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Welcome to ‘Star Wars Island’ Ireland

7 min read

By Dawn Rainbolt, Marketing Executive
More by Dawn

Star Wars Island Ireland is how Skellig Michael has come to be known colloquially.

Star Wars island Ireland Skellig Michael

Star Wars island Ireland – also known as Skellig Michael, Co Kerry.

 

Featuring briefly at the end of the 2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens film (Episode VII), the island of Skellig Michael, along with the neighbouring Little Skellig Island, featured prominently in the new 2017 Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode VIII).

Read on to learn about the so-called Star Wars island Ireland and where it is! If you haven’t seen either film, be forewarned that there could be spoilers below.

So... where is exactly is "Star Wars Island Ireland"?

Skellig Islands Star Wars filming location

Viewers may recognise both rock formations in the photo!

 

The two jagged Skellig rocks explode out of the sea roughly 8 miles (12 km) off the coast southwest Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula (often known as the Ring of Kerry). The larger of the two, Skellig Michael (officially the Great Skellig) is the larger of the two, and is the only one with a harbour. Little Skellig can only be seen from water, or from Skellig Michael. Ironically, this means that the Little Skellig island is possibly more photographed than Skellig Michael!

The closest port of call is Portmagee, where the majority of boats sail from. The islands are weather-beaten and isolated – giving a sense of being at the edge of the world!

Why are the Skelligs thought of as Ireland’s “Star Wars island”?

Star Wars island ireland - Skellig Michael

The iconic form of Skellig Michael featured heavily in the Str Wars trailer and the film.

 

There was a buzz in 2015 when Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released, giving fans a peak at Luke Skywalker’s faraway hideout at the end of the film – a hideout that just so happened to be filmed on the Skellig Islands.

Fast forward to the end of 2017 when Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was released, where fans spent large portions of the film with Luke Skywalker, Rey and a newly-introduced species called porgs (inspired by Skellig Michael’s real-life puffins) – all on Skellig Michael. It is here where Luke Skywalker has been hiding since Episode VII, and where Rey comes to find him. And it is here, on this rugged, desolate island, that Rey slowly convinces him to train her in the ancient art of the jedi – and where she first discovers her connection to the Force.

The pointed, jagged islands feature throughout the film, and their iconic triangular shape makes them stand out – both on and off screen! However, most of the close-up scenes during Rey’s interaction with Luke are actually filmed on Malin Head, a craggy, desolate headland literally at the end of the world (well, at the end of Ireland!) in County Donegal, the farthest northern reaches of Ireland.

History of Ireland’s Star Wars Island

Skellig Islands beehive huts Star Wars Island Ireland

The famed beehive huts of Skellig Islands. Star Wars set designers created mock huts in Kerry.

 

Skellig Michael hasn’t always been inhabited by lonesome Jedi – in fact, the living arrangements of Luke and Rey mirror the island’s former occupants. Clinging to the sides of Skellig Michael are a huddle of beehive huts. These adorable and iconic rounded stone huts date back to the 6th – 8th century, when a Gaelic Christian monastery was founded on this remote, inhospitable island. Star Wars island Ireland has always been a remote place, inhabited by those wishing to escape from the world while protecting sacred texts – be they Jedi or monks protecting ancient Christian texts or sacred Jedi texts.

Spotting Porgs…Better Known as Puffins!

Puffins or porgs - Skellig Michael Star Wars

The adorable creature that inspired the equally-adorable Star Wars species, the porgs

 

The island’s most famous inhabitants are puffins, adorable black-and-white plump birds. While filming on the Skelligs, the puffins routinely wandered into the scenes. As protected species, the Star Wars filming crew wasn’t allowed to remove the birds. Removing them digitally would’ve cost a fortune. So the best solution the Star Wars filming crew found? Invent a new species vaguely reminiscent to the puffins and simply copy-paste the images on top of the stowaway puffins! And so, the wildly-adorable porgs were born…

Atlantic Puffins (the only species of puffins from the Atlantic) are regular visitors to the Skelligs in spring and early summers in order to breed and raise their chicks in a protected and controlled environment before heading off as far as Canada in search of food.

To a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Malin Head Donegal Star wars filming locations

Malin Head, Co Donegal was also used as a prime Star Wars filming location for Luke’s island retreat

 

For Star Wars fans near and far, if visiting the Skelligs didn’t quell your Star Wars travel fever, tick a few other filming locations off the list:

  • Ceann Sibéal Headland on the Dingle Peninsula – Co Kerry – This is where they recreated the beehive huts where Luke Skywalker was living, as well as the site of the sacred Jedi temple. While the recreated beehive huts have now been removed, the site itself along the Slea Head point is a place of intense beauty, and worth a visit!
  • Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula, Co Donegal – The site of Ireland’s extreme north, Malin Head is a  exposed, rocky outcrop at the edge of the world. While in the film it appears that Luke’s island home is quite large, Malin Head’s rugged terrain of jagged headlands, exposed limestone, crashing waves and desolate bogs actually form most of the backdrop of Luke’s island home. While less iconic than the Skelligs, hiking around this northern headland in Co Donegal – nicknamed the Forgotten County – is just a alien and other-worldly!
  • Loop Head Peninsula – Co Clare – Loop Head, the narrow peninsula at the southern end of Co Clare, contains a unique rock formation that was even featured in the original trailer. Also part of Luke and Rey’s hideaway, the rough contours of this peninsula will transport you to a galaxy far away!

For a Star Wars fans, request a tailor made Star Wars-specific itinerary using our Tailor Made Trip Builder.

 

Or, check out our scheduled trips to the Skelligs, Donegal, Dingle and more!

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Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

“American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture and sweeping landscapes of Ireland. Armed with a Masters Degree in Tourism Marketing and a love of writing and photography, she is Wilderness Ireland's Marketing Executive since 2017.”

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