As well as attracting and captivating the hearts of visitors from around the world, Ireland's stunning scenery has, for decades, formed the memorable backdrop to a number of cinematic classics.
From its sweeping mountains and desolate bog land, to its timeless rural hamlets and historic Dublin city architecture, Ireland has stolen the show on many a film and helped win prestigious film awards.
Most recently The Wind that Shakes the Barley, directed by Ken Loach and set in West Cork, won the Palm D'Or at Cannes in 2006. The film is set in 1920's Ireland, as the country gains independence from Britain, only to be divided by a bitter civil war. The film stars a number of Irish actors including native Corkman, Cillian Murphy, and was shot in various locations in West Cork, largely around the town of Bandon.
The story of the Wind that Blows the Barley, mirrors that of the 1996 Neil Jordan film, Michael Collins, the most successful Irish made film of all time. The film stars Liam Neeson as Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins who brought about Ireland's independence. The film was shot on location in Dublin, during the famous Easter Uprising Battle and parts of the Wicklow Mountains for the more scenic shots as well as that of Collins' ambush and death.
But the film that put Ireland onto the world stage was John Ford's 1950s classic The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. The film tells the story of Sean Thornton (Wayne) an Irish American boxer who returns to his homeland to reclaim the family farm. Here he meets and falls in love with Mary Kate (O'Hara). The film was nominated for best picture and won Ford an Oscar for best director. The Quiet Man was filmed in the town of Cong, on the shores of Lough Corrib in Co. Mayo as well as parts of Connemara. The film helped create the rugged and romantic image of Connemara and is largely credited with kick-starting the Irish tourist industry, inspiring many who watched the Quiet Man to visit the ‘auld country'. Cong is now very much a Quiet Man tourist destination, with a number of the locations marked on maps available from the local tourist information office.
Another classic movie that helped inspire interest in Ireland was David Lean's Ryan's Daughter in 1970. The film is set after the events of the Easter Uprising in 1916, on the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland in Co. Kerry. It tells the story of a beautiful Irish girl, played by Sarah Mills, who marries the local teacher, played by Robert Mitcham, but then has an affair with a British Officer, much to the scandal of the town. The film won Oscars for best supporting actor and best cinematography for its sweeping scenes of Dingle's beaches around Inch Strand and the Blasket Islands. The film undoubtedly helped Dingle's tourist industry in particular Ashe's Bar in the town, which was a popular haunt of the cast during filming, and even became their unofficial caterer.
Ireland has in fact served as a kind of stunt double, for a number of films, most famously Braveheart, starring and directed by Mel Gibson. Many of those scenes of the sweeping mountains of the Highlands are actually the Wicklow Mountains and the battle scenes involving the English and the Scottish Highlanders were actually filmed in Co. Meath, using extras from the Irish Army!
Many Irish films have been adapted from classic Irish novels and set in their native land. One most recent example being Alan Parker's 1999 adaptation of Angela's Ashes, written by Frank McCourt about his memories of growing up in Limerick during 1930s and 40s. The story outlines the abject poverty and desperation of the time, adequately reproduced in the film. It caused quiet a stir on its release in Limerick, where people were critical of its poor portrayal of the city. But it is safe to say that Limerick has changed quite a bit from the poverty stricken slums of McCourt's time and for visitors, the tourist information centre run walking tours of the places associated with Angela's Ashes.
Ireland's all-time classic novel, James Joyce's Ulysses, has twice been adapted for film. Firstly in 1967 with the film of the same name, which was banned in Ireland until 2000. The second film was Bloom in 2003 starring Stephen Rea in the title role. Like the book the films follows the characters through a day in the life of Dublin city, calling at various locations. Each year on 16th June (the date in the novel), Dublin stages Bloomsday with street theatre re-enacting scenes from Joyce's famous novel.
If you're planning on visiting the scenes from a particular film in Ireland , you'll find more information on the ground. Local tourist offices will have a wealth of information, while the locals themselves will no doubt have a tale or two to tell about the time Hollywood came to town!