Belfast Telegraph

The Force is strong as Star Wars fans head to festival celebrating sci-fi saga

Darth Vader, Chewbacca and a Stormtrooper visited historic Skellig Michael in Ireland known as planet Ahch-To to fans.

The Force was strong in Ireland as Star Wars fans flocked to the first ever May The Fourth Festival.

Enthusiasts dressed as Darth Vader, a Stormtrooper and Chewbacca travelled to a rocky outcrop in the Atlantic which starred in the last two films.

Skellig Michael, a sheer-sided island 12 miles off the south west of Co Kerry, was the location for famed scenes where Luke Skywalker meets Rey.

The Force is strong with this one - a Star Wars fan dressed as Darth Vader on a boat to the Skellig Islands, Co Kerry (Brian Lawless/PA)

The World Heritage site was inhabited by monks from around the sixth century for around 500 years, who lived in stone beehive-shaped huts in a monastery clinging to the cliff faces on the 714ft high rock.

Now, fans are drawn to visit locations where The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were filmed.

Unable to land on the outcrop as it is only accessible to the public from later in May until September, costumed fans posed for pictures in the shadow the Skellig.

May the Fourth Festival

Jamie Kenny, 24, of Drogheda, Co Louth, was dressed as his childhood favourite character of a shadowtrooper.

A member of charitable organisation of Star Wars fans the 501st Garrison, which organises fundraising and hospital visits for children, he discovered on the boat trip stormtroopers can suffer seasickness.

He said: “It was certainly an experience. It was really good to see the filming locations.

“During the festival I’m planning on going to workshops, the film screening and I’ll be in costume trying to make as many people smile as I can. And scare them.

“I’ll definitely be back next year. It was great to see Ireland feature in the film and hopefully it will put Ireland on the map.”

Gabriel Butler, 69, lives in Portmagee where several events were taking place for the three-day festival, organised by national tourism body Failte Ireland.

He turned from hosting events as famed smuggler Captain Magee to donning a Darth Vader outfit when the Star Wars boom hit the village.

He has visited the filming site several times previously and said it was a very special place well before its latest lease of fame.

He said: “Talk about the Force is with you. The Force on the top of Skellig Michael is amazing. There’s energy lines, ley lines, that meet there.”

On an island far, far away - Darth Vader and Chewbacca make landfall on the Skellig Islands (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ciara Sugrue, head of festivals at Failte Ireland, said: “One of the biggest movie companies in the world were so impressed with the stunning landscape they chose to give Ireland a starring role in their last two movies.

“We wanted to give fans the chance to experience for themselves and what better to start that than on May the 4th, globally known as the day fans celebrate all things Star Wars.”

As well as screenings of the films and a ceilidh featuring Irish dancers in Star Wars costume, there is the chance for fans to follow in the footsteps of star Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) in a Guinness pint-pulling challenge.

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