Wednesday 24 April 2019

Top 25 movie and TV locations to visit in Ireland - From Father Ted to Game of Thrones

With Game of Thrones back on our screens, Pól Ó Conghaile looks at the best movie locations to visit in Ireland

Fair Head, Northern Ireland. Photo: WalkNi.com
Fair Head, Northern Ireland. Photo: WalkNi.com
The dark hedges in Co Antrim
The Field was shot in Galway and Mayo.
Bridge over the River Nore, Inistioge, Co Kilkenny, Ireland
Powerscourt, Co Wicklow. Photo: Chris Hill / Fáilte Ireland
The Winterfell Festival
Audley's Castle, Castle Ward. A key Game of Thrones location in Ireland. Picture by Bernie Brown
Game of Thrones being filmed in Northern Ireland.
Ballykissangel. The BBC series aired from 1995.
Jennifer Aniston with Joe Joyce of Joyce Country Sheepdogs (joycecountrysheepdogs.com)
Glen Hansard in John Carney's Once
A man walks along the Dark Hedges. Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Plaque of John Wayne, on the famous Quiet Man Bridge, by Lough Boffin in Connemara.
MV Plassey, Inis Oírr; Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Coomeenole, Dingle peninsula, Co. Kerry.
Golden age: Derry Girls can make you nostalgic for things you hated first time around
Pól Ó Conghaile pays a visit to 'Craggy Island Parochial House', well known to Father Ted fans
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Fancy taking your lightsaber on a trip to Skellig Michael? What about a cup of tea at Father Ted's house, or an archery lesson at Winterfell?

Star Wars and Game of Thrones have given Ireland an unprecedented stint in the TV and movie spotlight... but they're just the opening reel.

Movies and TV shows are a huge driver of travel - inspiring up to 35pc of visitors in their choice of destination, according to Tourism Ireland.

It helps then, that Ireland has such a rich repository of locations to offer and visit - from classics like The Quiet Man and Ryan's Daughter to more modern hits like Derry Girls, Line of Duty and, erm... Leap Year.

Here's our pick of the best TV and movie locations in Ireland that you can actually visit... let us know what you think!

1. Skellig Michael (Star Wars)

Where: The Skelligs, Co Kerry

Where else? Skellig Michael was already iconic. When the Millennium Falcon swooped in over the Atlantic on its way to Ahch-To in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), however, we knew Ireland was in for some dazzling big screen exposure.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) amped it up another level, with long scenes filmed not just on the Skelligs, but Malin Head in Co Donegal and on the Dingle Peninsula. Fans taking lightsabers and Jedi cloaks to Skellig Michael is just the start of it... a 'May the Fourth Be With You' festival is now an annual event.

More: The Skelligs: How to get to there, and get the most out of your trip

2. The Dark Hedges (Game of Thrones)

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A man walks along the Dark Hedges. Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Where: Ballymoney, Co. Antrim

They may have appeared in Game of Thrones for all of a few seconds - when a cart carrying Arya Stark and friends trundles down the King's Road in Series 2 - but these swirling beech trees have become Northern Ireland's most iconic filming location.

The atmospheric avenue was first planted by the Stuart family of Gracehill House in the 18th century, but they could scarcely have imagined how dramatically those branches would twist and turn in the ensuing centuries. The thin tunnel of trees has highlighted the problems of screen tourism too, with traffic becoming an increasing issue as GoT grew into the biggest TV show on the planet.

More: The Causeway Coast in 12 Giant Steps: Our driving guide

3. Cong (The Quiet Man)

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Plaque of John Wayne, on the famous Quiet Man Bridge, by Lough Boffin in Connemara.

Where: Cong, Co Mayo

The Quiet what, now? Millennials could be forgiven for wondering how this dinosaur makes any list of the best movie locations in Ireland. But John Ford's classic, first released in 1952, is one of the most influential screen tourism hits of all time - and boy, has it stood the test of time. The movie itself has dated (cringely so, it could be said, in this #MeToo moment), but the locations seem as strong a draw as ever - from Ashford Castle, where John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara stayed, to the 'Quiet Man Bridge' at Lough Boffin and a museum and tours in the town itself.

More: Secret Ireland: Quiet man country

4. Curracloe Beach (Saving Private Ryan)

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A scene from Saving Private Ryan which was filmed at Curracloe.

Where: Curracloe & Ballinesker, Co Wexford

You didn't know Curracloe was the location for the opening D-Day landing scenes in Steven Spielberg's World War II epic? You're not from Wexford, then.

The scenes involved members of the Reserve Defence Force, stunts, explosions and more in depicting one of the bloodiest battles in history, and one of cinema's most memorable opening acts. Curracloe was voted Ireland's Favourite Beach in our Reader Travel Awards 2019.

More: The Irish Bucket List: 30 things to do in Ireland before you die

5. Kilmainham Gaol (In the Name of the Father)

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Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. Photo: Deposit

Where: Kilmainham, Dublin

In the Name of the Father (1993) was director Jim Sheridan's take on the story of the Guildford Four - four men falsely convicted of the 1974 Guildford pub bombings. Many of the jail scenes were filmed at this historic location, but it's not just Daniel Day Lewis and Co who have breathed new life into the creepy old interiors. Kilmainham has also featured in The Italian Job (1969), Michael Collins (1996) and The Wind that Shakes the Barley (see below, 2006), among others. It closed its doors as a prison in 1924, but is one of Dublin's top visitor attractions today.

More: Ireland's Top 10 visitor attractions revealed

6. Lough Tay (Vikings)

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Lough Tay, Co Wicklow

Where: Near Roundwood, Co Wicklow

Look at it! How is this lovely lake not in star every single movie filmed in Ireland? The Wicklow wonder does feature in several, however - thanks both to its good looks and handy location close to Dublin and Ardmore Studios.

Vikings (since 2013) is the most recent, though this was also a setting for Leap Year (2010), Becoming Jane (2007) with Anne Hathaway and a famous scene in John Boorman's Excalibur (1981), when the legendary sword is finally grasped by the rhinestone-encrusted hand of the Lady of the Lake.

Wicklow, once dubbed "the Hollywood of Europe" by Jane Seymour, is home to oodles of famous movie and TV locations, ranging from Michael Collins (1996, with a pivotal scene in the square at Rathdrum) to Dancing at Lughnasa (1998) and Camelot (1967). Powerscourt (see below) and Killruddery House (The Tudors, Camelot, Far and Away and My Left Foot, among others) are two of the top big house movie locations in Ireland. See the county's series of film drives here.

7. The Burren (Father Ted)

Where: Co Clare

It's tricky to choose just one location from Father Ted, but if we were pressed, the parochial house itself would have to be it. Glanquin Farmhouse is home to the McCormack family and - go on, go on - you can book tea and treats there from €10pp (advance bookings only, fathertedshouse.com). Other great locations in West Clare include the Very Dark Caves (Aillwee Caves), the Holy Stone of Clonrichart (The Burren) and further afield, Inis Oírr, which doubles as Craggy Island in the opening title sequence. It's hard to believe the show aired just 25 episodes, from 1995-1998.

8. Coumeenole (Ryan's Daughter)

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Coomeenole, Dingle peninsula, Co. Kerry.

Where: Slea Head, Co Kerry

"It was the best government we ever had," a local lady once told me. "It put Dingle on the map." It was Ryan's Daughter (1970), an old-school epic as richly associated with County Kerry as The Quiet Man is with Connemara. David Lean's classic was a game-changing production for the West of Ireland, showcasing the Atlantic scenery around Dingle and Dunquin to dramatic effect - and winning Freddie Young an Oscar for cinematography. More talked about than watched these days, the movie pits a triangular love story starring Robert Mitchum and Sarah Miles against the backdrop of 1916. Another key location is the breathtaking Inch beach.

More: Kerry like a local - 50 things to do in the Kingdom

9. Derry City (Derry Girls)

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Golden age: Derry Girls can make you nostalgic for things you hated first time around

"I wanted to be an individual but my ma wouldn't let me."

Is Derry Girls this generation's Father Ted? Viewer reception has been rapturous, critical reaction a little more tempered, but one thing's for sure - Lisa McGee's irreverent sitcom has done something that would have seemed impossible in the 1990s: got people talking about the city for a positive reason.

You'll recognise lots of locations, including the 400-year-old City Walls and Derry's infamous murals, now joined by a giant depiction of the girls themselves on Badger's Bar on Orchard Street. Interestingly, several Belfast locations - like St Mary's University and Hunterhouse College - are used in the series too.

10. The Cliffs of Moher (The Princess Bride)

Where: Liscannor, Co Clare

Ireland's hero image? The Cliffs of Moher have appeared in numerous movies, including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), Leap Year (2010), Into the West (1992) and Hear My Song (1991). Our favourite has got to be their role as the Cliffs of Insanity in Rob Reiner's meta-fairytale fantasy. A brief but brilliant cameo. Leave them out? Inconceivable!

11. Connemara (The Guard)

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Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

Where: Bearna, Spiddal et al, Co Galway

Brendon Gleeson's masterpiece? Fans of Calvary (filmed in Sligo) might argue the point, but we love this depiction of an unorthodox garda and his misadventures throughout Galway and Connemara. Remote locations heighten the sense of surreality faced by Don Cheadle's FBI agent when he arrives to investigate, and you may also recognise a saucy cameo for Galway's g Hotel.

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Jennifer Aniston with Joe Joyce of Joyce Country Sheepdogs (joycecountrysheepdogs.com)

Connemara, unsurprisingly, has been the location for many movie shoots over the years, ranging from The Quiet Man (1952) to The Purple Taxi (1977), The Field (1990, see below), Black 47 (2018), TG4's Ros na Rún (of course), as well as Marley And Me (2008), where Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston's antics included getting stuck behind a flock of sheep at Lough Nafooey.

"She was so down to earth. She just chatted away with everyone. She was great with the dogs and sheep," Joe Joyce of joycecountysheepdogs.ie (pictured above with Aniston) once told The Irish Independent.

12. Silver Strand (The Count of Monte Cristo)

Where: Co Wicklow

A personal favourite. When the clouds clear, blue breaks through and sunshine spills over the cove, Co. Wicklow's Silver Strand could make the cover of Condé Nast Traveller. This is a private beach, which you pay to access through a camping park on the R750 south of Wicklow town - but it's worth it. Descending the steep steps towards the cove, you'll find caramel sands, electric green water and splashes of ivy, grass and honeysuckle tumbling down the cliffs. Amazingly, Silver Strand doubled as the Cote d'Azur in the Count of Monte Cristo (2002, above).

More: 8 brilliant beaches within an hour of Dublin...

13. Castle Ward (Game of Thrones)

Where: Castle Ward, Co Down

As we publish, some 26 Game of Thrones filming locations are accessible to the public in Northern Ireland. They range from Ballintoy Harbour (the Iron Islands) to Dragonstone (Fair Head and Downhill Demesne), the Dark Hedges (above) and beyond.

Castle Ward is among the best known, not just thanks to its role as home to the Starks at Winterfell (in its historic farmyard) but its evolution as a tourist attraction. Today, you can take a tour of the property, dress up in costume and even shoot arrows on the Winterfell Archery Raneg (gameofthrones-winterfelltours.com).

"Now, the number of visitors coming to see the real-life Winterfell has peaked at more than 2,500 a month," says Jacqui Bird, Visitor Experience Manager at the castle.

More: Game of Thrones Territory in Northern Ireland

14. Dublin (Sing Street)

Where: Synge St (and others), Dublin

It's not just Synge Street CBS that surprises in this classic dose of 1980s nostalgia (2016). You'll recognise Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey Island, Frederick Street North and more. Dublin, of course, has been the location for countless movies over the years, from Ulysses (1967) and John Huston's The Dead (1987) to The Commitments (1991), My Left Foot (1989), Intermission (2003) and Adam and Paul (2004). And that's not even starting on the opening credits to Fair City...

15. Sligo (Waveriders)

Where: Mullaghmore, Co Sligo (and others)

This 2008 documentary, directed by Joel Conroy, marked the arrival of Irish big wave surfing on the international scene... "a cold paradise", as Kelly Slater puts it. Several years before the 'Wild Atlantic Way' concept was born, scenes filmed at Mullaghmore, Co Sligo as well as the Cliffs of Moher, Antrim and Donegal (not to mention Hawaii), bring the mighty ocean right up into your face, aided by some inspired production choices (16mm cameras, Cillian Murphy's narration, or songs like The Undertones' Teenage Kicks). Surf lessons are readily available for visitors in Strandhill, Enniscrone and Bundoran... though Mullaghmore is best left to the pros.

More: 10 Best Wild Atlantic Way beaches

16. Enniscorthy (Brooklyn)

Where: Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

Movie sets can be deceptive. Did you know Rick's Bar in Casablanca, for example, was filmed entirely in a California studio? Not so Enniscorthy, which starred as the childhood home of Saoirse Ronan's character in this adaptation of Colm Toibín's novel. St Aidan's Cathedral, John Street, Court Street, The Folly and Mrs Kelly's Shop were among the locations, and there's a Brooklyn and 1950s exhibition on the movie at Enniscorthy Castle. Heritage Tours Wexford (heritagetourswexford.ie) also does a Brooklyn Movie Tour, taking in Curracloe beach (above).

More: 10 great reasons to visit Wexford

17. Powerscourt (The Tudors)

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Powerscourt, Co Wicklow. Photo: Chris Hill / Fáilte Ireland

Where: Powerscourt, Co Wicklow

This Wicklow wonder could have a list of its own. Over 25 movies or TV shows have filmed at Powerscourt House and Gardens, ranging from Laurence Oliver's Henry V (1944) to Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975) and Ella Enchanted (2004). The Tudors, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, filmed there on many occasions during its 2007-2010 run. The less said about Far and Away (1992), the better though.

18. Inistioge (Circle of Friends)

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Bridge over the River Nore, Inistioge, Co Kilkenny, Ireland

Where: Inistioge, Co Kilkenny

Kilkenny's Cartoon Saloon are spreading modern-day music magic around the county, but hands up who remembers the movie version of Meave Binchy's Circle of Friends (1995)? A youthful Chris O'Donnell and Minnie Driver headed the cast, but can we all agree that the vivid little village of Inistioge, with it's jaw-dropping 10-arch bridge, stole the show? Widow's Peak (1994) and The Secret Scripture (2016) also featured locations on the beautiful banks of the River Nore.

19. Trim Castle (Braveheart)

Where: Trim, Co Meath

Ireland's largest Anglo-Norman castle was a key location in Mel Gibson's 1995 take on Scots hero William Wallace. A dressed-up Trim Castle doubles as York, and several other Irish locations were used in the shoot, which no doubt annoyed as many Scots as Gibson's liberal attitude to historical accuracy. They include the Curragh in Co Kildare, and Wicklow's Sally Gap and Kippure Estate.

20. Leenane & Westport (The Field)

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The Field was shot in Galway and Mayo.

Where: Mayo & Connemara

"He's learned the lesson of the land." And then some.

It may be set in Kerry, but most of Jim Sheridan's loose adaptation of this famous John B Keane play (1990) was shot around Mayo, Connemara and Leenane in Co Galway. 'The Field' itself is about 8km outside the town on the road to Westport, at the foot of the Partry Mountains - while pub scenes were shot in Gaynor's Bar.

Richard Harris, Tom Berenger, John Hurt and a young Seán Bean star, with the ambush scene shot just north of Leenane village at Aasleagh Falls.

21. Avoca (Ballykissangel)

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Ballykissangel. The BBC series aired from 1995.

Where: Avoca, Co Wicklow

The word 'Ballykissangel' may draw blank looks from anyone born this century - and indeed, the word 'Avoca' is nowadays more likely to inspire thoughts of huge cakes and pretty-but-pricey homeware and clothes. But there was a time (specifically, 1995-2001) when both lay at the centre of the TV universe.

Back then, in a world before Netflix and binge-watching, this BBC series following the adventures of an English priest (Stephen Tompkinson) and local girl Assumpta (Dervla Kirwan) won fans all over the world, and boosted tourism no end in this tiny town. And yes, it features a frighteningly young Colin Farrell, too.

While we're in the neighbourhood... remember Glenroe? RTE's much-loved drama stretched from 1983 to 2001, with a base in Kilcoole.

22. Killiney Hill, Dublin (Once)

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Glen Hansard in John Carney's Once

The busking on Grafton Street. That two-hander in Walton's that saw Falling Slowly emerge as a bona fide hit. Or the moment when Marketa Irglova's character declares her love on Killiney Hill (above)... John Carney's low-budget romance (2007) won hearts all over the world, not to mention an Oscar and an appearance on The Simpsons, thanks in large part to its soundtrack, the disarming performances of the two central characters, and an air of unforced intimacy.

Movie locations in Dublin, of course, could make a list unto themselves. Think of Educating Rita (1983) or Ek Tha Tiger (above, 2012) in Trinity College, productions from Nora (2000) to Penny Dreadful (2015-2019) using the decaying Georgian glamour of Henrietta Street, or film adaptations of Roddy Doyle's The Commitments (1991), The Snapper (1993) and The Van (1996).

More: Dublin Bucket List: 30 things to do before you die

23. West Cork (The Wind That Shakes The Barley)

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Intense: In The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Where: Ballyvourney, Co Cork

A Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, Ken Loach's War of Independence drama (2006) was loosely based upon the history of Tom Barry and the 3rd (West) Cork Brigade of the IRA - who killed a platoon of British Auxiliaries at Kilmichael in 1920. Much of the movie - including a recreation of the the ambush - was shot 20km northwest in Ballyvourney. War of the Buttons (1994) is another famous West Cork production, while Loach's Jimmy's Hall (2014) was shot in North Leitrim.

24. Youghal (Moby Dick)

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Gregory Peck, as Captain Ahab during the shooting of 'Moby Dick', on location at Youghal, County Cork, Ireland. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Where: Youghal, Co Cork

"Call me Ishmael!" It's one of the best known-opening lines in American literature, and for a brief period in the mid-1950s, it was that way in Youghal, too.

John Huston shot his spic starring Gregory Peck (above) here, with the East Cork town doubling for Bedford, New England, circa 1841. Speaking of whales, this southern section of the Irish coast, from Wexford and Waterford to West Cork, is prime cetacean-spotting territory to this very day.

More: 8 great reasons to visit East Cork

25. Belfast (Line of Duty)

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Line Of Duty (BBC/PA)

After Bodyguard (2018), TV writer and producer Jed Mercurio can do no wrong - though long-time fans of Line of Duty (2012-) could be forgiven for saying 'told ya so'. Here's a classic modern UK police drama - crammed with grey areas and complicated characters - but did you know it's largely shot in Belfast?

Recognisable landmarks range across the series from BT Tower to the Telegraph Building, St Anne's Cathedral, as well as a host of local bars and - well yes, grim parking lots and back streets. Watch it now on Netflix.

More movie leads

Travelling the west coast? Check out the Atlantic Film Trail.

Looking to film in Ireland? See Screen Ireland.

GoT fan? Here are Northern Ireland's Game of Thrones activities.

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