May the Fourth be with you – Ireland gets a brand new Star Wars festival
Ireland has gotten a brand new festival – with its origins in a galaxy far, far away.
The new ‘May the Fourth Be With You’ festival will run from May 4-6 of this year, and is aimed at celebrating the Wild Atlantic Way.
“Hop in your X-Wing Fighter and let’s fly,” its website gushes.
The Fáilte Ireland initiative is designed to capitalise on several Star Wars location shoots that have taken place along the 2,500km route, from Malin Head in Co. Donegal to Ceann Sibeal and Skellig Michael in Co. Kerry – and beyond.
Kicking off on Friday, May the 4th (when fans across the globe commemorate the Star Wars Universe), the festival will see events for all ages taking place across the Kerry villages of Ballyferriter, Portmagee, Ballinskelligs and Valentia Island.
Events will range from drive-in movie screenings to guided film location walks, puffin workshops (the movie’s porgs were inspired by the local birds), a fancy dress céilí and more, all set against the backdrop of the west Kerry coast.
“I have been keen to mark May the Fourth in a meaningful way,” said Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin, announcing the festival.
“I am delighted that events like the outdoor screenings of the film, with the actual film locations visible in the background, will provide amazing imagery for even greater exposure around the world,” he added.
Irish locations appeared in both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, providing an unrivalled tourism marketing opportunity.
This winter, Tourism Ireland ran a €500,000 Star Wars campaign that included launching a billboard into space attached to a weather balloon.
“We have worked with local tourism businesses to create a festival that not only gives fans the opportunity to visit the filming locations and take part in some fantastic themed activities but also to learn about the history and natural landscape of the area,” added Paul Kelly, Fáilte Ireland’s CEO.
See wildatlanticway.com/may-the-fourth-festival for more.
May the bricks be with you: Lego makes ‘Star Wars’ Skellig set
The monastic beehive huts of Skellig Michael have been made into Lego toys ahead of the release of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’.
Skellig Michael, or ‘Ahch-To Island’ as it was renamed in the film, has a pivotal role in the movie – it is Luke Skywalker’s hermitage, the location of the first sacred Jedi Temple, and home to the adorable Porgs.
The Porgs are bird-like creatures that were inspired by the puffins nesting on the jagged rock face of the Skelligs. They will be introduced in ‘The Last Jedi’.
Lego’s ‘Ahch-To Island Training’ set features a miniature corbelled hut and three figures: Luke Skywalker, Rey and a Porg.
The set is expected to retail at €25 and includes smaller trinkets, such as a fish, a frying pan, and a lightsabre.
The first Lego ‘Star Wars’ set was released in 1999 and coincided with the release of ‘Episode 1: The Phantom Menace’.
Skellig Michael features prominently in the trailer for the next instalment in the ‘Star Wars’ film franchise which is due for release on December 15.
The Unesco World Heritage Site first appeared in ‘Star Wars’ two years ago in the final scenes of ‘The Force Awakens’.
Since then, visitor numbers to Skellig Michael have surged. Visitor numbers are up approximately 2,000 to 16,700 this year compared to 2016.
This has encouraged chief executive of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons to focus on the development of “screen tourism” in Ireland.
Tourism Ireland is looking to countries such as New Zealand which have built entire tourist packages around franchises like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’.
“‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Star Wars’ have brought Irish screen tourism into new galaxies. It has brought Ireland to a huge audiences around the world,” he said.
“We look to countries like New Zealand which are leaders in the field.”
Similar to the ‘Door of Thrones’ campaign in connection with ‘Game of Thrones’, Tourism Ireland plans on rolling out a new campaign linking the Wild Atlantic Way to the latest film’s release next month.
“The film was filmed along the Wild Atlantic Way so we will be dialling that up in December,” said Mr Gibbons.
Plans to extend the tourism season may be restricted, however, due to Skellig Michael’s status as a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is open to visitors from mid-May to the end of September.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Skellig Michael
features in new images as location and cast details released
Mark Hamill said he was allotted extra time to climb the island steps due to his age
Several new details have been released about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney’s upcoming sequel to the hugely successful The Force Awakens.
Vanity Fair has profiled the film and makes some big revelations about what fans can expect, including some stunning images of cast on location at Skellig Michael off Kerry taken by legendary photographer Annie Liebowitz.
Directed by Rian Johnson, the flick, which releases December 15, boasts some new characters including Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, the maintenance worker for the Resistance who joins up with Finn (John Boyega).
She has a sister Paige (Veronia Ngo) who is coached by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Benecio Del Toro is also introduced although he’s simply called DJ for now. Laura Dern is also present as Vice Admiral Holdo.
Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker, speaks about filming on Skellig Michael.
“When I read the script for Episode VIII, I went, ‘Oh my God, we’re going back?’ Because I said I was never going back,” he told Vanity Fair.
He wanted to be dropped in by helicopter but added, “which is so clueless of me, because there’s no landing pad, and it would mar the beauty of it all.”
At 65 he was given extra time to climb the hundreds of steps. The crew had 45 mins while he was given an hour and a half so he could stop every ten or 15 minutes to rest.
Among other details revealed in the piece is the fact that Rose and Finn travel to a casino city called Canto Bight, a “Monte Carlo-type environment, a little James Bond-is, a little To Catch a Thief… I was thinking, OK, let’s go ultra-glamour. Let’s create a playground, basically, for rich assholes.” according to Johson.
Skywalkers: Ireland’s longest rope bridge opens in Kerry
First, it hosted Luke Skywalker and Star Wars. Now, Kerry’s Skellig Coast has opened its own ‘Skywalk’ rope bridge.
The 112-foot (34m) structure, straddling the River Delligeenagh at Kells Bay House & Gardens, is claimed to be Ireland’s longest rope bridge.
Northern Ireland’s Carrick-a-Rede bridge, by contrast, stretches 20m (66 feet).
Lonely Planet names Skellig Ring one of world’s Top 10 travel regions
Best in Travel 2017
Kerry’s Skellig Ring has been named one of the world’s top regions to visit next year by Lonely Planet.
The accolade comes in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017, the bestselling collection of travel trends, destinations and experiences for the year ahead.
The Skellig Ring connects Valentia Island with Waterville via the Gaeltacht area around Ballinskelligs – and of course, includes the Skelligs themselves.
The influential travel brand describes it as “perhaps Ireland’s most charismatically wild and emerald stretch of coastline” with Skellig Michael dubbed a “remote, wave-pounded hunk of rock rising out of the Atlantic like a giant triangle.”
The UNESCO World Heritage Site featured in Star Wars: the Force Awakens, and is set to play an even bigger role in Episode VIII, due out next year.
In Portmagee, Lonely Planet recommends stopping into The Moorings, where Star Wars actor Mark Hamill famously pulled a pint.
Welcoming the news, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said the accolade provided a great marketing hook and “will surely help to inspire travellers everywhere to put the Wild Atlantic Way on their holiday wish-list for 2017.”
Tourism Ireland will be promoting the Skellig Ring region with a new video and a specially-created page on Ireland.com among other activities, Gibbons added.
“I am delighted that The Skellig Ring is being internationally recognised as a place of rugged and ethereal beauty,” added Minister for Tourism, Shane Ross.
Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel picks are compiled by writers, editors and its substantial online community of bloggers and tweeters. “The Skellig Ring should be on every traveller’s must-see list,” a spokesperson said.
However, not everybody believes the area will see the benefits of additional visitors in the coming year.
“The truth is we are already choc-a-block with people already booking for 2017,” said Eoin Walsh, who operates boat trips to Skellig Michael.
“We used to be able to go out from April 1 to October 31, but that has been cut by six weeks so the season won’t start until May 22 and finishes on October 2 – so we miss Easter and October mid-term completely.
“Kerry relies on tourism. It’s our main income.”
Walsh added: “We’ve had brilliant weather for the past week, but can’t go out because the OPW tour guides aren’t there.
“The OPW needs to invest in more tour guides and extend the season otherwise there will be a lot of Lonely Planet visitors who are going to be very disappointed.”
Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 also saw Canada named the No.1 country to visit next year, with Bordeaux topping the list of cities.
Drone Footage from Kerry
‘Great scenery, great roads, great people’ – Top Gear’s verdict on Ireland
“Great scenery, great roads, great people,” Matt LeBlanc tells viewers while Chris Evans describes Ireland as “Paradise” and “only a short ferry journey away (for those living in Britain).”
Star Wars & Portmagee
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens had its fair share of excitement, but we’ll be damned if we didn’t get out of our seats to give a standing ovation for the performance of Skellig Michael in there towards the end.
The Star Wars crew are back on Big Skelly already under the command of director Rian Johnson and we’ve got video footage of the lads doing their thing, as well as a very ominous ‘opening shot’ looking take of the island.
The Star Wars YouTube channel released a production announcement today that you simply need to see:
The short film, commissioned from Lucasfilm, features Force Awakens director JJ Abrams and other cast and crew members discussing the Skelligs location.
Skellig Michael is “just indescribably beautiful,” says Mark Hamill, who can be seen cracking up with laughter amidst moody poses in the shoot.
“It literally looks like a rock that has come out of the sea,” says Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey.“It was unbelievable.”
“It’s sort of a miracle this place,” says JJ Abrams, who has previously said he “could not believe” he was allowed to shoot at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tourism Ireland’s Star Wars campaign, with a budget of €110,000, capitalises on the Irish locations seen in Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
he fact that the next episode, Star Wars: Episode VIII, is also being shot on location along the Wild Atlantic Way, is another coup for Irish tourism.
Up to 35pc of tourists are impacted in their choice of destination by what they see on screen, according to Tourism Ireland – which has also developed extensive campaigns around the filming of Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland.
Other elements of the Star Wars campaign have included a special page on Tourism Ireland’s website and a previous, behind-the-scenes film.
“Since its release, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been breaking box office records everywhere and Tourism Ireland has been capitalising on this positive exposure, highlighting the Star Wars connection,” said Niall Gibbons, its CEO.
“Ireland has become an important part of Star Wars history,” said Candice Campos, Vice President, Physical Production at Lucasfilm.
Irish Air Corps capture stunning aerial shots of Star Wars location, the Skellig Islands
Kerry tops Tourist Towns shortlist
The Kerry towns that are now in the running for the prestigious title include Killarney, Kenmare, Portmagee, Sneem and Tralee.
The selected towns will now be subject to unannounced inspections by ‘secret shoppers’ over the coming weeks and will be judged on development and promotion, local involvement, tourism products available and sense of place.
After the secret visits, the list then gets narrowed down to 10, with both the best large and small tourism town being announced in November.
The other towns shortlisted are Kilkenny, Lismore, Clonakilty, Belmullet, Ardmore, Adare, Carrick on Shannon, Cobh, Youghal and Mountshannon.
Last year’s winners were Westport and Kinsale.
Tripadvisor Reveals its Top 10 Irish destinations
The destination awards see Dublin slip to second in the Irish rankings this year, ahead of Dingle, Galway and Donegal Town.
TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Irish Destinations are
- Donegal Town
Portmagee is first ever winner of National Tourism Town Award
Portmagee has been announced as the first ever winner of Fáilte Ireland’s National Tourism Towns Award. It was chosen from a shortlist of ten top tourism towns and has received a grant of €10,000 which will go towards developing the town’s tourism potential.
Killarney was also shortlisted and will receive one thousand euro. Following a shortlisting, the top ten towns were visited by a panel of independent assessors, as well as a team of ‘secret shoppers’, who measured the town’s tourism performance and the level of welcome to visitors. The judges found the sense of place in Portmagee to be palpable with its location facing Valencia Island making it unique. They said its rich and colourful history is well recognised and the village’s tradition of fishing is evident at every turn.
The judges were struck by the enthusiasm of the local community with a wide array of tourism projects embarked upon by locals. The Portmagee approach is one of hard work and cooperation within all the various sectors in the community and these have resulted in creating a place that is very special to residents and visitors according to them.
The judges also noted the importance of the local Skellig Experience Interpretative Centre as well as the attraction of local wildlife, cliff walks, flora and fauna and landscapes which feature strongly in the visitor experience to be had.
They said that most of all, the town boasts a great community spirit. Patricia Kennedy was one of the group from Portmagee in Dublin to receive the award. She explained why she thinks they won.
A Unique Irish New Year tradition – Old Year Celebrations in Portmagee, County Kerry.
President Mary McAleese and husband Martin were our special guests this New Years Eve for the midnight celebration. Ger Sullivan was the New Year and was cheered by a big crowd when he appeared. the best way to start the new year.