Ireland is a country which has made an important contribution to arts and culture over the centuries, and even has the title of Land of Saints and Scholars, which is a reference to Irish monasteries and the protection these monasteries provided to literature and education whenever the rest of Europe was plagued by war in the distant past. However, it has also recently become very popular with filmmakers and TV producers such as HBO with TV series such as Game of Thrones filming both on location across the country and in Irish studios.
In this article, we will be having a wee look at the locations, why Ireland is such a draw for film-makers, and how this has promoted tourism.
Game of Thrones or GOT for short is a series full of serpents, swords and subterfuge, and this mixture has proven very popular with TV fans. However, many fans of the books which GOT is based on suspect that the writer George Martin based the map of the mythical land of Westeros, where the central parts of the story take place, on an upside-down map of Ireland! Many locations in the north of Ireland were used in the series including the Dark Hedges, seen here in the picture, which is now in danger partly as a result of the tourism generated by GOT.
The Dark Hedges are an avenue of trees with a unique shape in north Antrim, the most north-easterly county in Ireland. The road was used in the fantasy series for the strange and quite mythical form of the trees, and tourists often visit this location while visiting other nearby tourist attractions such as the Giants Causeway, which was also featured in GOT, and the world-famous Bushmills Distillery. (You can read more about the Giant’s Causeway in one of my other articles here on Verbling.) Sadly, there are only about 90 trees left from the 150 planted at the end of the 18th Century because of storms and also the issue of tour buses parking on the tree roots, which have weakened the strength of the trees at their bases. Free parking is now provided at the car park of a nearby hotel to help solve the problem.
The Dark Hedges often forms part of a trip to north Antrim and as well as the Causeway, you can easily visit several other GOT locations and the distillery on the same day, if you are driving or doing a bus tour. The harbour at nearby Ballintoy served as the filming location for Pyke, the capital of the Iron Islands kingdom in the series and if you travel a little further to County Down, you can visit the beautiful location of Tollymore Forest. In between these areas, you can maybe also pay a visit to Titanic Studios in Belfast, which HBO used for inside scenes on the show.
Game of Thrones is not the only series to have used Ireland for filming, as Vikings and The Tudors, two highly successful programmes, have also used the country as a base. However, GOT has had the most impact on tourism, with many fans adding a trip to the north to their bucket lists.
A famous movie franchise which has taken advantage of Ireland’s scenery to tell tales is Star Wars, and the most recent trilogy in the series which spans nine movies and several spinoffs went from the far north at Malin Head, to the extreme south, to the Skellig Islands to film many of the scenes involving Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill, who plays the grand Jedi Luke, is now an avid fan of the country and has been seen on many occasions in bars close to the movie sets enjoying a pint of Guinness and some traditional Irish music, and chatting to fans.
So, for how long has Ireland been a location for shooting films? Hollywood has been using locations in Ireland with Irish stories for many years, and one of the most famous of these Hollywood blockbusters is The Quiet Man (1952), directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, both Irish-Americans and co-starring Irish actress Maureen O’Hara. The film was made in and around the village of Cong, County Mayo, in the west of Ireland. Another famous film from the 1990s which used the Irish Army’s military base at the Curragh Camp for filming and soldiers as extras was Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson. Saving Private Ryan, directed by Steven Spielberg and also made in the 1990s did exactly the same, using Irish beaches for filming the D-Day invasions and hiring Irish soldiers as extras.
The country and its people are well-known around the world for the welcome given to visitors, and with another reason to enjoy the country’s views, it’s a nice place to consider for a holiday.
To be plagued by a problem/to plague (vb.)-literally, a plague is an epidemic. If something/one is plagued by a problem, it means the problem is constant or there are many problems happening in quick succession.
A draw (n.)-an attractive prospect.
Subterfuge (n.)-the use of deception, tricks or conspiracy to achieve an objective.
A distillery (n.)-a whiskey factory.
A causeway (n.)-a natural bridge over the sea.
A bucket list (n.)-a list of tourist destinations or activities which people often make for their lifetimes.
A movie franchise (n.)-a series of movies and related products, like books, magazines or toys.
To tell a tale (vb.)-to tell a story.
To span (vb.)-to cover or to last. For example, ‘the film’s storyline spans three generations, or 40 years of the Carter family’.
A spinoff (n.)-a storyline in a book or film which is related to the main story but follows a particular character or events.
To shoot a film (vb.)-to record or to film.
A blockbuster (n.)-a very successful film.
An extra (n.)-an actor with a non-speaking part who is normally in the background.
Hey! What does that word wee mean?
Wee is a word mostly used in Scotland and the northern part of Ireland, and means small. For example, you could talk about a wee car (a small car), a wee problem (a minor or trivial problem) or it can be used as a diminutive for affection (my wee friend; the friend doesn’t have to be small, but the speaker is talking affectionately about the person).