Tourism Ireland Capitalizes on Skellig Michael’s Star Wars Cameo
By R. Bryan Willits, Editorial Assistant
April / May 2016
A long time ago, on an island six miles off the Irish coast, a Christian monastery was built on a place called Skellig Michael sometime between the 6th and 8th century. Now, the island and the interest it captures has been given a boost in popularity thanks to its cameo appearance in the most recent installment of Star Wars.
J.J. Abrams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, commended the Irish Film board’s support for the project on the now uninhabited island whose famous monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and said, “the Irish film board were behind us %1000 [sic]. They’d worked countless hours to help pull off what we needed to do on Skellig.”
“I can’t believe they let us shoot there,” Abrams reflected, “I mean, it was so beautiful.”
Other members of the crew were in awe of Skellig Michael’s natural beauty too. “I remember when we all flew in,” said Tommy Harper, the film’s executive producer, “It was special and we knew it.”
Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht was enthusiastic about the island’s place in the film and stated, “It’s just amazing. The scenery is amazing, the heritage is amazing, and the wildlife is amazing. People are going to see the beauty of this area.”
To the chagrin of those who want to experience the beauty of the Skellig islands first hand, the Office of Public Works said it has no plans to extend the short visiting season for the island, which will go from May to October this year and only allows 180 visitors per day.
But the undaunted fans of the film series have nonetheless accounted for an unprecedented surge of interest in visiting the surrounding region. While critics say the interest in the site is superficially driven by the film, local guesthouse owner Gerard Kennedy says, “When they come, all they talk about is Star Wars. When they come back, all they are talking about is Skellig and the monastery.” ♦