As a child, I visited my nan for six weeks each summer. My days were spent visiting cousins, going to the beach and eating Grandma Mac’s inimitable pancakes. Back then, I could never have imagined Ireland would ever have anything to do with my other love – Star Wars. How wrong I was.
In recent years, the Emerald Isle’s rugged Wild Atlantic Way – a 2,500 kilometre route stretching from north to south along the western coast – has welcomed film crews as they recreated that galaxy far, far away in the franchise’s latest blockbuster films, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
The franchise’s most famous vessel, the Millennium Falcon, paid a special visit to Malin Head (whose Slieve League Cliffs are among the highest in Europe), on the Inishowen peninsula. A replica of the Falcon was built, piece by piece, on the cliffs of Malin Head, while Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) also flew in for scenes. After filming wrapped, Hamill popped by Farren’s Bar, which sports a Yoda mural on the exterior.
Loop Head, in County Clare, is a finger-shaped slither of uninhabited land in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way that makes an appearance in The Last Jedi trailer. Its lighthouse – which was closed to the public during filming – has excellent views, while the peninsula is popular with birdwatchers and dolphin-watching excursions. Travel further north and you’ll reach the Cliffs of Moher (Ireland’s most visited natural attraction) and The Burren – a beautiful glacial-era landscape of karst rock popular with ecotourists.
The wide shots of Ahch-To, the remote rocky island Chewbacca and Rey travel to in the Millennium Falcon in the final scenes of The Force Awakens, were of Skellig Michael. Filming was limited to two days due to its Unesco World Heritage-listed status – which is why the ‘beehive’ huts (which housed monks in the sixth century) that made up Luke’s camp were recreated elsewhere (more on that later). The island off the coast of County Kerry can be visited in good weather, but book ahead as tours are popular and boat numbers limited.
The Rebel County may be Kerry’s rival, but only a fool would miss Cork’s charms. The main city is teeming with museums, restaurants and hole-in-the-wall pubs, while the wider county has many historic towns and beautiful countryside. Star Wars crews, meanwhile, used the craggy caves and mine shafts of Brow Head (Ireland’s most southerly point) while filming The Last Jedi, as Rey undergoes training and discovers Luke’s dark secrets.
Another stand in for Ahch-To was the headland of Ceann Sibéal, on the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) Dingle peninsula. Here, The Last Jedi crew recreated the beehive huts for scenes between Chewie, Rey and Luke – and the adorable porgs – at Luke’s camp. Adam Driver, who played Kylo Ren, flew to Ireland to act off-screen for the scenes featuring telepathic exchanges with Rey.
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