Wednesday 22 May 2019

Ireland on Screen: Our bumper travel guide to Ireland's best TV & movie locations

Lights, camera, travel

Composite Image: Emilia Clarke as Daenerys in Game of Thrones, with Northern Ireland's Dark Hedges in the background (image -
Composite Image: Emilia Clarke as Daenerys in Game of Thrones, with Northern Ireland's Dark Hedges in the background (image -
Check out Galway Film Fleadh. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Game of Thrones being filmed in Northern Ireland.
Skellig Michael in Star Wars.
The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland in Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones archery experience at Castle Ward, Co. Down
Powerscourt, Wicklow
Ireland's TV and movie locations.
Leenane's Delphi Lodge
Song of The Sea

Yvonne Gordon

From Game of Thrones to Harry Potter, Yvonne Gordon lists the hottest Irish film & TV locations to visit.

'If a Wildling comes down a tree and over the wall, you must get him before he gets to you!" says William, the archery instructor.

I am dressed in a Stark family costume with a long cloak, learning how to shoot a bow and arrow in the courtyard of Castle Ward in Co Down (, the setting for Winterfell in Game Of Thrones.

Anyone can enjoy a day out at the estate, where there's a replica of the archery range in the courtyard and a cycling trail around the grounds, passing Audley's Castle and the field which featured as Robb's camp in the HBO hit. But, like most of the locations used in Game Of Thrones, the real history of Castle Ward makes it fascinating to visit.

The tower house dates back to 1610 and the main house has two different styles of architecture - one side is Palladian and one side is Gothic - as the couple who built it had opposite tastes.

Several series of GoT have now aired, and although the producers have been tight-lipped about its locations, extensive filming has taken place in Northern Ireland and so many beautiful locations were used in previous seasons, they have inspired a host of tours to visit places like Downhill Beach and Ballintoy Harbour (see and our must-dos, below).

Game of Thrones being filmed in Northern Ireland.
Game of Thrones being filmed in Northern Ireland.

Another location in the spotlight lately has been Skellig Michael in Co Kerry, which featured in a now-iconic scene at the end of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, its unusual shape suiting our favourite galaxy far, far away.

In reality, the rocky island with its beehive huts was home to monks between the 6th and 8th centuries and is also home to colonies of birds such as puffins and storm petrels. Access to the islands is seasonal (from May 14 via weather-dependant boat trips from Portmagee), but you can also admire them from the Kerry coast.

Will Skellig Michael feature in Star Wars: Episode VIII?

Whatever happens next for Luke and Rey, Malin Head in Co Donegal looks set for a dose of Disney magic with Star Wars touching down for a shoot.

This is Ireland's most northerly point and the Inishowen Peninsula (, with its beautiful rugged coastline and beautiful beaches, is a starting point of the 2,500km Wild Atlantic Way (

The spectacular panoramas of this coastal route have featured in their fair share of cinematic moments. The Cliffs of Insanity in The Princess Bride (1987) were the Cliffs Of Moher in Co Clare ( - one of Ireland's most popular tourist attractions. The 214m-high cliffs also featured in a scene in Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince (2009).

Skellig Michael in Star Wars.
Skellig Michael in Star Wars.

Fans of the Oscar-winning romance Ryan's Daughter (1970) will recognise the Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry - epic scenes were filmed on Inch Strand and Coumeenole, with similar locations used in Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's Far And Away (1992).

Another classic, The Quiet Man (1952), which won an Oscar and starred John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, was filmed in the lush countryside of Mayo's Maam valley and the village of Cong (

If you're exploring here, check out Leenane in Co Galway, the small village at the head of the fjord at Killary Harbour, which was used as a setting for The Field (1990) and The Guard (2011), in which Brendan Gleeson played a colourful cop.

Connemara is also where the main characters in Marley And Me (2008), played by Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, went on honeymoon.

Elsewhere in the West, don't miss the location where another Brendan Gleeson movie, Calvary (2014), was filmed - the surf village of Strandhill, Co Sligo.

The film-maker has said that Ryan's Daughter inspired the visuals and the movie shows off other treasures of the Wild Atlantic Way including Ben Bulben, Lissadell House and surfing spot Easkey.

In Ireland's east, the beautiful Co Wicklow settings of Luggala and the Poulaphouca Reservoir have featured in Irish-Canadian historical drama Vikings (2013 to present).

Powerscourt, Wicklow
Powerscourt, Wicklow

Powerscourt Estate ( has been the setting for productions including Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944), Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975), Ella Enchanted (2002) and television series The Tudors (2007-2010). When it's not dressed up for a location, the estate has the house, gardens and waterfall to visit.

In Dublin, Kilmainham Gaol, in the spotlight during the 1916 centenary, has been popular for historical productions including In the Name of the Father (1993), Michael Collins (1996) and The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006). Perhaps more surprisingly, it also featured as a prison at the start of The Italian Job (1969).

Another iconic location in the east, Trim Castle in Co Meath, was used for several battle scenes using the Irish Army Reserves in Mel Gibson's Braveheart (1995). The Reserves were also called into action as extras for Saving Private Ryan (1998), which saw the D-Day landings recreated on Curracloe Strand in Co Wexford.

From Wildlings to Wexford (also the setting for scenes from Brooklyn, filmed around author Colm Tóibín's home town of Enniscorthy), Ireland's reputation as a film location is growing. Up to 35pc of visitors are influenced by movies and TV, says Tourism Ireland. And that's not even starting on those of us here at home...

What to pack

Phone reception can be dodgy along the coast, so pre-pin film locations in Google Maps before you travel. Wear layers and pack a windproof and waterproof jacket for outdoor exploring whatever the season - and don't forget sunglasses and sunscreen, plus your camera!

3 must-dos...

Game of thrones

Experiences in Northern Ireland include bus tours, a Medieval Game Of Thrones Banquet and even a themed afternoon tea with Baratheon bread and Jon Snow scones (

Or check out the GoT locations app (

Movie Maps & Trails

Consult the Made in Ireland Movie Map (, the Atlantic Film Trail (, the Wicklow Film Trail ( or Northern Ireland's TV & Film locations ( for screen touring suggestions!

Film Festivals

Check out Galway's Film Fleadh (, the Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival ( or Dingle Film Festival ( The Audi Dublin International Film Festival each February includes several Irish-made films too (

Where to stay

Leenane's Delphi Lodge

Leenane's Delphi Lodge (, doubles from €230) is a location fit for stars - Vanessa Redgrave, JK Rowling and Mick Jagger have stayed.

For exploring Game Of Thrones locations in the North, the Bushmills Inn (, doubles from £120/€150) is a cosy base on the Causeway Coast.

Did you know?

Song of The Sea

The Oscar-nominated animated feature film Song of the Sea (2015) was inspired by traditional folk tales of the Wild Atlantic Way and the islands of Co Kerry, with beautiful landscapes depicted to represent Ben Bulben in County Sligo and a magical island off the coast.

Read more:

Game of Thrones: The Ultimate Travel Guide Top 10: Star Wars movie locations you can visit here on earth New Game of Thrones app highlights Northern Irish filming locations

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