Spoiler Alert: A rugged, isolated island off Ireland’s south west coast is wowing audiences in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The final scenes were filmed on Skellig Michael Island, a UNESCO Heritage Site. All we’ll tell you is that the plot focuses on the intergalacatic search for Jedi warriors, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
The closely guarded secret ending to Episode 7 was filmed in September 2014, more than a year before the film opened to blockbuster, record-breaking sales.
Tourism Ireland is expecting a surge of visitors this year thanks to the connection to Star Wars. Film and TV location tourism is big money for destinations, with up to 35% of travelers impacted in their choice of destination by what they see on the big or little screen. Simply, we want to visit the settings of our favorite films or shows. New Zealand has a popular Harry Potter trail. Ditto the Sex and the City tour in NYC.
Since 1977, the Star Wars movie franchise has traveled through many galaxies. This time, director JJ Abrams along with cast and crew jetted into a little village called Portmagee, County Kerry, on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, then another eight miles (12 Km) by boat to the dream film location of Skellig Michael Island.
Locals were told it was a documentary being filmed, but they figured out quickly that it was Star Wars. And then they had to keep the secret.
Gerard Kennedy of ‘The Bridge Bar and Moorings Guesthouse’ in Portmagee, told reporters it was hard to keep the secret. “It was such a weird and wonderful experience for our small village to be part of the Star Wars story. We enjoyed evenings of music and dance in our bar with the cast and crew. Mark Hamill even learned how to pull a pint with our barman, Ciaran Kelly!”
Skellig Michael is accessible only by boat. Today it’s inhabited solely by birds, but monks settled here more than a millennium ago, and the beehive huts that they lived in are restored and can be visited from May to September each year (advance booking is essential).
Kerry, is aptly also one of only three Gold Tier International Dark Sky reserves in the world. The beautiful band of the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, star clusters and nebulas are just some of the naked eye wonders to see without the aid of any astronomical equipment or filters. Which makes it a perfect location to view a galaxy far away.