Tourism Ireland is ready to capitalize on one of the prettiest vistas in ‘The Force Awakens’

Get ready to book your next vacation, 'Star Wars' fans.


Lisa Granshaw

Internet Culture

Published Jan 12, 2016   Updated May 27, 2021, 9:15 am CDT

Warning: This story contains possible spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

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Viewers likely held their breath during the last few minutes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and not just because they were anxiously waiting to see if Luke Skywalker would finally appear.

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That’s because the place where Rey goes to look for the Jedi master is absolutely stunning. The ending shot was filmed in Ireland on the island Skellig Michael, and now the group responsible for marketing the country overseas as a tourist destination, Tourism Ireland, is hoping fans around the world will make the trip to visit.

Tourism Ireland recently released a behind-the-scenes video on YouTube that includes director J.J. Abrams and others involved with the film talking about why they chose the location. Tourism Ireland’s publicity and film tourism manager Emma Gorman told the Daily Dot that the goal of the video was to help Star Wars fans make the link between that final scene and its real-world Irish location. Ireland’s journey to The Force Awakens all began when the Irish Film Board pitched the country as a potential location for Star Wars to Lucasfilm a few years ago.

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“Once the agreement was made with Lucasfilm they invited us to come in and collaborate and potentially discuss with Lucasfilm whether or not they’d be willing to make a behind-the-scenes film for us and Lucasfilm were,” Gorman said. “Basically we came to a financial agreement that we would pay them a fee and they filmed … some behind-the-scenes shots with cast and crew for us, which they said they would supply to us once the film was released.”

Gorman said she was impressed with how seriously Lucasfilm took its environmental impact under consideration. Skellig Michael is a UNESCO world heritage site, and there have been concerns about the potential impact of filming on the island. According to Gorman, there has been a lot of controversy in Ireland about the impact.

“[Lucasfilm] actually went to the extent that everyone who went out onto the island had to do a test on the bird life before they were allowed to go out. They had to understand how to behave with that bird population and how to cause the least disturbance to the bird population, so that was really great to see them taking that side of things very responsibly,” she said.

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The video was part of the second phase in Tourism Ireland’s Star Wars campaign. Before this, a general page was created to share information about locations fans can visit. 

Additional footage from Skellig Michael will likely be released though Gorman said they are “still discussing how and when and what that looks like.” They waited this long to release this first video because Lucasfilm was concerned about potentially spoiling the movie for fans.

The timing seems to have worked out. The video was released around the same time name of the planet where Luke Skywalker was hiding was revealed. The planet is Ahch-To, the home of the first Jedi Temple, which will surely make the location even more interesting for visiting Star Wars fans.

Those who want to visit will be able to find some specific Star Wars experiences in the area, which is good since Gorman said the number of people who can actually visit the island is limited. Only 150 people can go daily between around May and October—and traveling to the island depends on the weather and tides. Even so Gorman said there’s still a lot for Star Wars fans to do in the village of Portmegee, where you go to catch a boat to Skellig Michael.

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“That’s where the cast and crew stayed. That’s where Mark Hamill learned to pull pints at the wrap party. There’s lots of local stories about the filming,” she said. “There’s the field where Lucasfilm set up unit base and that’s where everybody met at 6 o’clock in the morning and the cast, Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley, were in their trailers getting their makeup done. There’s a lot of stories to be found on the mainland and it’s a stunning part of Ireland so even if you can’t get out on the island there’s quite a lot to see and do around the Star Wars theme.”

A guest house that took part in some of the film activity in the area is already offering a special two night Star Wars experience package for tourists. 

It will be interesting to see what else we might learn when more footage is eventually released from the Skellig Michael shoot. Filming continued on the island for the next installment in the trilogy, and while Gorman couldn’t comment on anything about that, she did say they “will most certainly be actively collaborating with Lucasfilm in 2017 when the next film comes out.” 

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Until then, may the Force be with you when you plan your trip to the first Jedi Temple!

H/T | Screenshot via discoverireland/YouTube

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*First Published: Jan 12, 2016, 9:10 pm CST