If you study abroad or intern in Ireland, you’ll have ample time to take in the country’s natural, hauntingly beautiful sights and scenery. While you do so, you might have a stray thought like, “I feel like I’ve seen this before?” You’re not hallucinating, you likely have seen one of the breathtaking landmarks in Ireland as filming locations for your favorite TV shows or movies.
Some of the most iconic fantasy and sci-fi franchises feature Ireland’s stunning landscapes, likely because when you’re there you feel like you’re in another world. From its staggering cliffs, rolling green fields to its rocky beaches, Ireland can actually feel like several other worlds at once!
Here are some of the most recognizable filming locations in Ireland and neighboring Northern Ireland if you’re a fan of pop culture (warning: spoilers ahead!):
1. Harry Potter
The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
There’s no denying that the Harry Potter series is one of the most iconic pieces of pop culture in our lifetime, but did you know they filmed in Ireland? Sure, the majority of the filming locations were in England and Scotland, but there is one key scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that was filmed at an iconic destination in Ireland. During the climax of the film, Harry and Dumbledore search for one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, which contain pieces of his soul. The Cliffs themselves are located in County Clare along the west coast, about an hour north of Limerick and an hour and a half south of Galway. They’re one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland and consist mainly of beds of Namurian shale and sandstone.
2. The Princess Bride
The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Those same cliffs in Ireland are recognizable to more, ehem, senior fans of pop culture as the “Cliffs of Insanity,” the jagged edge Fezzick the Giant climbs while carrying Inigo Montoya, Princess Buttercup and Vizzini on his back. Inconceivably, the Man in Black (aka Pirate Roberts aka Westly) also scales the cliffs on his own and is greeted with a noble sword-fight with Inigo.
3. Star Wars
Malin Head, Ireland
None other than the Millennium Falcon was seen parked on this most northerly point of the country’s mainland. In County Donegal, Star Wars: The Last Jedi chose this as one of their many filming locations in Ireland, where they shot a few scenes with the one and only Mark Hamill on Inishowen Peninsula at Hell’s Hole. The local pub, Farren’s, is the most northerly pub in the country. It has a Yoda mural AND — watch out Jedis — a notice from management that forbids all use of ‘Force’ powers.
Skellig Michael, Ireland
In The Last Jedi, it turns out Rey finds the hermit Luke Skywalker on an island in County Kerry. The film’s true breakout star, the Porgs, were inspired by the native puffin population who guard the island from any Sith incursions.
4. The Lord of The Rings
Gollum is one of the most recognizable characters from J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, and scholars still debate whether a cave in the rocky Burren was the inspiration for one of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings’ notorious sleuth and weirdo. The nearby pubs will make fans recall The Bleeding Horse, The Green Dragon. and The Prancing Pony — and the fact that Tolkein’s frequent visits to the area make a good case that this area was heavily influential to both the author and the director, Peter Jackson.
5. Game of Thrones
The HBO fantasy crossover megahit was largely filmed in Northern Ireland. Belfast in particular was considered a hub for the cast and crew of Game of Thrones, with some of the show’s most iconic locations being shot in the area, from Winterfell to The Wall of the Night’s Watch. Westeros truly came to life with the help of the below locations.
The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland
You may recognize this avenue of beach tress as the King’s Road, the road Ned Stark and his family took to King’s Landing, ultimately leading to his doom. In our world, this is Bregagh Road, between Armoy and Stranocum in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The trees form a natural passageway, almost as if forming an ominous tunnel to unescapable tragedy.
Castle Ward, Northern Ireland
This 18th century castle, located near the village Strangford in County Down, is where a lot of the Winterfell scenes were shot, including the Whispering Wood, Robb Stark’s Camp and the Baelor battle.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland
Euron Greyjoy made his dramatic debut on this bridge, throwing his brother Balon, the Lord of the Iron Islands, off it to his watery death. The bridge is in Larrybane Bay on the North Antrim Coast, whose quarry was also where viewers saw the introduction to Brienne of Tarth in season two as she fought Ser Loras Tyrell in a tournament for King Renly and his queen Margaery Tyrell.
Magheramorne Quarry, Northern Ireland
The small hamlet of Magheramorne is home to about 75 people in real life, but its quarry is known to millions of GoT fans as Castle Black and The Wall. The quarry walls were painted to look like ice and a functional elevator was built to lift actors to the top of the wall, was made to appear 700 feet high with CGI.
Cushendun Caves, Northern Ireland
Also in County Antrim are the caves in which the Red Priestess Melisandre birthed her shadow baby in front of an extremely uncomfortable Ser Davos. The caves themselves formed over the course of 400 million years, naturally eroding over time by wind and water.
Study abroad in Ireland, where fantasy becomes reality.
If you love the way Ireland looks just from the scenes of your favorite TV shows or movies, you’ll love it even more in real life! AIFS Abroad offers study abroad and international internship programs in Irish cities like Dublin, Galway, Maynooth and Limerick. With inclusions such as tuition, housing, insurance, excursions and activities, on-site staff, and emergency support, you’ll have a stress-free global education experience. Bonus: If you’re interested in exploring Northern Ireland, it’s not only accessible from the Republic of Ireland, but other countries, too, like England and Scotland. Ready to step into your favorite movies and TV shows?