Thursday, June 30, 2016

Spotlight: A Visit to Ahch-To (Skellig Michael)

A photo from my trip to Skellig Michael...I can't believe I just said that!
By: Dominic Jones

One of the most visually stunning new locations seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the island where Rey finds the missing Luke Skywalker hiding out at the end of the film.  The shooting for this scene took place in late July 2014, when director JJ Abrams and stars Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley travelled to County Kerry to film on Skellig Michael, an island off the west coast of Ireland.  This week, in advance of my trip to Star Wars Celebration Europe in London next month, I made the same journey out to County Kerry to see the iconic location for myself.

(NOTE: Though Luke’s hide-out planet is not named in the film, the script revealed that it is named Ahch-To--pronounced "Act Two".  Given that this is a nod to the fact that it is setting up Episode VIII, the second act of the trilogy, the planet may very well get a new name when we return there in December 2017).
After flying from Toronto to Dublin, I travelled across Ireland by train and bus to the town of Cahersiveen where I stayed for two nights.  With my arrangements set to visit Skellig in the morning, I went to bed the night before feeling like it was Christmas Eve.  In the morning, however, I awoke to a sight I feared: rain. Lots of rain.  It looked like my trip to the island would be cancelled.  And sure enough, when the local man who had arranged my trip to Skellig arrived, he informed me that all trips to the island had been cancelled.

Disappointed, I began to look into seeing how difficult it would be to rearrange my trip to allow me to stay another day and take another stab at visiting Skellig Michael (the answer: Very).  Fortunately, not half an hour later, I received a phone call saying conditions had improved enough for boats to go out to see the island but not actually land there.  This was good enough for me, so fifteen minutes later I was in the car on my way to Portmagee (the town from which the boats to Skellig Michael leave).

When I got to Portmagee, these were the first things I saw,

A photo posted by Dominic Jones (@dominicj25) on

A photo posted by Dominic Jones (@dominicj25) on

From there we boarded the boats and were given some "highly fashionable" light blue rain jackets and life jackets.  The boat's captain informed us that there was a small chance that we would be able to land at the island and to keep our fingers crossed (without getting our hopes up too high).  We then set off for Skellig. The seas were rocky, and a few of my fellow passengers got seasick as a result.  But soon enough, the iconic island was in sight.

Before we go any further, may I suggest some mood music,

Unfortunately, conditions were still deemed unsafe and we were not able to land on the island.  While it was certainly a disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to step foot where Rey and Luke had stood, simply seeing the island with my own eyes was extraordinary.

A photo posted by The Star Wars Underworld (@theswu) on

A photo posted by The Star Wars Underworld (@theswu) on

Just being able to see the island and some of those locations, even from the boat, was fantastic.  Skellig Michael is awe-inspiring and beautiful location.  Seen up close, you can really understand why JJ Abrams and the Lucasfilm crew chose to film there.  It is also incredible to see that there was virtually nothing done to enhance the location in post production.  In an age when so many stunning locations are created or enhanced, to see a location fit so perfectly with the needs of the story is amazing.

Visiting Skellig Michael, even though I never actually got to set foot there, has been a highlight of my Star Wars fandom.  Getting to see in person some of those locations we saw on screen  is something I will never forget.  And the fact that I wasn't able to actually walk around on the island it just gives me the excuse to go back one day!

For more about Skellig Michael, check out the behind the scenes featurette from The Force Awakens,

To see more from my vacation, including my visit to some Game of Thrones filming locations, follow me on Instagram: @DominicJ25

Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.


Gregorian said...

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