Those closest to me – and maybe some of you – know how much I love Star Wars. I’ve been a fan since I was 4, and I stood in line for the release of the toys during the prequels. And I was one of those crazy people who paid $4 to just see the prequel trailers (this was in the days of dial-up).
Like many Gen Xers, I identify with Luke. Yes, I want to be a Jedi hero and save the world, but when he’s upset because his Uncle won’t let him go the Academy and he looks out with longing and disappointment at the twin suns of Tatooine, I felt that. My parents were MUCH stricter than most of my friends (and I can understand why now, as a parent myself), so there were many nights I felt the same way. growing up.
When Disney bought Star Wars (during a blizzard in which I lost power for three days and had no idea what my friends meant when they sent me texts about it), I got excited at the prospect of Luke returning. I had read reports before that George Lucas told Mark Hamill that the Original Trilogy was about a son saving his father, and the sequels would be about Luke, a dad, saving HIS son.
Obviously, that didn’t happen, and while the sequel trilogy is polarizing, we’re sure of two things: 1) it was great seeing the original characters we love on the big screen again and 2) the locations were fantastic.
I especially love Ahch-To, where Luke exiled himself between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. When I saw the location of film, I was in awe and I looked into it.
The location is Skellig Michael, an island 8 miles off the west coast of Ireland. A UNESCO World Heritage site and home to devout monks from the 1st-9th centuries, it’s a beautiful, spiritual place full of beauty and wonder.
The monks who came there built the monastery and steps by themselves, using rocks on the island and stone they brought from shore 8 miles away. In rowboats and seas so rough that trips to the island are routinely cancelled in the 21st century.
When I learned that we earned a trip to Ireland from my company, this was a bucket list stop for me that we HAD to check off.
But when we got to Dublin, we were told this wasn’t possible. Falling rocks two weeks earlier closed it off to tourists. The other big place I wanted to see, the Buchanan Auld House and old Buchanan Castle north of Glasgow, was a no-go because the cruise ship had to cut the trip short three hours due to the tides.
I had accepted the fact that I was not going to be able to go. At the very least, we might be able to take a ship to the island and just sail around it.
But on July 4th, America’s birthday, we learned it was opened back up, and we got tickets to see it.
The climb is no joke. 604 steps straight up, with a piece of chain serving as a railing for 24 of the those steps. And the staff there (all 2 of them) said the mist that often rolls in is more dangerous than steady rain, as it makes the steps very slippery.
There was a little mist that day, but despite not being sunny, the history and natural beauty made up for that. Plus, this is a place where my favorite film series was shot, and it’s absolutely wonderful.
As we got halfway up, I saw an area with a fence that I knew was familiar. Call it whatever you want – I’m saying it’s the Force, of course – but I found the steps where my hero stood.
It is a must see, not only if you’re a big Star Wars fan, like I am, but for lovers of history and natural beauty. I’m so happy I got to see it and step where I saw my favorite fictional hero make his triumphant return to the big screen and films that captured my imagination as a child and still do today.