Star Wars on the Wild Atlantic Way

©Lucasfilm

Escape the dark side along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, from the Southern Peninsulas of Cork and Kerry, past the cliffs of Clare, to Donegal's Northern Headlands

When the Star Wars cast and crew came to Ireland, they could picture it so 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 entire length of the Wild Atlantic Way for a more flexible cinematic playground.

These stirring, otherworldly landscapes were not the only thing that made a lasting impression on the cast and crew, though. When filming ended, LucasFilm took out no less than eight advertisements in local papers to thank the people they’d met along the way for their warm welcome and genuine enthusiasm. 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.

Star Wars on the Wild Atlantic Way

Brow Head and Crookhaven, County Cork

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.

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Brow Head, County Cork

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. The award-winning Mizen Head Visitor Centre introduces you to the area’s deep-rooted maritime heritage, then you set your pulse pounding with a climb down to the signal station, connected to the mainland by an arched bridge hovering over the foaming waters below. Do look down when crossing the bridge, you might spot some seals, dolphins and hump-back whales at play! And if hunger strikes, grab a bite to eat at the centre’s Mizen Café. 

If you have more time

Make sure to look out for Fastnet Rock – known as "Ireland’s Teardrop" as it was the last sight of Ireland emigrants glimpsed before leaving their homeland, often for ever. 

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Star Wars crew during filming

The beating hearts of the southern peninsulas

Aside from the stunning landscapes, the towns and villages around the Southern Peninsulas are the stuff of picture postcards. Take the fishing village of Crookhaven, which has the distinguished title as the last port of call for those leaving home for America by boat. Contemporary Crookhaven is a buzzing place, with delightful cafés and traditional music in atmospheric pubs, and is an ideal spot for lovers of water sports. Pull up a stool in the Crookhaven Inn or O’Sullivan’s Bar to chat with the locals. They may well tell you all about the time when Luke Skywalker came to town!

If you have more time

Seek out the village of Durras, famous for its Irish Farmhouse Cheese of the same name!

Portmagee & The Skelligs, County Kerry

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.

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Mark Hamill and JJ Abrams on set

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, such a treasured site – first inhabited by hardy 6th century monks – 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 that 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 Skelligs Chocolate Factory in Ballinskelligs. 

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Mark Hamill

Friends forever in Portmagee

Before Star Wars came to town, Portmagee was simply a busy fishing village blessed with incredible views. Very soon, though, it became known as the place where 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. 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.

Sybil Head near Dingle, County Kerry

Skellig Michael’s iconic 6th century beehive huts were meticulously recreated for cinematic glory at Sybil Head, near Dingle…  

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Recreated Skellig huts, Star Wars set

A fantasy world… for a while

Not a sign, nor a stone from the replica beehive huts remain at this glorious point on the Wild Atlantic Way – the cast and crew left this beauty just the way they found it. National Geographic once called the Dingle peninsula “the most beautiful place on earth”. In its time, it’s suffered Vikings attacks, welcomed Hollywood – and now the cast and crew of Star Wars. Filming centred around the spectacular headland called Ceann Sibéal (Sybil Head) in Ballyferriter To enjoy the views, take the road to Ballyferriter village and walk on Beál Bán beach – a secret spot the locals adore!

If you have more time

Standing on the windy pedestal of Cloghar headland is the workshop and store of renowned Irish potter Louis Mulcahy. Try your hand at making your own piece on the wheel, or be inspired by the sight of the Blasket Islands in the distance.

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Rey, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Dingle welcomes Chewbacca!

Many of the cast and crew found themselves in the busy town of Dingle, whose most famous resident is a dolphin called Funghie. Everyone seemed to enjoy the sojourn, with Daisy Ridley (Rey) spotted in eclectic Dick Mack’s pub in between filming. Justin and Luke Burgess from Bean 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

Check out Foxy John’s – a DIY store with beer taps and also the only pub where you can sink a pint and satisfy your hardware needs simultaneously. Or you could raise a glass to local legend Tom Crean. Involved in three of history’s most punishing Antarctic expeditions, on his return he opened The South Pole Inn.

Loop Head and Kilkee, County Clare

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!

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Rey, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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 Cousteau declared this the best diving spot in Europe, and local experts will be more than happy to bring you to this water world. 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 this 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.

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Luke Skywalker, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Kilkee calling

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 visited here, while Charlotte Brontë plucked Kilkee as the honeymoon destination of choice in 1894. It’s the beaches that they adored then, and it’s the beaches that contemporary visitors, such as Che Guevara and Russell Crowe, adore today. Of particular note is the jaw-dropping vistas you get on a dolphin-watching boat trip from nearby Carrigaholt. Bliss, courtesy of Mother Nature.

If you have more time

Pay a visit to Keating'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!

Malin Head, County Donegal

Luke Skywalker, Rey and the Millennium Falcon explored the lands around Hell’s Hole on Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula… 

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Luke Skywalker, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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.” 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. So enthralled was he by the visitors, Hugh painting a giant mural of Yoda on the pub’s wall, and he’ll happily regale anyone who pops by with anecdotes from the time Luke Skywalker dropped by for a pint and some inter-galactic banter.   

If you have more time

Or should we say, time it right, and you could be in for a treat – the Inishowen Peninsula is no stranger to the Northern Lights dancing on the horizon.   

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