A ‘Star Wars’ tour through Kerry, Ireland

The author wears his Jedi cosplay robe as he tours ‘Star Wars’ sites in Ireland.

By Wendell Gaa

As a lifelong fan of the “Star Wars”  franchise, taking a guided tour of the Ring of Kerry region in southwestern Ireland was simply a dream realized. In my view it is the greatest cinematic mythology saga of all time.

A tour which would exclusively take me to see the on-location filming sites in southwest Ireland where key scenes from the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy were shot gave me the perfect opportunity to return to this beautiful Emerald Isle.  I had taken up a Master’s scholarship at the University of Galway in western Ireland, which I now consider to be a second home. 

I had flown into the Irish capital city of Dublin, and then took a four-hour bus trip to the city of Killarney in Kerry County, southwest Ireland. It was the gateway point to where my tour of the Ring of Kerry would begin. I made reservations for this unique “Star Wars”  filming tour in the Kerry region through the site https://kerryexperiencetours.ie/.

Meeting me at my hotel was my official guide/operator Gerritt, who was so kind and gracious enough to be driving me to all the different filming location sites.

As we left Killarney, we took in the pretty green countryside scenery which Ireland is iconic for. I was instantly taken back to my days as a scholarship student, with the inclusion of the sight of dozens of sheep with both their human and dog sheepherders. 

A view of the Skellig Islands
The author shares a meal with his tour guide and driver.

There were pocket areas where there no doubt was rainfall. Having been a student in Galway, I knew this was something so typically Irish.  Without the rain, the country would not be blessed with its charming greenery for which it is internationally known for.  

Interestingly enough, I learned from Gerritt that he is a Dutch national who has been living in Ireland for many years now, and he has assisted visiting international film producers and actors for various filming projects. He has served in a most enviable role as both a guide and driver for such celebrities as Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. The stories which he shared with me on his personal encounters and conversations with these actors were nothing short of amusing and hilarious.

Our first stopover was interestingly at Cahergall Stone Fort, which is an ancient fort speculated to have been constructed at some point between 500 BC to 400 AD.  Many historians are unsure of its exact origin and purpose, but it appears to probably have been used as a site for ceremonial rituals, and this was also scouted as a possible filming site for a “Star Wars” project.

We eventually began driving around the Ring of Kerry, which is a lovely drive around a 179 km-long circular route along the southwest Irish coast, where blue skies, rugged coastal landscapes and seaside villages greet your eyes. 

The highlight sight is undeniably that of the Skellig Islands, a pair of rocky islands known as Skellig Michael and Little Skellig.  From a distance, the Skelligs appear as otherworldly rock structures sticking out from the sea.  Skellig Michael in particular has a beguiling history as it hosts a Christian monastery dating back to the 6th century AD perched high on a ledge. It was here where key scenes from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”and “The Last Jedi”were filmed, famously that of the planetary base of Jedi hero Luke Skywalker’s temple and where he had mentored Daisy Ridley’s heroine character, Rey. 

I was told that unfortunately booking a boat tour to the Skelligs is notoriously difficult given the unpredictable weather patterns which affect the sea waves surrounding the islands, though viewing them from a distance was still exhilarating. To put myself into the “Star Wars”spirit throughout our tour, I wore my own trusty Jedi cosplay robe while posing for many photo shoots at different spots along the coast!

Another standout tour highlight for me was our dining experience at the very restaurant pub where Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker himself took a few pints of the famed Irish Guinness while he was busy filming.  As I was gorging on some tasty local Irish Fish and Chips, Gerritt further engaged me with more of his fun and interesting memories touring travelers from different countries around the world, along with his memorable moments which him and his wife Ester, who is also a local tour guide in Kerry County.  The celebrities no doubt must all have a good impression of the Irish scenery and people thanks to the efforts and dedication of tour guides like Gerritt and Ester!

(C) The FilAm 2023

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