Setting the scene

The dramatic Irish landscape has played a starring part in a great number of classic films. Aoife O'Riordain gives a guided tour of Ireland's history as a backdrop.
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The Independent Travel

One of the most resounding images in Ireland's cinematic history, is the crashing of waves on the beach in the David Lean film, Ryan's Daughter. Today, visitors to the Dingle Peninsula follow the sign pointing to "Ryan's Daughter Beach" and make their way to the tiny Coumeenoole Strand.

For the same production, an entire village was painstakingly recreated among the velvety patchwork of fields near Dunquin, only to be taken down again when filming was over. Almost a quarter of a century later, another village was constructed, close to the original location overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, for the Tom 'n' Nicole version of Far and Away. The accents left a lot to be desired, but the scenery certainly didn't.

Dublin has also become something of a film set. Trinity College was immortalised in Educating Rita, and the city even masqueraded as its country cousin Limerick for the film of Frank McCourt's bestseller, Angela's Ashes. Life in the capital has been portrayed in Neil Jordan's Michael Collins, which showed the dramatic events of the 1916 Easter Rising; in Jim Sheridan's Oscar-nominated My Left Foot; in Alan Parker's uplifting tale of inner-city musicians, The Commitments; and, more recently, as a fun-loving vibrant town in About Adam, starring Kate Hudson.

Moving south from Dublin, the wild and untamed landscape of the Wicklow hills has played host to its fair share of stars. Laurence Olivier filmed Henry V here, Mia Farrow shot Widow's Peak and Kevin Spacey worked on Ordinary Decent Criminal. John Boorman used a breathtaking valley known as Luggala, near Sally Gap, in his film Excalibur.

Ryan's Daughter and Far and Away are not the only films that have required the construction of entire villages. Visitors to the Wicklow Gap over the summer came across a village which didn't appear on any map. The hamlet was built for the filming of Reign of Fire, starring Matthew McConaughey. The village became a tourist attraction in its own right.

Further south, the picture-perfect sands of Curracloe Beach in Co Wexford became a slice of Normandy for some of the landing scenes in Stephen Spielberg's, Saving Private Ryan. On the theme of war, 750 soldiers from the Irish army played extras in the battle scenes of Braveheart. Although it was set in Scotland, much of the action took place on the pancake-flat Curragh plain in Co Kildare.

In 1956, John Houston rather appropriately filmed Moby Dick, starring Orson Welles, in Youghal harbour, now a popular destination for real-life whale watchers.

John Ford immortalised the sweeping landscapes of the west of Ireland in The Quiet Man, and the village of Cong on the banks of Lough Corrib and the desolate Maamturk Moutains still draw many a Quiet Man enthusiast.

In Ireland, it's hard to find anyone who hasn't been an extra in a movie, or who can't relate a tale of walking into their local to find Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt nursing a Guinness. But there is a healthy disregard for stardom. During the filming of The Field near Leenane, Co Mayo, the locals referred to the production as "Sean de Florette".