Stormtroopers gather as Millennium Falcon rumoured to have landed in Malin Head
Published 12/05/2016 | 16:36
Close-up images of a set for the next Star Wars movie looks set to spark massive debate among devotees of the sci-fi saga.
A huge structure was built over the last few days on Ireland's most northerly point - the dramatic and windswept Malin Head - with locals quick to predict it is a replica of the famous Millennium Falcon.
But the entire shoot is top secret, with locals and landowners sworn to keep it that way, and access to the beauty spot is closed for the next three days as the arrival of Hollywood actors is eagerly awaited.
The space age construction - at least 50 feet (15m) across and 10 feet (3m) high - is balanced precariously on cliffs a mile from Bamba's Crown, a headland known for producing dramatic photographs of the Northern Lights.
John Joe McGettigan, from Carrigart, Co Donegal, turned up to the set in full Stormtrooper regalia, introducing himself with his rank in the Emerald Garrison of EG 1826.
"It's absolutely fantastic ... to have Star Wars in Donegal, it's not a galaxy far, far away at all," he said.
"Everybody has their own way of going mad, this is ours."
Not even the father-of-two's fanatical devotion to the films could get him closer than a mile to the supposed set of Han Solo's spaceship.
"The shoot is top secret and I'd say the only way of getting into the set is on the Millennium Falcon itself," he said.
The space ship construction was also shielded by nets, with rescue boats deployed offshore as work intensified in the hours before filming.
Allie Farren, a local campaigner for the tourist centre at Malin Head, said the spin-offs will be huge for the remote area.
"It will help put Malin Head once again on the map," he said.
"This will be bigger than the likes of Game of Thrones like we've seen in the north attracting loads of tourists. Hopefully this will really benefit the area.
"Everybody in this location is tied into the secrecy. It's been a great talking point. Star Wars is one of the biggest movies of all time and for them to be in Malin Head it's top class."
Hugh Farren, owner of Farren's pub in Malin Head, where film crews are being fed and watered, marked the excitement with a mural of Yoda on the gable wall of the bar.
"It's a great occasion to shout from the rooftops how good an this area is," he said.
"It's huge potential. We have got quite a lot of people coming in who have not been here for years, people coming that have never been here before and they are just coming to see and take in the beautiful scenery we have here and loving the area."
The film will shoot on Ireland's most northerly shores before returning to the southern tip, close to where scenes for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was shot on Skellig Michael's monastic hermitage in the Atlantic.
Jedi Temple sets have been constructed on a mountain headland, Ceann Sibeal in Co Kerry, with the filming expected to take place later this month.
Security is tight in Donegal, with only one country road leading to the location and access for eager fans closely guarded by teams of security.
Donegal County Council is overseeing road closures on the Malin Head loop from 8am each morning until 9pm at night from tomorrow until Sunday.