5 famous films and TV shows shot in Ireland
Beautiful Irish filming locations which provide great holiday inspiration for adventurous travellers.
St Patrick’s Day falls on 17th March and is a time to celebrate all things Irish. It is also a great date to start planning a trip to the Emerald Isle. Travellers are advised to act quick as holiday companies are often overwhelmed with bookings over the St Partick’s festival.
If you’re in any doubt about where to visit why not take inspiration from the small and big screen? Here is a list of famous films and television programmes which have been filmed in Ireland and the fabulous locations which were used.
The creators of the Channel Four sitcom Father Ted claim that Craggy Island – the place which is home to hapless Father Ted and his colleagues – is a fictional amalgam of several islands off the west coast of Ireland.
However, the 250 inahabitants of Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran islands in Galway Bay, claim that their island is the real Craggy Island. It is Inisheer that you see during the opening credits’ aerial shots and it is Inisheer which is home to the Plassey shipwreck – the mysterious charred framework of which appears on screen shortly before the action starts. Away from Galway Bay there are plenty of other great Father Ted locations such as the Aillwee Caves in the Burren, County Clare which feature as “the very dark caves” Ted inevitably gets lost in during The Mainland episode.
The 1km-long cave system was discovered in 1940 by a farmer named Jacko McGann who followed his dog as it chased a rabbit. In true Father Ted-style Jacko didn’t bother telling anyone about his discovery for 30 years. The caves were thought to be the last bear den in Ireland and now that Jacko’s secret is out, the caves are open to the public from 9:30 every morning.
The Quiet Man
The setting for the story of the 1952 film The Quiet Man is Innisfree (a place made famous by the W.B. Yeats poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree). However, much of the action was filmed in the grounds of Ashford Castle, a fine hotel situated in the village of Cong in County Mayo. Cong is the definition of splendid isolation; it’s on an island surrounded by streams.
The success of The Quiet Man has made the place a little noisier and Cong’s inhabitants certainly see its connection with Hollywood history as something to shout about; a replica of the original pub featured in the film has been rebuilt and shows the film every day.
This BBC One series ran from 1996 to 2001 and featured the trials of an English priest trying to settle into an Irish community. It was mainly filmed in Avoca; a small town situated on the banks of the River Avoca in County Wicklow. Until Ballykissangel came along, Avoca was famous for its copper mines and hand-weaving traditions. Now it is synomonous with the gentle pace of life of Southern Irish villages.
County Wicklow has been used in some more dramatic productions – the Cahir Castle and the waterfall at the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry all contribute to the epic nature of John Boorman’s 1981 film Excalibur.
In 1970 the village of Dunquin in County Kerry was facing economic ruin. It was saved by Ryan’s Daughter; a film which provided a £1 million cash boost to the area. The film crew couldn’t have travelled any further west in Ireland to film the action; Dunquin is the most westerly point in Ireland.
Its breathtaking clifftop scenery provided a dramatic backdrop to Ryan’s Daughter’s scenes and the stormy weather during filming seems to mirror the wild moods of the main character, Rosy Ryan (played by Sarah Miles).
As well as saving Dunquin, Ryan’s Daughter might well have saved the life of actor, Robert Mitchum. When asked why he was reluctant to commit to the film, Mitchum told director David Lean: “I was actually planning on committing suicide.” Mitchum didn’t, of course, commit suicide and later was said to have thought that Ryan’s Daughter was one of his favourite films. Dunquin still survives and thrives today and was used in the 1992 Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman film Far and Away.
The 1995 film Braveheart tells the story of William Wallace – a man whose never-say-die attitude has been woven into the fabric of Scottish Nationalism. So you would think that the film makers would only have one country in mind when deciding where to film the action…
However, while Scotland’s heaths, lochs, lakes and castles can be seen during the award-winning battle scenes so too can Ireland’s. It wasn’t just the tax breaks offered in Ireland which made American director Mel Gibson decide that County Meath’s Trim Castle should double as the English town of York and that Bective Abbey would make a perfect castle for the evil Longshanks to hatch his plans in.
And then there’s nearby Dunsany Castle (Westminster Abbey in the movie) and Dunsoghly Castle in County Dublin (Edinburgh Castle in the movie). You just can’t keep Ireland out of the picture when it comes to finding fantastic film locations!