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The highly anticipated “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” debuts on movie screens mid-December — and fans can expect a whole lot of Ireland. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the previous film in the series, hints at the country’s role: In its last scene, Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) finally locates Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) hiding on a remote island, homesteading in a stone hut that resembles a beehive.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the hard-to-reach (located about 8 miles off the mainland coast of County Kerry) Skellig Michael island was the perfect location for a Jedi to hide away from the world, or rather, the entire universe. Considered by monks as “a place between heaven and earth, close to God,” what could be a better refuge for Luke Skywalker? And this is where the new film takes off.
Enchanted by the landscape and friendly locals during the filming of “The Force Awakens,” the location scouts revisited Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way — a tourism trail that’s located at different points of Ireland’s coast — searching for new filming locations for “The Last Jedi.” It wasn’t difficult: Southwest Ireland is famous for craggy coastal cliffs whipped by winds and wave-washed beaches. Of course, the weather helps. Sunshine and blue skies produce jaw-dropping views and lovely temperatures, but when fog cloaks the rambling headlands, it’s easy to imagine lightsaber duels and all manner of Jedi modus operandi. And for Star Wars fans, the dramatic coastal landscape entices with a special tour de “force” of sites to discover in Ireland, from Donegal to Cork.
Below are stellar locations used for filming “The Last Jedi” movie, which will help clients make the most of an Ireland Star Wars experience.
Brow Head and Crookhaven in County CorkRich in maritime heritage, the village of Crookhaven is a short drive from Brow Head. Once a major coastal trading post, it’s now a seaside getaway for urban dwellers with plenty of holiday homes and inns located on the pier.
Brow Head offers an incredible vista to peer across to Mizen Head, Ireland’s most southwest point and home to the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse, a landmark for sailors and racing enthusiasts. Clients who enjoy kayaking and diving can explore secluded beaches and coves. Daredevils might even try classes in coasteering: exploring a rocky coastline by swimming, jumping and climbing. In addition, visitors to the area can take boat trips for deep-sea fishing or dolphin and whale watching.
Expert Tip: Tour Mizen Head Signal Station, an award-winning maritime heritage museum and one of Marconi’s first telegraph stations. It’s not just an indoor experience; there are views aplenty for conjuring up soaring images of the Millennium Falcon or perhaps a certain Wookiee. Coaches and bus tours are welcome.
Inishowen Peninsula and Malin Head in County DonegalEvery location along the Wild Atlantic Way offers stunning scenery — and the Inishowen peninsula on Ireland’s northern tip is no different. Some call it the “hidden jewel” of the Irish landscape. Along with picturesque villages and a sea-wrapped peninsula, golden-sand beaches lay claim to some of Ireland’s best surfing destinations. Beginners and pros will find something to like here.
Culdaff Beach is one of the most popular spots, while beginners can head to Tullagh Bay, where Inishowen Surf School holds classes and camps for kids and adults. There are several trails, but Inishowen Heritage Trail is the best option for hikers who would like to explore the cultural history of the area. There are 14 stops along the trail, including ancient forts, castles, stone circles and high crosses. Cyclists can pedal the winding roads and take in the views at their own pace, too.
Loop Head in County ClareThe Loop Head Peninsula Drive on the west end of Kilkee is one of the most scenic coastal drives along the Wild Atlantic Way. Clients should plan a leisurely half day for stops along the way to see the sites as they circle around the coastline of Loop Head. Star Wars filming occurred on the cliffs of Loop Head, and a tour of the famous Loop Head Lighthouse offers a chance to peer out onto the headland to scout for cliff locations where the Rebel Alliance might have passed through.
Expert Tip: After checking out Loop Head Lighthouse, drive inland for a lunch of freshly caught seafood at Keating’s Bar and Restaurant, which overlooks Kilbaha Bay on the mouth of River Shannon.
Malin HeadThe cliff known as “Hell’s Hole” seems like a reasonable place to film the Millennium Falcon spaceship — at least, that was the rumor among locals. Star Wars crew members were deadly silent about the film’s production, but they did enjoy some good Irish “craic,” or gossip, while in the village of Malin.
Expert Tip: A crew hangout, Farren’s Bar on Malin Head can’t be missed. Shining like a beacon, a mural of Yoda welcomes all galactic travelers.
Skellig Michael (Great Skellig)As noted above, the remote island that Luke Skywalker had chosen for hiding really exists. Also known as Great Skellig, Skellig Michael was inhabited by sixth-century monks seeking refuge away from invaders. They considered it the “island on the edge of the world.” Seafaring sailors, soldiers and Vikings had to contend with the fierce open ocean to reach the island. Once on land, in order to reach the monastery, they were confronted with more than 600 uneven stone steps leading straight up.
Today’s Star Wars fans can visit Skellig Michael via a boat tour. However, accessing the stony isle does pose a few challenges, including cooperative weather and the strength to ascend the steep (and guard rail-free) steps to the monastery.
Expert Tip: Clients with vertigo can instead stop by the Skellig Experience Center, which offers a great introduction into learning about the two Skellig Islands, Skellig Michael and Little Skellig. The center also offers listings of boat operators and tours that land on and visit Skellig Michael as well as boat tours that do not make landings.
Sybil Head and Dingle in County KerryA large part of the filming took place on Sybil Head in Ballyferriter, which is about a 25-minute drive from Dingle. Pocketed with small farms and sheep dotting the headland and meadows, Sybil Head is idyllic and peaceful. Visit the location now, and no evidence can be found of the massive ancient Jedi Temple set resembling the Skellig Michael beehive huts — the replica was disassembled after filming, leaving the location as magical as before.
Expert Tip: Book a tee time or plan a weekend golfing package for clients at Europe’s most westerly course. Dingle Golf Club Ceann Sibeal overlooks Sybil Head, the scenic panorama of the Dingle Peninsula.