The stunning film and TV locations you must visit in Ireland
For fans of the big and small screen, Ireland is a must for location spotting. The country has been welcoming film crews since the 1950s, and its atmospheric landscapes, wild sweeping coastline and historic city centres have appeared in everything from old classics such as Ryan’s Daughter and The Princess Bride to huge blockbusters such as Game of Thrones and Harry Potter.
Dublin is a particular star, where old favourites such as the The Commitments, Angela’s Ashes and Educating Rita were filmed, while Belfast has taken the more recent limelight, thanks to Derry Girls, Line of Duty and new Netflix movie Lift shooting on its streets.
All these locations film locations in Ireland (and plenty more) are easily accessible for a short break (or longer), and our partners at Charitable Travel have a range of holidays available that will transport you to any one of the many stories the Irish scenery has been used to dramatise.
If you’re a fan of any of the following, visiting Ireland to see these iconic locations for yourself is a must.
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones…
The epic eight-season, seven kingdom HBO legend that is Game of Thrones practically took over the whole of Northern Ireland during the 10 years the TV show was being filmed. Everything from Winterfell, set at the 820-acre walled Castle Ward in County Down, to Castle Black and The Wall, set in Magheramorne Quarry in County Antrim, and the free city of Braavos, filmed in the seaside town of Carnlough, also in County Antrim, is ready to visit.
Spend three or four days touring the film locations, and don’t miss the atmospheric Bregagh Road, County Ballymoney – this avenue of gnarly beech trees is better known as the King’s Road, which Ayra Stark travels along, disguised as a boy, in season two, episode one.
Wrap up the fantasy with a tour of the Game of Thrones studio in Banbridge, half an hour from Belfast. Here, visitors can uncover some of the secrets that helped bring Westeros to life, including the props, costumes and incredible visual effects used to create the phenomenal TV show.
If you’re a fan of Star Wars…
The Force is strong on Skellig Michael, a rocky, inhospitable shard of an island eight miles off the Wild Atlantic Way in County Kerry. Once home to monks who were seeking sanctuary from the bloodshed and conflict in mainland Europe in the sixth to eighth centuries, it’s only apt that this remote outpost in the Atlantic would become Ahch-To, the planet where Rey finds Luke Skywalker at the end of The Force Awakens.
Boat trips to the island are possible during the summer months, but unlike Luke, visitors can’t stay overnight. Instead, head off to see the Irish locations the LucasFilm crew returned to for The Last Jedi, spread out along the length of the Wild Atlantic Way. Start at Malin Head, at the tip of Donegal to the cliffs at Loop Head in County Clare and the rocky coastline and Brow Head in County Cork.
And don’t miss the now-annual lively May the Fourth Be With You Festival that takes places in villages along Donegal and Kerry’s Wild Atlantic Way. It’s in a galaxy closer than you think.
If you're a fan of Harry Potter…
You must visit the Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare. Already one of the most famous landscapes in Ireland and one of the most popular film locations in Ireland (spot it in old classics such as The Guns of Navarone and Ryan’s Daughter), these towering sea cliffs reached superstar status with their appearance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth Harry Potter film.
You’ll spot them when Harry joins Professor Dumbledore as they search for the third Horcrux needed to destroy You-know-who. The pair stand on a rock, with the sea crashing around them, in front of the cliffs – in the imposing wall of rock is a cave they must venture to.
Thanks to cinematic licence and visual effects, the rock they’re standing on is actually 100 miles to the south – still part of the Wild Atlantic Way, but at Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. Both places have long-been renowned for their natural beauty – Harry Potter has simply waved an extra spell of magic over the two.
If you're a fan of Derry Girls…
Follow in the footsteps of the Derry Girls in, you guessed it, Derry. Also known as Londonderry, much of the girls’ antics happen within the Walled City of Derry, plus on location in Belfast, just under an hour and half’s drive away.
Fans can visit such places as Bogside, Erin’s home neighbourhood, and stroll past many of its political murals including the most famous at Free Derry Corner, before walking the steep hill of Limewood Street with its many colourful terraced houses.
Taking in the view from the 400-year-old city walls is a must, and they provide a gorgeous spot for the girls to hang out at, then head to the double-decker Craigavon Bridge, and the grand neo-Gothic Guildhall half a mile down the river – scene of series two’s finale – and the spectacular Peace Bridge.
In Belfast, you’ll find the girls’ favourite chippy – Formidable Fionnula – is filmed at the city’s oldest fish and chip shop John Long’s, as well as their school, Our Lady Immaculate College, which is filmed at Hunterhouse College.
If you're a fan of Sally Rooney’s Normal People and Conversations with Friends…
The Irish author’s two hit novels were adapted for TV with plenty of swoon-worthy locations across Ireland. From Normal People, Marianne’s family home is set just outside Dublin, in an area of County Wicklow called Enniskerry, while Tubbercurry in County Sligo is Marianne and Connell’s fictional home town, and the broad expanse of beach and dunes they regularly slink off to is Streedagh Beach, also in Co. Sligo. Dublin makes an appearance too – in particular, Wellington Road and its terraced Georgian houses – as university accommodation for Marianne while she studies at Trinity College.
In Conversations with Friends, it’s Belfast that’s the star of the show, with many of the city’s landmarks and hotspots standing in for the Irish capital. Established Coffee, a hip coffee shop, and OX Restaurant, a Michelin-starred on the river, star alongside Queen’s University’s medical building and the No Alibis independent bookshop.
A short drive to the north of Belfast is Ballycastle, the seaside town used as Frances’ hometown. Frances and Nick walk and talk along its sandy beach, and were filmed at two of the town’s classic pubs, The House of McDonnell and The Boyd Arms.
If you’re a fan of Far and Away…
The second film that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman starred in together, Far and Away’s coastal scenes were filmed on the Dingle Peninsula, the northernmost of Country Kerry’s Wild Atlantic Way peninsulas. Across on the other side of Ireland, Killruddery House and Gardens, near Bray, just south of Dublin, stood in for Nicole Kidman’s country estate.
When the action then heads to the USA, filming continued in Dublin, with Market Street behind the Guiness Brewery standing in for turn-of-the-century Boston and Temple Lane hosting some bustling street scenes.
If you’re a fan of The Fall…
With its star cast of Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson, it’s hard not to be a fan of this seriously gritty and grizzly drama, filmed in and around Belfast. Several of the city’s hotels, including the Hilton Hotel, Malmaison Hotel, The Holiday Inn and The Merchant Hotel feature, as does the Waterfront Hall.
The action zips all over the city – Rugby Road is where Paul Spector walks Katie Benedetto home one evening, Ulsterville Avenue is where you’ll find Paul’s home and Parkside Gardens is the street of one of his victims. Paul’s daughter attends Stranmillis Primary School in Knightsbridge Park, and daddy and daughter have an eerie day out at Belfast’s Botanic Gardens.
If you’re a fan of Vikings…
Head to Wicklow County, 30 miles south of Dublin, and you’ll find much of the Vikings’ ancient scenery. Lough Tay is a key location – and Kattegat village was built on its shores, before being dismantled and moved to Ashford Studios in Ballyhenry.
And the Powerscourt Waterfall on the Dargle River, running through the Powerscourt Estate has appeared in several episodes. It’s all within the Wicklow Mountains National Park, where there’s plenty of mythical forests to lose yourself in.