Discover how the magic of Ireland’s Skellig Michael attracted Star Wars to County Kerry

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In a galaxy far, far away…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is sending the global box-office into hyperdrive. Since 1977, the record-breaking movie franchise has travelled through more than a few galaxies, and this time around the cast and crew jetted into a little town called Portmagee, County Kerry, on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, and a dream filming location: the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Skellig Michael.

Rising improbably from the Atlantic, one of the highlights of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Skellig Michael has attracted both admirers and those seeking solitude for centuries. It was on this jagged rock that 6th century monks carved hundreds of stone steps to the summit, where they established an isolated monastery.

Skellig Michael – and neighboring Little Skellig – have featured in ancient Irish legends and were even visited by Vikings. But it wasn’t until 2014 that these remote peaks welcomed their strangest visitor yet… one of the biggest movie-making phenomena in history.

 

A special place

The Skelligs are renowned as a unique and special place, so when New York Times writer Lucinda Hahn visited the site, courtesy of local boatman Declan O’Driscoll, she could easily imagine “Luke Skywalker in one of the dank beehive cells, crouching as the monks had centuries before, marooned on the island with his demons.”

A bunch of us boatmen were standing around [Skellig Michael], and Mark Hamill said: ‘Any advice for climbing the stairs?’ We told him, ‘Just pace yourself, and don’t ever, ever look down.’

BOATMAN DECLAN O’DRISCOLL TO THE NY TIMES

There were no demons over on the mainland in Portmagee, however. Outside of filming, according to local man Vincent O’Keeffe: “This is where most of the action took place. It would be fun for fans to see just how small the place is and how weird it must have been for us to have a movie as big as Star Wars ending up here.”