In the footsteps of Jedi
It may take place ‘in a galaxy far, far away’, but in reality some of the most dramatic settings for the global sci-fi phenomenon that is Star Wars are considerably closer to home.
The seventh and eighth incarnations of George Lucas’ original creation have chosen the Emerald Isle’s rugged and awe-inspiring coastal landscape as the ideal location for Luke Skywalker and Co to strut their stuff.
It all started with Episode VIII: The Force Awakens, when cast and crew descended on the Wild Atlantic Way, lightsabers shimmering against the crystal clear skies of County Kerry.
Skellig Michael, a jagged rock 11.6km off the Iveragh Peninsula, was the locale for the blockbuster final scene where Rey (Daisy Ridley) discovers Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) inter-galactic hideaway. A UNESCO World Heritage Site (6th century monks carved hundreds of stone steps to the summit where they established a monastery), it led none other than Princess Leia’s twin brother (well, the actor Mark Hamill) to enthuse: “It’s just indescribably beautiful.”
Hamill and the rest of the cast clearly were blown away (pun intended) by both the scenery and the warmth of the welcome they received in Ireland’s rugged and picturesque south-west. At the little town of Portmagee, Yoda’s apprentice was again the willing recipient of wise words, this time on how to pull a proper pint from the Bridge Bar’s Ciaran Kelly.
Hamill and Ridley also joined locals for a night of traditional Irish music, returning again with the entire Lucasfilm workforce for the Star Wars wrap party. The duo was also gushing in their praise of The Moorings Guesthouse (that doubled as a Star Wars production office) and nearby Waterville where they stayed.
The Star Wars story continued this year when Millennium Falcon sat navs (well, we don’t know what the Rebel Alliance call them!!!) were again set to Ireland for filming on Episode VIII. Written and directed by Rian Johnson (of Looper fame), it resulted in an even more comprehensive list of locations.
On this occasion it was decided to pass on a return to Skellig Michael (possibly as some conservationists had previously kicked up a storm about Storm Troopers on the windy outcrop) and a Jedi-style temple was instead constructed further north on a clifftop at Ceann Sibeal.
The location was no less dramatic, with lush grasslands and a sandy bay providing the perfect backdrop. Situated on the Dingle Peninsula, the nearby village of the same name again proved a popular haunt with crew and cast alike.
Local schoolkids are also unlikely to ever forget the moment a 6ft 7” Chewbaca popped into see them. In fact, it would be fair to say that employees of Lucasfilm made the most of their stay in Ireland, with Keating’s Bar (near the lighthouse at Loop Head in County Clare) another of the local bars being popular with the cast and crew after filming.
Episode VIII shoots also took place at Brow Head, near Crookhaven, and Mizen Head in County Cork.
However, if you really want to witness for yourself the indelible mark that Star Wars left on the island of Ireland then perhaps a trip to the Inishowen Peninsula, County Donegal should be high on the agenda. Shooting at Malin Head (the Emerald Isle’s most northernly point) attracted considerable interest from bemused locals.
In fact, at Farren’s Bar (just a mile and half from where filming took place), the owner, Hugh Farren, had a large mural of Yoda painted onto the gable wall of his pub. This artwork of the small but wise one has fast become an attraction in its own right.
Star Wars Episode VIII is set for cinema release in December, 2017, so we will have to wait until then to discover exactly what scenes were shot and how prominent a role they play in the second part of the sequel trilogy.
However, if you’re a Star Wars fan and fancy visiting these fantastic Irish locations, there’s no better way to explore the film locations than in a campervan. Book now to beat the rush, once the film is released this particular Road Trip is going to be incredibly busy! ‘May the force be with you’!