The West of Ireland offers a landscape so stunning it boasts the longest defined coastal touring route in the world.
So it is no wonder that this epic path has provided the backdrop for many films and TV shows over the years. From the dramatic Cliffs of Moher to the raw beauty of the Atlantic’s spray Ireland’s west coast can really bring a scene to life.
Here are 10 of our favourite Irish films and TV shows that capture the sheer beauty of our country’s stunning west coastline in all its glory.
10. The Guard (2011)
The Guard is a hilarious depiction of an unconventional officer of the Garda Síochána tasked to investigate a drug racket on the west coast of Ireland.
Brendan Gleeson plays the wonderfully Irish Sergeant Gerry Boyle who finds himself paired up with the more committed FBI agent Wendell Everett.
The duo has a job to do, but Boyle has other things on his mind. The film is shot in the Gaeltacht area of Connemara and features the island of Lettermore in West Galway among other coastal spots.
The raw landscape provides the perfect backdrop to accompany the quick Irish humour and the crisp reality of rural life in the West. The Connemara Islands are off the more popular tourist tracks making them relatively unexplored to this day.
9. The Secret of Roan Inish (1995)
This family film takes fairytale magic to another level. Set in an isolated part of the northwest coast it epitomises the spiritual powers of the sea. The story follows a young girl who goes to live with her grandparents in a quaint fishing village in Donegal.
A haunting family legend sends her on a quest to seek mythical creatures on the nearby island of Roan Inish. The traditional soundtrack combined with the raw beauty of the coastline only adds to this film, making it a wonderful story of folklore that will stay in your heart.
Best quote: “The sea gives; the sea takes away,” Grandpa.
8. The Princess Bride (1987)
A childhood favourite, The Princess Bride is a superb film with wonderfully quirky characters, and a classic ‘love conquers all’ storyline. Princess Buttercup has her heart broken with news her true love is dead.
Soon after she finds herself whisked away by baddies but with a hot guy in a mask on her tail. The man in black is so determined to catch up with the princess and her captors he climbs the cliffs of insanity by a single rope and then his bare hands.
And what better place to film such a dramatic shot than the stunning Cliffs of Moher. They tower a massive 702ft above the Atlantic Ocean; creating the nail-biting scene and leaving you desperate to visit the Cliffs of Insanity for yourself.
7. Into the West (1992)
This is another heartwarming film that makes you want to head west and stay there forever. It is about two boys who are gifted a horse from their grandfather. But there is more to Tir na nOg, the horse from the land under the sea, than meets the eye.
Although much of the movie is set in a deprived area of Dublin, the real journey begins when the horse takes them across the mythical landscape of Connemara before reaching the shores of the Atlantic on the Mayo coast.
The contrasting landscapes are critical to the family’s story of the tragic loss of the boys’ mother and releasing her soul. With the legend of Tir Na nOg describing the land of everlasting youth, the connection between the raw beauty of nature and the horse from the land under the sea embodies a tale steeped in true Irish charm.
6. Ryan’s Daughter (1970)
Filmed on the beautiful Dingle Peninsula this Oscar-winning classic has been enjoyed and loved by countless movie buffs over the years. The opening scene on Inch Strand shows the west coast in all its glory and is enough to inspire creativity and romance in abundance.
Local folk appear in the film as extras, bringing a special quality to the scenes. The story is about a married yet restless woman who has a passionate affair with a British soldier during WW1.
It reveals the troubled journey faced by the couple in the rural village almost in sympathy with the turmoil experienced by the country in 1916. A powerful depiction of Ireland only complimented by the rugged coastline and barren land.
5. The Field (1990)
Leenane in Co. Mayo sets the scene for the adaptation of John B. Keane’s powerful play The Field. It is an epic tale of loss, feuds and age-old traditions. The coastal landscape in the film lends itself to the strong connection between man and land, giving the scenes strength and authenticity.
The Field is set in the 1930s and the barren landscape of rural Ireland sits timelessly for the perfect backdrop to this movie. Much of it remains undeveloped to this day and still holds the deep history of loyalty, family feuds and land from years gone by.
4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Another epic film shot on the Cliffs of Moher, Harry Potter fans were treated to some awesome scenes in this blockbuster movie. In one shot Harry and Dumbledore are standing on a rock with the wild Atlantic whipping their feet and the cliffs of Moher towering majestically ahead.
The rock they are standing on is actually much further south from the Cliffs. It is Lemon Rock off the Iveragh Peninsula in Kerry. The two shots were merged to create the scene. Just a dip in the ocean for the special effects crew no doubt!
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi
Creating one of the Star Wars movies means finding a location that is literally out of this world so when The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams came across the isolated island of Skellig Michael off the coast of Kerry he knew they had struck gold.
With the full support of the Irish Film Board (not to mention the locals), they shot the countless scenes it took to create The Force Awakens. The island’s raw beauty is steeped in Irish heritage and its location on Ireland’s west coast adds to the powerful energy it offers.
So when they returned to film The Last Jedi, sure it was like coming home! Not only that, the film crew travelled beyond Skellig Michael to shoot scenes in many more stunning coastal spots along the Wild Atlantic Way from Cork and Kerry up to Clare and Donegal.
Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill made no effort to hide his Irish adventures and shared his love of Tayto and pints in the local with his fans on social media.
2. Father Ted (1995-1998)
This iconic comedy series is set on the remote Craggy Island off the west coast of Co. Clare. It follows the goings on of three priests, Father Ted Crilly, Father Dougal Maguire and Father Jack Hackett who share a large isolated house.
They each have their own agenda while their dedicated house-keeper, Mrs Doyle, keeps them all well hydrated with copious cups of tea (whether they want it or not). The remote coastal setting and few local characters only add to the hilarious every day hurdles experienced by the priests.
1. The Quiet Man (1952)
A classic romantic-comedy starring the wonderful John Wayne and the beautiful Maureen O’Hara, the Quiet Man is a story of Irish traditions, strong Celtic women and the embedded culture of rural Ireland.
The film is set in the village of Cong between Galway and Mayo. The two west counties provide a stunning backdrop for the romantic scenes while Lettergesh beach in Galway shows the gripping horse race.
Cong is still visited by many tourists and film buffs to this day while the Lettergesh beach remains just as it was in the film … yet another piece of unspoiled beauty along Ireland’s stunning west coast.