Ireland is blessed with a wealth of incredible filming locations. Here we will take a look at some of the most notable and impressive sites scattered around this small island. If you are interested in visiting any of them then why not check out our Cinematic Ireland and Game of Thrones tours, in which all of the locations mentioned in this article are covered.
Castle Ward, Co. Down
Castle Ward is an 18th-century National Trust property located near the village of Strangford, in County Down. Castle Ward’s historic farmyard is also the location of Winterfell, the backdrop for the series pilot and much of season one of Game of Thrones. It’s also where you will find the Whispering Wood and key scenes including Robb Stark’s Camp, the Baelor battle and when Brienne confronts the Stark men. A replica of the Winterfell Archery Range has been masterfully recreated in the courtyard in the very same spot that the filming took place, transporting you into the world of Westeros. You can visit Castle Ward on one of our many Game of Thrones Tours.
Lough Tay, Wicklow Mountains
The Wicklow Mountains are home to many scenes from film and TV but it is Vikings on the History Channel that has really showcases the amazing location. About 70% of season one was shot in the great outdoors, much on and around Lough Tay (sometimes called Guinness Lake, as it’s part of the Guinness estate) in Co. Wicklow. Luggala Mountain, overlooking Lough Tay, is a popular location for rock climbing, with difficult granite cliffs on its eastern face. Scenes that can’t be captured at Lough Tay, are filmed using greenscreens on the Vikings’ stages in Ashford Studios nearby.
Dun Aengus, Inis Mor, Aran Islands
Dún Aonghasa is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts of the Aran Islands. The fort consists of three massive dry-stone walls and a chevaux-de-frise, a dense band of jagged, upright stones, surrounding the fort from cliff to cliff, designed to impede attackers. The movie Leap Year, starring Amy Adams, was filmed on the Aran Islands including the big proposal on a clifftop that was none other than Dun Aengus. It is unclear where the cliffs were supposed to be as the geography in that movie was, quite literally, all over the map. The movie used real-life names of Irish towns and places (mostly) but filmed all of these scenes in completely different locations in Ireland.
Curracloe Strand, Co. Wexford
Curracloe is a village in Co. Wexford that sees a huge influx of holiday travelers every summer. Curracloe Strand was home to the iconic D-Day landing scene that takes place during the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Filming lasted for two months and took place on Ballinesker Beach, Curracloe Strand. The Irish Defense Forces supplied 2,500 men to act as extras – they gained a good reputation as disciplined extras during the filming on Mel Gibson’s Braveheart a few years earlier. The village of Curracloe lacked 3-phase electricity but when the film company decided to film there, it was connected. Curracloe Strand was also used for the Irish beach scene in the movie Brooklyn.
Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction with a magical vista that captures the hearts of up to one million visitors every year. Standing over 702 feet at their highest point they stretch for 5 miles along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. In Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince, Harry & Professor Dumbledore “apparate” on a rock off the shore from forbidding sea cliffs and enter a cave to find one of the Horcruxes. The footage was filmed on location at the Cliffs of Moher in September 2007 although the rock involved is actually Lemon Rock, almost 150km south west of the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Insanity in the 1987 fairy tale The Princess Bride were also filmed here.
Curragh Plains, Co. Kildare
The Curragh is perhaps the oldest and most extensive tract of semi-natural grassland in Europe, having existed as such for over two thousand years. It is possible the only landscape of its kind in the world consisting of a mainly unenclosed flat to gentle rolling plain of 4,870 acres. It is mostly known as a horse breeding area , but was used in the Oscar-winning movie Braveheart for the ‘Battle of Stirling Bridge’ which – as the name suggests – was famously fought on a bridge. The scene required six weeks to shoot, with nine cameras and 2,000 extras. But no bridge. The 2,000 mostly came from the Irish Defense Forces – and as you found out above – many of those went on to be extras in Saving Private Ryan a few years later.
Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin
Kilmainham Gaol is one of the largest unoccupied gaols (jails) in Europe, covering some of the most heroic and tragic events in Ireland’s emergence as a modern nation from 1780s to the 1920s. Several Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising and fight for independence were imprisoned and executed in the prison by the British. The 1969 version of The Italian Job, starring a young Michael Caine, contained many prison scenes all of which were filmed at Kilmainham. Many scenes from the TV show The Tudors, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Natalie Dormer, were also filmed at Kilmainham Gaol, with the entire series having been filmed in Ireland.
Powerscourt Estate, Wicklow
Powerscourt is one of the world’s great gardens and is located 20km south of Dublin City Centre. Set against the backdrop of the great Sugar loaf Mountain, Powers court is something to behold no matter what season you visit in. Over twenty-five different movies and TV series have been shot at Powerscourt Estate since Laurence Olivier started the trend by filming Henry V here in 1944. Since then movies including Black Beauty, Barry Lyndon, The Count of Monte Cristo, Ella Enchanted and King Arthur have been filmed or partially filmed at Powerscourt. The Tudors also had many key scenes filmed here. Powerscourt is located very close to Lough Tay and Curracloe Beach, all of which are an easy day trip from Dublin to an area rich with beautiful filming locations.
Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry
The Dingle Peninsula, on Ireland’s southwest Atlantic coast, is ringed by sandy beaches and craggy cliffs. Inland are rolling hills and mountains, including 952m-high Mount Brandon. The region is an officially recognized bastion of Irish language and culture.
The Oscar-winning romance Ryan’s Daughter was filmed on Dingle Peninsula, including the epic opening scene on Inch Strand. Villagers from the town of Dunquin were hired as extras in the film and visitors later flocked to see where iconic scenes were shot. The Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman film Far and Away was also shot on Dingle Peninsula over 30 years later.
Cong, Co. Mayo
Cong is a quiet little village straddling the borders of County Galway and County Mayo. It is situated on an island formed by a number of streams that surround it on all sides. Cong is one of the lesser known summer getaway spots with lots of opportunities for fishing or water sports. The secluded surroundings and general presence of nature are what attracts visitors to this small village. In 1951 John Ford’s greatest movie The Quiet Man starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and Barry Fitzgerald was filmed here. Cong becomes the fictional community of Inisfree for 129 minutes of romantic-comedy drama. Nowadays Cong features Quiet Man Tours, a Museum that is a replica of ‘White-o-Mornin’ Cottage and even a Quiet Man fanclub who meet once a year in Ashford Castle. The pub from the film which was actually a shop at the time has embraced the change and rebranded as a public house where they show reruns of The Quiet man every single day!
Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry
The Skellig Islands, Skellig Michael and Small Skellig, stand aloof in the Atlantic Ocean some 12 km southwest of Valentia Island, County Kerry. From any angle, or from any vantage point on the nearby Ring of Kerry, they are spectacular pinnacles, which have magnetized viewers throughout all history – and beyond. During a crucial scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens the audience is taken to a remote, otherworldly mountaintop that rises majestically from a startling blue sea. The film’s crew wanted to find an earthly spot that could capture a feeling of ancient mysticism and they found it in Skellig Michael.
Parknasilla, Co. Kerry
Much of the movie The Lobster was shot on location in and around the Parknasilla Resort & Spa outside the village of Sneem, County Kerry. The crew and cast, which includes Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, along with Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C Reilly and Olivia Colman, moved into the hotel for the duration in what Reilly likened to a ‘summer camp for film actors’. Overlooking the jagged inlets and quiet coves of Kenmare Bay, the Parknasilla is one of Ireland’s classic country getaways. On rare nights off, Packie’s restaurant in the pretty village of Kenmare was the cast’s haunt.
Ballintoy Harbour, Northern Ireland
Ballintoy Harbour can be discovered in the picturesque village of Ballintoy. The small fishing harbour can be found at the end of a small narrow steep road, which passes by the entrance to Larrybane and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The village itself has a charming array of small shops, two churches, including the quaint white Ballintoy Parish Church on the hill above the harbour. It has been used as a filming location in HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones. This stunning harbour location has been used for exterior Pyke shots and as the Iron Islands. You can visit Ballintoy on one of our many Game of Thrones Tours.
Easkey, Co. Sligo
Easky or Easkey is a village in County Sligo, Ireland. It is on the Atlantic coast, 26 miles from Sligo and 15 miles from Ballina, County Mayo. Calvary, directed by John Michael McDonagh, whose mother grew up in Easkey, was shot in and around the picturesque fishing village. It is a dark drama about a good priest handed a death threat by his parishioners, and stars Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd and a host of well-known Irish actors. Calvary was filmed on location in Sligo in 2012 and the film is enhanced by the beautifully wild backdrop that Yeats Country provides. You can take a day trip to visit some of the filming locations around Sligo include Streedagh Beach, Benbulben Mountain, Lissadell, Rockwood Parade, Easkey, Ballisodare and Strandhill.
If you want to visit any of the above filming locations, they are all covered between our Cinematic Ireland and Game of Thrones tours.