Star Wars takes place in another galaxy, but it’s set on our planet. Sure, some locations and backdrops are developed through the art of CGI and/or matte paintings, but as I recently learned by visiting filming locations in Ireland for The Last Jedi‘s home video release with Vagabond Tours, many of them are real and accessible to visitors. One of the most common responses I’ve seen to my photos from Ireland is, “I thought that set was CGI.” But that’s not the case! These are some of The Last Jedi places you can experience IRL.
The home of the first Jedi Temple and the place Luke Skywalker has chosen for self-exile is a real place anyone can visit. Skellig Michael, an island off the coast of Portmagee, is Ahch-To. Any shot panning over the island in the movie is based on real camera footage. When Rey tries to give Luke his lightsaber and he casually tosses it aside, that’s Skellig Michael.
Skellig Michael is a remote wildlife preserve (read more about that here), so production only filmed on the island for two days each for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Because of that, not every shot you see on Ahch-To is Skellig Michael—but many of them are. You can re-create some of the scenes during landing season on the island (May-October), or you can book a boat trip around its perimeter and still spot key filming spots.
When Rey rudely cuts a rock in half with the lightsaber and upsets the Caretakers (they are probably not the galaxy’s biggest Rey fans), it’s on Skellig Michael and it’s not any normal rock. It’s the Wailing Woman. The rock is so named by early lighthouse keepers because the silhouette reminded them of a lonely figure.
The infamous green milk scene was not filmed on Ahch-To. The thala-siren, a.k.a. space sea cow, was flown in by helicopter to Dunmore Head. You can walk out to the rocky outcrop where the puppet was placed; it’s accessible from Slea Head Beach. You won’t find a paved path, but my completely out of shape self was able to make the hike up the hill and out to the location. Take a cut-out of the sea cow’s head with you for a quality photo opportunity.
Dunmore Head’s craggy coastline made an ideal place to hide Luke Skywalker’s X-wing. The ship itself is CGI, but the location where it’s nestled is real and you can look down from the top of the hill and imagine the ship resting in the water.
In The Last Jedi, the Caretaker’s village of beehive huts served as a place for visiting Jedi to rest their heads. These huts do exist on Skellig Michael, built by monks sometime around the eleventh or twelfth centuries. The crew couldn’t use those huts for filming so they replicated them in Pinewood Studios in London and transported them to build a set on the cliff of Sybil Head, just out of sight in the above photo (on the other side of the hill/cliff). A narrow, rustic road winds up the hill in the picture; the production had to rely on that to ferry people and equipment to the set. They had to build a steel track just to get the pieces of the huts into place.
They took the set down after filming because nature would have swept it away, but you can still walk out to the edge and imagine you’re on Ahch-To. Or if you want to visit some accessible beehive huts that are real but were not used for filming, stop by a place on the Dingle Peninsula called Hold a Baby Lamp and Beehive Huts. You can indeed hold (and maybe feed!) a baby lamb and tour intact, impressive Fahan beehive huts built over 1,400 years ago.
Those locations were the only ones I saw firsthand, but production utilized a few other spots in Ireland. The Millennium Falcon landing on Ahch-To was filmed on Malin Head. The place where Luke leaped from cliff to cliff to spear a fish? That landscape can be found at Brow Head. And finally, the spot where Rey takes her dive into The Last Jedi‘s equivalent of the dark side cave on Dagobah was captured at Loop Head.
Images: Lucasfilm, Amy Ratcliffe