The Fáilte Awakens
Fáílte Ireland is kicking off its Star Wars promotional campaign with a specially-commissioned, 360° video of Skellig Michael.
The video (below) takes viewers on a journey to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, beginning on the Kerry coast, travelling by boat, and eventually scaling the rock George Bernard Shaw once described as ‘part of our dream world’.
The more recent cultural reference, of course, is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the mega-movie scheduled to hit cinema screens on December 15.
Skellig Michael made a famous cameo at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), and features prominently in the trailer for The Last Jedi (below).
It's a major promotional opportunity for Irish tourism, with Tourism Ireland (responsible for marketing the island overseas) also kicking off a €500,000 Star Wars campaign with the launch yesterday of a billboard floating in space.
Martin Joy, location manager with Disney Lucasfilm, says the production was seeking somewhere otherworldly... and found it 13km off the Kerry Coast.
“We needed to find somewhere completely from another time and place," Joy says. "We were just blown away... It certainly fed into our Star Wars universe.”
It's not the only Wild Atlantic Way location that Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland hope make the final cut, however.
Several dramatic coastal settings featured as locations, including Malin Head in Co. Donegal, Ceann Sibéal on the Dingle Peninsula and Brow Head at Crookhaven, Co. Cork, and will likely be spliced together in the film’s final edit.
Here's Fáilte Ireland's take on each:
Ireland in miniature, as this most northerly peninsula is known due to its distinctive shape, is famed for its wild and rugged coastline, its Blue Flag beaches and some of the largest sand dunes in Ireland.
Star Wars makers would have been transfixed by the strikingly named Hell’s Hole - a cavern 250-foot long cavern in the cliff face into which the tide rushes with great force.
The tower at Banba’s Crown also captivates visitors - it’s to be found at the northernmost tip and this part of the peninsula is named after one of the mythical queens of Ireland. To its east, you’ll find Ballyhillion Beach, an unusual example of a ‘raised beach’ that has attracted much International attention.
Rathmullan House and the Inishowen Gateway Hotel are excellent choices for those keen to explore this remarkable area.
Long renowned for its beauty and captivating scenery, this jewel in the Kingdom’s crown had its own Hollywood moment. Its spectacular beaches, including Inch Strand, featured in David Lean’s epic masterpiece, Ryan’s Daughter.
But it will have its moment in The Last Jedi too because it was here, on Ceann Sibéal (Sybil Head, above), that the crew recreated the beehive huts that are found on Skellig Michael. This elemental headland, with its 700 foot cliffs, was deemed suitably wild when it came to recreating the Skelligs, and had to be done as filming opportunities were limited on the island itself.
Nearby Ballyferriter was a popular recreation spot for cast and crew and, fittingly, there will be a special three-day event, The Star Wars Experience, taking place over the December 15 weekend to coincide with the film’s release.
Dingle is a foodie haven all year round and fine accommodation can be had at Heaton’s and Greenmount House in the town.
The trailer for The Last Jedi boasts awe-inspiring footage of Skellig Michael and features the celebrated ‘wailing woman’ rock at the cliff edge. As Skelligs is a renowned bird sanctuary and only accessible to small craft, visitor numbers are strictly limited. But it’s still possible to appreciate how magnetic it is from the mainland and to immerse yourself in the world of Star Wars.
The picturesque village of Portmagee in is where most boats depart to visit Skellig Michael in the summer months. During the filming the cast and crew stayed here and many were smitten with the Moorings, the much loved pub where Luke Skywalker himself (Mark Hamill) immersed himself in the social life of the area and learned to pull the perfect pint.
It’s on this magnificent peninsula where you will find the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve. Thanks to the absence of light pollution, visitors get to experience the night sky just like our ancient ancestors would have. It’s a must for astronomers and sci-fi lovers alike.
West Cork’s rugged coastline features a host of strikingly beautiful headlands, none more so that Brow Head and it’s easy to see what attracted Star Wars to the region.
There’s an old Marconi signalling tower here and Crookhaven village is a short drive away. It’s long been prized by sailing enthusiasts thanks to its seafront restaurants, cafes and pubs.
Nearby Mizen Head offers breathtaking views with its spectacular bridge and lighthouse looking across at Fastnet Lighthouse. It’s known as ‘Ireland’s Teardrop’ because it was the last glimpse of the country that emigrants saw on their journey to the New World in the 19th century.
There are some glorious beaches here, including Galley Cove and the vast strand at Barleycove Beach (above).
Blairscove House & Restaurant at Durrus and the Maritime Hotel, Bantry, are much-loved accommodation options in the area.
To learn more, see wildatlanticway.com.