8 Films and TV you didn’t know were filmed in Ireland

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It should come as no surprise that Ireland is a hotspot for film and TV crews across the world. They come for our outstanding scenery, excellent accents, and ancient monuments and architecture. There’s a lot for directors and producers to love. 

Particularly in recent years, Ireland’s film and TV industry has hit the mainstream. From Normal People, to Derry Girls, to Game of Thrones. Most people can name something that was filmed in Ireland. But we’ll be impressed if you can name some of the following! 

Line of Duty – Belfast

So there’s a lot more Irish in this TV show than Superintendent Ted Hastings. Set in an undefined British city, though often speculated to be Birmingham – where the first series was filmed. After which, the production upped sticks across the Irish Sea to Belfast. 

The move also prompted a change in crew, with BBC Northern Ireland taking the reins of the show for the next few series. Locations featured in series two-five include ‘The Victoria Center’ (or the ‘Palisades Shopping Center’ as known in the series) in episode four series five, and the ‘Stixs and Stones’ restaurant, where Hastings meets with his estranged wife. 

The Bookshop – Strangford Lough, Co. Down

Based on a critically acclaimed novel, this film did well to transcend both time and location. 

Set in 50s England, the producers of The Bookshop instead took Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy and Patricia Clarkson to rural County Down. More specifically, to the town of Portaferry and the village of Strangford, with Strangford Lough – the largest inlet in the British Isles – as the film’s stunning backdrop. 

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Strangford Lough, Co. Down

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare + Lemon Rock, Co. Kerry  

Yes, one of the most significant scenes in the sixth Harry Potter film was shot in Ireland. Taking advantage of the stunning, sheer Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, to provide the perfect location for the horcrux Dumbledore takes Harry to find. 

However, not all is as it seems, as the rock they stand on facing the cliffs, is actually around 90 miles south. It is Lemon Rock in the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. Thanks to the magic of modern day production, the editor was able to bring the two locations together, to create the incredible scene we see in the film. 

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Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare

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Lemon Rock, Co.Kerry

Artemis Fowl – Northern Causeway Coast

We now venture away from Ireland’s western coastline, towards the northern Causeway Coast. It was here that local Northern Irish director Sir Kenneth Branagh filmed Disney’s young adult, sci-fi, adventure film Artemis Fowl. 

Focusing primarily on the locations of Whitetrocks Beach, Portrush and Dunluce Castle, 

Branagh thanked Ireland’s notoriously chaotic weather for creating some fantastic sets: 

“We had a semi hurricane in the middle of hurricane Hector which gave us wonderful weather. Either side we had fantastic sunshine.  This was perfect for the film, four seasons in a day!”

Saving Private Ryan – Ballinesker Beach, Co. Wexford 

Widely considered as one of the best films of all time, Ireland played a significant role in the creation of war-time classic Saving Private Ryan. Set in Northern France during the Normandy Invasions of World War Two, the best replica of Omaha Beach Spielberg and his crew could find was Ballinesker Beach, County Wexford. 

Ballinesker Beach, Co. Wexford – Credit: Michal Osmenda / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

However, the landscapes weren’t the only Irish contribution to the film. Members of the Irish Reserve Defense Forces were used as extras in the war scenes, and twenty to thirty actual amputees were used to portray injured American soldiers.

Star Wars – The Force Awakens – Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry

After searching high and low across the galaxy for the lost Luke Skywalker, where else does Rey find him, than on the island of Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry. 

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Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry  – Credit: Jerzy Strzelecki – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15821956

Located pretty much as far south west as you can go in Ireland, the island is just off the coast from the village of Portmagee. Monks inhabited the UNESCO World Heritage Site as far back as the sixth century, and their monastic village is still in remarkable condition. 

It was at the inland village, however, that the film’s wrap party took place, with the cast and crew joining locals and lucky tourists for a traditional Irish music session.

Braveheart – Co. Dublin, Co. Wexford, Co. Kildare

Braveheart wasn’t just deceptive for its historical inaccuracies, but also it’s shooting locations. Despite the film being set in Scotland, and centered around Scottish Independence, the majority of the film was actually filmed in Ireland. 

Not only that, it was all filmed within a 30 mile radius of Dublin. Producers sweetened up some old Irish castles, including Trim Castle, Dunsany Castle, and Dunsoghly Castle. The Wicklow mountains also featured heavily, as well as Curragh Plain, a 5,000 acre piece of land between Newbridge and Kildare, which provided the setting for the Battle of Stirling Bridge. 

Glendasan River Wicklow Mountains

Wicklow Mountains, Co. Wicklow – Credit: Joe King – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15814846

The Italian Job – Dublin, Ireland 

Finally, we come to one of the cinema’s great classics, and another example of using clever cinematography to merge two locations into one. 

The prison from which Charlie Croker is released, is in fact two prisons. The outside is Wormwood Scrubs prison, West London, and the inside the Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

Now a museum, Kilmainham was one of the biggest unoccupied prisons in Europe for a number of years, after it closed as a jail. It was the site of the execution of many Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916, as ordered by the British government. 

It is now one of the most important monuments of Irish history and independence. That, as well as a very popular film set, hosting the cast and crew of many films and TV series. 

Want to know more about films in Ireland? We’ve got you covered.

About the author

Emily Booth

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