Star Wars on the Wild Atlantic Way
When the Star Wars cast and crew came to Ireland, they could picture it clearly… how the wild Atlantic Ocean, rugged cliffs and moody skies would become the perfect backdrop for the story of Rey, Luke and the ongoing battle against the Dark Side.
With Skellig Michael a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, filming onsite was limited. And so, they scouted the entirety of the Wild Atlantic Way for a more flexible cinematic playground. If you want to follow in the footsteps of the Jedi along Earth’s Wild Atlantic Way, here’s our guide to where it all happened.
Seeking out awe-inspiring panoramas, Star Wars location scouts visited Brow Head and Mizen Head in West Cork, making use of abandoned mines and derelict buildings.Explore Day 1
Magnificent views of the Atlantic
It was on Brow Head, next to the Mizen Head Peninsula, that the cast and crew filmed around craggy caves and mine shafts for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. One look at the scenery when you arrive and you’ll know immediately why this area captivated the location scouts. A definite don't-miss spot is the award-winning Mizen Head Visitor Centre. A small exhibition introduces you to the area’s deep-rooted maritime heritage, before the pulse-pounding walk down to the signal station, which is connected to the mainland by an arched bridge hovering high over the foaming waters. Do look down when crossing the bridge, you might spot some seals, dolphins and humpback whales at play! And if hunger strikes, grab a bite to eat at the Centre’s Mizen Café.
If you have more time, head to the gorgeous Barley Cove Beach, which is backed by huge sand dunes that were thrown up in a tidal wave after the earthquake of Lisbon in 1755.
The epic beauty of West Cork
Aside from the stunning landscapes, the towns and villages around the wild peninsulas of West Cork are the stuff of picture postcards. Take the fishing village of Crookhaven, which historically was the last port of call for ships journeying to and from America. Crookhaven today is a buzzing place during the summer months, with delightful cafés and trad music in atmospheric pubs. It's also a favourite of the sailing fraternity, and colourful boats bob in the small harbour. Pull up a stool at the Crookhaven Inn or O’Sullivan’s Bar to chat with the locals – they may tell you about the time when Luke Skywalker came to town!
If you have more time, seek out the village of Durrus, on the nearby Sheep's Head peninsula. The village is famous for its Irish farmhouse cheese of the same name.
This is where it all began (or ended) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as the iconic Skellig Michael came into view, and the cast and crew settled into Portmagee in between filming.Explore Day 2
An “indescribable” place
When the UNESCO World Heritage site of Skellig Michael, off the coast of Kerry, flew into view in the closing scenes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many simply said, “Wow”. The directors of the movie felt the same. “We were just blown away by it. It certainly fed into our Star Wars universe,” said Martin Joy, Supervising Location Manager. Of course, this treasured site – first inhabited by monks in the 6th century – only allows limited numbers to visit and climb its vertigo-inducing steps every year (and only approved boat operators are permitted to land on the island). But this won’t stop you taking a cruise around the Skellig Islands (weather permitting), by taking a boat from Portmagee and enjoying the area that Mark Hamill recounted as “indescribable.”
If you have more time, enjoy the Skelligs minus the need for sea legs, with a trip to The Skellig Experience on Valentia Island. And, of course, satisfy your sweet tooth at the award-winning Skellig Chocolate factory in Ballinskelligs.
Friends forever in Portmagee
Before Star Wars came to town, Portmagee was simply a busy fishing village boasting incredible views. Very soon, though, it became known as the place Luke Skywalker learned to pull a pint of Guinness in The Bridge Bar. It’s also where the cast and crew tucked into delicious food at The Moorings Bar. With lips sealed about happenings over on Skellig Michael, this little community went about its usual business, welcoming everyone with a smile, and introducing Mark Hamill to that quintessential Irish delicacy – a packet of Tayto crisps!
If you have more time, admire the night sky at the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve, where the lack of light pollution allows you to gaze at the Milky Way and imagine a real-life galaxy far, far away.
Skellig Michael’s iconic 6th century beehive huts were meticulously recreated for cinematic glory at Sybil Head, near Dingle…Explore Day 3
Dingle welcomes Chewbacca!
One of the most enjoyable towns on the island of Ireland is the colourful hub of Dingle, so it's not surprise that many of the cast and crew hung out here, with Daisy Ridley (Rey) spotted in eclectic Dick Mack’s pub in between filming. Justin and Luke Burgess from Bean coffee shop in Dingle recall how everyone just blended in: “It wasn’t until someone came in a few times that [we] realised that they were from the crew!” But the excitement was contagious and even school kids got in on the act, when Chewbacca actor, Peter Mayhew visited a local school to say hello!
If you have more time, drop in to Foxy John’s – a DIY store with beer taps, meaning that you can sink a pint and satisfy your hardware needs simultaneously. Or head out of town to the tiny village of Annascaul, where you'll find The South Pole Inn. The pub was run by Antarctic explorer Tom Crean, a local hero who was involved in three of history's most punishing expeditions.
A fantasy world… for a while
Not a sign, nor a stone from the replica beehive huts built by the Star Wars crew remain at this glorious point on the Wild Atlantic Way – it was left just the way they found it. National Geographic once called the Dingle peninsula “the most beautiful place on earth”, and as you follow the road around hairpin bends on the Slea Head Drive, it soon becomes apparent why. Filming for Star Wars centred around the spectacular headland called Ceann Sibéal (Sybil Head) in Ballyferriter. To enjoy the views here, take the road to Ballyferriter village and walk on Beál Bán beach – a secret spot the locals adore!
If you have more time, visit the workshop of renowned Irish potter Louis Mulcahy, which stands on the windy pedestal of Cloghar headland. Close to here is the Great Blasket Centre, a wonderful place to learn about the nearby abandoned islands.
If these cliffs could talk, they’d speak of golden beaches, historic lighthouses and visitors from beyond our world enjoying this spectacular peninsula and its friendly wildlife!Explore Day 4
The charm of Loop Head
The cast and crew of Star Wars were not the first to discover that this headland jutting out towards America was worthy of exploration. Jacques Costeau declared this the best diving spot in Europe, and local experts will be more than happy to bring you exploring beneath the waves. But atop the cliffs at Loop Head is where you’ll really see how the land is defined by its relationship to the ocean: dramatic cliffs, caves that bear the brunt of crashing tides, and a lighthouse that’s stood watch over seafarers from the promontory for over 340 years.
If you have more time, stay awhile in the Lightkeeper’s House at Loop Head, courtesy of the Irish Landmark Trust. With 360 ° views from Kerry to the Cliffs of Moher, this must rank amongst the experiences of a lifetime.
From the bracing elements that hit you along Loop Head, enter the town where LucasFilm found a warm embrace! Tucked away in a sheltered bay, Kilkee has been a favourite holiday destination for over 150 years. Lord Alfred Tennyson and Sir Aubrey de Vere both visited here, and Charlotte Brontë picked Kilkee as her honeymoon destination of choice in 1894. It’s the beaches that they adored then, and it’s the beaches that contemporary visitors, such as Russell Crowe, adore today. Don't miss a dolphin-watching boat trip from nearby Carrigaholt – it's bliss, courtesy of Mother Nature.
If you have more time, pay a visit to Keeting’s Bar – aka “the nearest bar to New York”. If any American stars of Star Wars: The Last Jedi fancied a swim home, at least they knew which direction it was!
Luke Skywalker, Rey and the Millennium Falcon explore the lands around Hell’s Hole on Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula.Explore Day 5
Getting to know Malin Head
How does a small town on the northernmost point of the Wild Atlantic Way react when the Millennium Falcon and its entourage come to town? Hugh Farren, proprietor of Farren’s Bar, makes no secret of his joy: “It was unbelievable that Star Wars was filming a mile and a half away from us. It was out of this world.” So enthralled was he by the visitors, Hugh painted a giant mural of Yoda on the pub’s wall, and he’ll happily regale anyone who pops by with anecdotes of the time Luke Skywalker dropped by for a pint and some inter-galactic banter. For a few weeks, Malin Head felt like another galaxy, with filming centred around Hell’s Hole (not accessible to the public) – a subterranean cavern carved into the rock over millions of years by the crashing sea. To get to know the area better, take a Star Wars walking tour of Malin Head, where your guide will show you the locations where the movie was filmed, as well as giving you an insight into the culture and history of this remarkable place.
If you have more time, the Inishowen peninsula is no stranger to the Northern Lights dancing on the horizon. Or why not take to those wild Atlantic waves on a whale and dolphin-watching boat tour from Bunagee Pier? Nature at its most thrilling!