Skelligs jpg

Skelligs in another galaxy altogether

The Skelligs, earthly version. Tourism Ireland photo.

By Irish Echo Staff

The Skelligs might be off the coast of County Kerry, at least according to all the official maps.

But as of this weekend, the pyramid-shaped islands are actually in a galaxy far, far away.

The Skelligs fill the screen in the closing minutes of the latest blockbuster in the Star Wars epic, that being Episode 7, The Force Awakens.

What is also awakening is a worldwide audience’s awareness of these other-worldly rock towers that, long, long ago, but very much in this galaxy, were home to medieval Christian monks who dressed not unlike Obi Wan-Kenobi.

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Led by director J.J Abrams, the Star Wars film crew was based in the mainland village of Portmagee during filming of the Skelligs sequence which is seen in the closing minutes of the movie which shows worldwide screens this weekend.

According to a Tourism Ireland release, there was a cover story during filming on the Skelligs and what was actually taking place was, for a time at least, a closely guarded secret.

Locals were initially told that a documentary was being made, but were amazed when they learned that Star Wars was being filmed in their community.

Gerard Kennedy of The Bridge Bar and Moorings Guesthouse in Portmagee, said: "It's been so hard to keep this secret. It was such a weird and wonderful experience for our small village to be part of the Star Wars story. We enjoyed evenings of music and dance in our bar with the cast and crew. Mark Hamill even learned how to pull a pint with our barman, Ciaran Kelly."

TV and film are recognized as strong influencers on travelers, with up to 35 percent of people being impacted in their choice of destination by what they see on screen, this according to Tourism Ireland.

"Star Wars filming in Ireland will bring the magnificent scenery of Skellig Michael to the attention of millions of people around the world. It's a really effective way to reach audiences, helping to significantly boost awareness of the Skelligs, the South West and Ireland in general, whetting peoples' appetites to come and visit," said Tourism Ireland CEO, Niall Gibbons

Skellig Michael, 12 kilometers off the mainland, is accessible only by boat.

Today it is inhabited solely by seabirds, the monks gone for centuries.

But their stone “beehive huts” have been restored and can be visited from May to September each year, weather permitting.

Kerry, meanwhile, is, according to Tourism Ireland, aptly also one of only three Gold Tier International Dark Sky reserves in the world.

The beautiful band of the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, star clusters and nebulas are just some of the naked eye wonders to see without the aid of any astronomical equipment or filters, said the Tourism Ireland Star Wars release.

More at www.ireland.com/starwars