci-fi genre, Skellig Michael is a little rocky island off the coast of County Kerry. It has featured in two movies from the Star Wars franchise: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage site that doubles as the planet Ahch-To, where hero Rey tracks down Luke Skywalker at the end of The Force Awakens (2015). The idyllic location also features in the latest installation, The Last Jedi (2017), proving that huge budgets cannot substitute nature’s best efforts.
Sticking with the theme of fantasy movies, the famous Cliffs of Moher in County Clare feature in a number of box-office hits. Probably the most famous is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009). The striking cliffs appear in a scene where Harry and Professor Dumbledore are fighting the evil horcruxes. Another fantasy movie featured the spectacular cliffs 22 years before Harry. In 1987, scenes from The Princess Bride included the Cliffs of Insanity aka the Cliffs of Moher.
Trim Castle, County Meath
Moving into the historical action genre, the landscapes of Ireland feature heavily throughout some notable Hollywood blockbusters, including several Oscar winners. In 1995, Mel Gibson directed and starred in the historical epic, Braveheart, which centred on the life of William Wallace, a hero Scot who defied the mighty English army. The Battle of Sterling Bridge was shot in The Curragh, Co Kildare, and scenes depicting York were actually filmed in Trim Castle, Co. Meath. A few years later, the World War II epic Saving Private Ryan (1998) was shot on Irish soil. Ballinesker Beach on Curracloe Strand, Co. Wexford provided the setting for the shocking opening scene when the Allied forces landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day 1944.
Other unmistakable Irish sites have featured in some gripping action movies. Kilmainham Gaol featured in all the jail scenes in The Italian Job (1969) with Michael Caine. This is a hugely significant place in Irish history as that is where many Irish leaders during the failed 1916 Easter Rising against the British were executed. Kilmainham Gaol also featured in the factual political thriller, In The Name of The Father directed by Jim Sheridan in 1993, which starred our own Daniel Day Lewis. Picturesque parts of County Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way can be seen in older movies like Far and Away (1992), The Field (1990), Ryan’s Daughter (1970) and The Quiet Man (1952).
Like Hollywood movies, many TV series also features stunning locations across the Irish countryside. George RR Martin’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones, perhaps the biggest and best-known TV show in the world, is shot almost entirely in Northern Ireland. The Dark Hedges in County Antrim became The King’s Road. Tollymore Forest Park, County Down is The Haunted Forest where the White Walkers began their journey to the Wall. Psychopath Ramsey Bolton also hunted his prey – animal and human – in these woods. Pollnagollum Cave in Co. Fermanagh was home to the Brotherhood Without Banners where Arya Stark disguised herself as a boy. Shillanavogy, County Antrim was the Dothraki’s Great Grass Sea and the entrance to Vaes Dothrak was in The Mountains of Mourne in Co. Down. Downhil Strand is a 7-mile stretch of beach overlooked by Mussenden Temple, often visited by Stannis Baratheon and Lady Melisandre as part of Dragonstone. Castle Ward in County Down became Winterfell, the home of the Starks.
Remember, when the cameras have stopped rolling, Irish Experience Tours will craft small group tours so you too can experience the magic first-hand. So, if you and your mates are “die-hard” film and TV fans, why not take a small group adventure tour with us and relive the action yourselves. Our experienced guides (none of whom who have won any Oscars, yet) will bring you to the biggest and best locations across the land.
Copyright Irish Experience Tours 2017.