From Harry Potter to Normal People, these are Ireland’s most breathtaking film and TV locations
These days, a walk along Ireland’s verdant coastline can bring a sudden sense of deja vu, coupled with the feeling that you’ve just walked through a magical landscape.
It’s not just that the Emerald Isle has some of Europe’s most breathtaking natural wonders. Over the years, Ireland – along with Northern Ireland – has become a premier film and television location, particularly for magical and historical tales.
“Ireland is a country that is very interested in creativity and the arts, culture and music, so cinema fits in perfectly, whether it’s Star Wars and Game of Thrones – which are big blockbuster-type productions – or whether it’s the Banshees of Inisherin,” says Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland.
“The scenery is fantastic for filming and its very nature lends itself well to cinematography.”
The production of films and TV shows in Ireland has created a new type of tourism in the country, with fans of the big and small screens flocking to see the iconic locations. The locals are happy too.
“Locals love having movies shot in their area,” says Gibbons. “For example, Disney’s ‘Ella Enchanted’ was filmed in County Wicklow, in a lovely village called Glen Tulloch.
“And the whole village was transformed for a few months, it became an attraction for a lot of locals who would come down and start having cups of coffee and watching what was going on,” he continues.
“And it’s just a bit of magic that comes to one place for a while and then moves on. But then the lasting legacy is left in the film itself.”
Here are some of the film and TV venues you absolutely must visit on your next trip to Ireland.
The Cliffs of Moher
One of the most visited places in Ireland, the spectacular Cliffs of Moher are also one of the most popular film and TV locations.
Like many natural wonders, these cliffs, formed over 300 million years ago, have the power to spark the human imagination.
In the past, they have inspired stories of mermaids, lost cities and tragic love affairs, which are part of Ireland’s fascinating folklore. In modern times, they have served as the backdrop for some of the most beloved movies of our time.
The 1987 American cult fantasy film ‘The Princess Bride’ was partially filmed here, with the Cliffs of Moher serving as ‘Cliffs of Madness’, which the main characters scale in a tense scene.
In 2009, the towering cliffs took on an even more menacing aspect in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”, where they appear as the hostile landscape hiding one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes.
Castle Ward, Northern Ireland
Castle Ward in Northern Ireland is the real Winterfell, the castle and seat of power of the unlucky House Stark in “game of thrones: A song of ice and fire”.
Much of the series – which remains the most-watched in TV history – was actually filmed in multiple locations across Northern Ireland, including Dark Hedges (known as Kingsroad to GOT fans) , Tollymore Forest, Cushendun Caves and Downhill Beach (which served as Dragonstone).
The town of Banbridge in Northern Ireland hosts the Game of Thrones Studio Tour, which has received rave reviews from fans.
Trinity College, Dublin
Right in the heart of the Irish capital is the superb Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university.
The college, with its gothic towers and wooden bookshelves, served as the setting for a few scenes in “Normal People,” the popular TV show based on Sally Rooney’s beloved novel of the same title.
Curracloe Strand in County Wexford became Omaha Beach in Normandy in the epic American war film ‘Saving Private Ryan’. If you’ve seen the film, you might not have missed it: the beach is featured in the film’s 20-minute opener.
Rumor has it that more than 2,000 Irish Defense Force men were deployed to the beach for the filming of the scene, which lasted two months.
Skellig Michael, a rocky island off the coast of Kerry and a UNESCO heritage site, served as the backdrop for “star wars: The force awakens”.
A visit here can be tricky, but it is possible: boats only come to the island when the weather permits, and visitors can only stay for a few hours.
Ireland’s Ancient East, the cradle of Irish culture, which includes Cavan, Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan and Westmeath, was the landscape that served as the backdrop for much of the filming of the TV show.”vikings“.
Inishmore and Achill Island
Finally, a movie set in Ireland that is actually about Ireland. “The Banshees of Inisherin”Martin McDonagh’s new film released this year, set on the fictional island of Inisherin, was actually shot between two Irish islands: Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, and Achill Island near Mulranny in County Mayo.