These productions show Ireland at its best, and not just in their talented crews and outstanding actors. The island itself has rarely looked better on screen than in recent years, and a trip to the cinema can easily inspire your next holiday destination, to see beautiful scenery up close and connect to local culture.
From idealised islands to inner city hidden gems, here are some locations from Irish film and television that you can step away from the screen and explore.
Making history in Meath
An Cailín Ciúin has grown into a cultural phenomenon since its release, becoming the first-ever Irish language film to be nominated for Best International Feature at the Academy Awards. The film has also broken records for its longevity in Irish cinemas and picked up a slew of other awards and nominations. The story of shy young Cáit being fostered over a summer by the kind Kinsella’s has won hearts all over the world. Though mainly set in Waterford, much of the emotional coming-of-age story was filmed in Meath.
The idyllic farm life and neighbouring woods in which Cáit comes out of her shell in the film were captured on location in the Royal County in Curraghtown, Garlow Cross, Clonymeath, Trim and Summerhill. While most of the film’s specific locations aren’t open to the public, visitors can head to Meath farms such as Causey Farm to experience beautiful environs and Meath hospitality.
Animation in medieval Kilkenny
The Medieval Mile, Kilkenny Castle and the Abbey of St. Francis – where Smithwick’s Ale was first established in 1710 – draw in visitors to Kilkenny every day. The overlap between Kilkenny’s history and its exciting present is found in one of its most famous exports: animation giants Cartoon Saloon.
The five-time Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Emmy-nominated studio has carved out an impressive space in the animation industry since being founded by Paul Young, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey in 1999. Their 2020 film Wolfwalkers is set in Kilkenny City and its surrounding woods, and visitors may recognise parts of the city’s medieval walls – like Talbots Tower – from watching Robin and Mebh’s adventures. Between the film’s woodcut-style artwork inside the British-controlled castle and the lushly painted forests, there’s plenty of inspiration to explore Kilkenny for yourself.
Even the Cartoon Saloon offices have a link to the county’s heritage: the studio is based in The Maltings, a malt house with roots back to the 17th century and links to the Kilkenny’s various breweries.
Period pieces and lush landscapes in Wicklow
The beautiful scenery of Wicklow has made it a popular destination to shoot television and films from all over the world. Disney fans will note that Enniskerry was transformed into a fairytale for the Disenchanted shoot in the summer of 2021.
Long-running series Vikings and its sequel Vikings: Valhalla have also made great use of the Garden County, with famous landmarks including Blessington Lakes, Lough Tay and Powerscourt Waterfall noticeably featuring during the show’s seven-year run. You can blaze a trail through these recognisable spots, but there’s even more to the see in the county besides its expansive landscapes.
Old Irish country houses like Russborough House are popular locations for period dramas, and the stately Georgian home was used to shoot the 2016 Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship. Tour the house, its lush grounds and the impressive art collection of its original owner the 1st Earl of Milltown.
Award-winning drama in Wexford
The Wexford town of Enniscorthy features prominently in Brooklyn, John Crowley’s Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning adaptation of the Colm Tóibín bestseller. Head on a self-guided tour of the streets and scenery from the homebound sections of the Saoirse Ronan film. Take in John St, Court St, The Folly, Mrs Kelly’s shop, St Aidan’s Cathedral and Curracloe Beach – the latter being a famous part of film history as the beach was also where Saving Private Ryan's infamous D-Day landing scene was filmed.
An upcoming film will show off even more of Wexford. Cillian Murphy is set to star in an adaptation of Claire Keegan novella Small Things Like These, with filming to take place in the book’s setting of New Ross.
Preserving tradition in Kerry
The beautiful beaches and unique cultural community of the Dingle peninsula in Kerry capture the eye. A contemporary film set and shot in the area illuminates even more of what the Kerry town has to offer.
Directed by Declan Recks, Irish language film Tarrac premiered at the 2022 Galway Film Fleadh and later headlined the same year’s Kerry International Film Festival. Set in the Kerry Gaeltacht, the film tells the story of Aoife, who returns home to help with her father’s recovery from a heart attack, with both still reeling from the death of Aoife’s mother. While at home, Aoife rediscovers her love for the competitive world of Naomhóg rowing. The Naomhóg is a traditional boat unique to Ireland’s west coast, made from wood, tar and canvas.
While visitors may not take to it with the same intensity that Aoife does, they can still sail through Dingle harbour, learning history and fun new skills while tapping into old traditions of the Kingdom.
South of Dingle, fans of Star Wars can climb aboard the Skellig Michael Voyage and explore the real-life location of Luke Skywalker's Island Sanctuary on the planet Ahch-To. Take in the dramatic rocky cliffs of Skellig Michael, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while looking out for colourful puffins and learning about the history of the island.
Crafting legends on Achill Island
The titular Inisherin of The Banshees of Inisherin doesn’t actually exist, but its unmistakeable beauty can still be found on the west coast isles where the hit film was made, including Achill in Mayo. Its windswept shorelines make the perfectly dramatic backdrop to Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson’s award-winning fallout.
Keem Bay overlooks the home of Brendan Gleeson’s character Colm Doherty in the dark comedy, and a walk along the Achill beach will hopefully bring more peace and calm than it does for Banshees quarrelling friends. Meet the island’s friendly locals over a drink in Achill’s traditional pubs, or get right to the source by touring the family-owned Achill Island Distillery.
Recent years have also seen a unique festival arrive on the island: the Achill Island Film Festival sees venues across the island hosting screenings, workshops and talks with some of Ireland’s rising film talents, offering an early look at some of the stars – and locations – that will be gracing Irish screens in years to come.
Creating Inisherin on Inishmore
Another island used as a stand-in for Inisherin, the bold cliff faces and stretching fields of Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands in Galway, are essential to the film. Majestic landscapes, like the 100m cliff face that holds the iconic Aran stone fort Dún Aonghasa, help to provide The Banshees of Inisherin’s imposing atmosphere.
A festival of film in Galway
Galway appeals to the creative spirit, and films made in the area unveil the county’s contribution to arts and culture. It’s an appropriate setting – the Galway Film Fleadh, hosted annually in the Town Hall Theatre, is one of Ireland’s biggest and best festivals for highlighting new Irish cinema.
One locally made film that screened at that same festival was Song of Granite. Pat Collins’ biopic of sean-nós singer Joe Heaney is hauntingly beautiful, showing Heaney’s home of Connemara in striking black and white, a landscape worth hiking through live and in colour. Those staying in Galway a while longer can get their own lessons in sean-nós, immersing themselves in music and dance.
Fun takes flight in Cork
An underseen Irish film inspired by a real-life story shows off Cork’s charms. Ian Power’s The Runway tells the story of Paco, a young self-taught Spanish speaker who turns translator when Colombian pilot Ernesto crashes near Paco’s village. Ernesto becomes a local celebrity and grows closer to Paco’s mother Grace – played by Banshees of Inisherin star Kerry Condon.
The feel-good film was based on a real-life incident where South American pilot Captain Ruben Ocano had to crash land on Mallow Racecourse in 1983. The Runway was filmed in Schull, where the fishing at Colla Pier and the relaxing and refreshing strolls around the Schull Farmers Market make it an ideal stand-in for Paco’s close-knit hometown. The Cork International Film Festival is one of Ireland’s biggest and best, but film fans further south in Schull can take in shorts, features, workshops and more at the Fastnet Film Festival, under the eye of the local lighthouse.
The lovable rogues of The Young Offenders might not make the best tour guides. But following the mishaps of Jock and Conor in their film and television series gives a look at the city’s sights – usually with them rapidly cycling through them away from the guards. One of Cork’s most iconic spots was frequently used for shooting – Conor and his long-suffering mam sell fish at the English Market, the indoor food market packed with local favourites and exotic tastes.
Strands and Sally Rooney in Sligo
Scenic Sligo has made for some memorable film and television. Most notably, Sally Rooney’s breakout hit novel Normal People sees couple Marianne and Connell grow up in Sligo Town. Lenny Abrahamson’s take on the book for BBC was partly filmed locally – the magnificent views of Streedagh Strand will be familiar to anyone who has streamed the series.
The beach is also spotted in John Michael McDonagh’s dark drama Calvary. Brendan Gleeson’s journey as a troubled priest also sees him in Easkey, where visitors can take a pensive walk along Easkey Pier.
Rooney’s words come alive in Trinity College Dublin
Ireland’s oldest university has long been an attractive prospect for visitors – especially those looking to get a glimpse of the Book of Kells. Trinity has become even more popular of late, partly thanks to fans of Rooney looking to check out the settings of her books.
The breakout success of Normal People worldwide made stars of Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones for their sensitive portrayals of Connell and Marianne, but it also put a lot of eyes on Trinity itself, which the pair both attend. Numerous locations on campus were used for filming the series, including the Robert Emmet Theatre, the Berkeley library, the cricket pitches, and Parliament Square. These spots, as well as Trinity’s famous 18th century Front Gate, can also be seen in scenes between Frances and Bobbi in BBC’s adaptation of Rooney’s Conversations with Friends.
Swimming and singing in South Dublin
The Sally Rooney shows also feature plenty of locations from Dublin’s southern streets and suburbs. Whether at home in Ireland or standing in for other spots, eagle-eyed viewers no doubt recognised a lot of southside spots.
The Swedish loft of Normal People‘s Luka was actually filmed in the National College of Art and Design, whose unique look evoked an upscale apartment. A trip to the college gives a great sense of Ireland’s emerging creatives. Dublin 8’s Fumbally Café also served as a Swedish stand-in, the eclectic setup and modern menu giving a very European feel to an inner-city hotspot.
Popular swimming spot Seapoint and its striking Martello Tower feature in Conversations with Friends – like many southsiders in the summer, Melissa, Francis and Bobbi visit for a dip.
The streets of the south are also recognisable in Sing Street, John Carney’s winning story of teens starting a band in the 80s. Carney shot scenes in his former school, Synge Street CBS, but a gig in venues like Whelan’s or the Workman’s Club may offer a better chance of catching the next big thing.
The craic and culture of North Dublin
The craic to be found northside of the Liffey has found its way into plenty of films and series. Culture and camaraderie show the north of the city and the county beyond at its best, and great Irish productions have capture that spirit perfectly.
Luke McManus’ documentary North Circular is a great showcase for generations of local music and culture. A tour along the locations found in the doc would start viewers off in Phoenix Park, with acres to explore. The film also prominently features the Cobblestone Pub, the friendly pub where trad musicians and singers are found performing every night.