The Rock of Dunamase, which provides part of the location for “Ballycarbery Castle” in the film Leap Year

First, I have to say that Leap Year is a crime against geography and my 5th-grader has a better grasp of map reading than whoever wrote the improbable screenplay, yet the film somehow manages to be strangely charming. Amy Adams and Matthew Goode play the cliched mis-matched personalities falling in love through adversity, and mostly get away with it because the scenery is breath-taking — the music’s pretty good, too. Yes, his accent is a bit weird to an Irishman (everyone non-Irish I know seems to think it’s great, and I’ll grant you it is pretty decent, but to an Irish ear it’s just oddly placeless and patchy: an amalgam of different parts of the country); yes, her character is way too tightly wound; and, yes, the cliches are piled upon cliches, but just get past that and enjoy it for the cute, undemanding flick that it is.

She’s an up-tight romantic from Boston, he’s a cynical bar owner from Kerry. Who says opposites don’t attract?

For me, the thing about any movie set in Ireland is I can’t stop thinking about where everything was filmed. Sometimes, I know the places like the back of my hand, and other times it takes forever to work out where something was shot. So after lot of internet searching, repeated viewings, and one coincidental visit on our trip home last year, I can present this short roundup of most of the main locations.

The supposed Dingle peninsula is nowhere near Dingle, Co. Kerry. Declan’s pub is in the village of Kilmurvy on Inis Mór (or at least the exterior is, I suspect the interiors were shot in a studio somewhere). The final proposal scene takes place just outside the walls of Dun Aengus, which is a few hundred yards from the village.  When they get into the “classic” Renault 4 the next morning you briefly see a fake ogham stone beside one of the souvenir shops. I knew exactly where they were when I noticed that detail.  Kilmurvy is the village at the foot of Dun Aengus where the tour buses drop you off, and while we were browsing in the tourist shops waiting for the bus to return I went over to check out the “ogham stone.” Up close, you can tell the lines were cut by machine. Like the filmmakers, somebody in the village was trying just a little too hard to make everything look authentic.

Incidentally, the village of Kilmurvy is one of the few (very few, I only need one hand to count them–and there are fingers left over) places where you can get a good latte in the whole of Ireland. The cafe/restaurant where this miracle occurred is the building on the right in that shot of Anna tottering up the road from the beach. The other thing to be said for Kilmurvy is that they don’t gouge tourists in the shops. My camera batteries ran out while we were at Dun Aengus and I bought new ones in one of the tourist stores, full well thinking I was paying over the odds. When were were back on the mainland a couple of days later I checked the price of batteries in a supermarket, and noticed the island store had charged about the same. Sure, they’re daecent folk on Inis Mór (as Declan might say in his Oirish accent).

“Ballycarbery Castle” is really a combo of the Rock of Dunamase and some CIG, although it’s not really in Tipperary, it’s in Co. Laois. The Rock is a nice spot to visit, although the view seen in the movie isn’t really the view from the top. Generally speaking, the arch they walk under and the walls right beside them appear to be real, and the lofty towers seen in the distance and the one they “climb” to the top of are fake. Dunamase isn’t really that high and steep, but it is a brilliant picnicing spot on sunny summer weekends. As Irish ruins go, this one is a little different because it was blown up by Cromwell’s forces in order to prevent the Irish using it against them. So you come across the odd sight of several thick hunks of wall lying on their side, instead of the usual decaying ramparts and gentle piles of rubble like at most abandoned and slowly decaying castles.

The wedding was apparently shot at the upper lake at Glendalough, which is not so far from Enniskerry, where internet rumor has it that the post-wedding bench scene was shot. The gorgeous park they walk through in Dublin is part of St. Stephen’s Green. They must have got a very nice day for the filming, because I’ve been there many times and can’t remember it looking so well.

There are probably other places worth pointing out and identifying, but those are places I didn’t recognize, places I haven’t been to yet. Hopefully I’ll be driving along some road in Connemara next year and will suddenly recognize a  stretch of coastline, a windswept pub, or chattering stream from Leap Year, or some other Irish movie. Maybe it’ll be a scene from  The Quiet Man, The War of the Buttons, Into the West, or some other film I’ve seen too many times, yet never seem to get sick of.

Notes

A very detailed breakdown of Leap Year’s sins, and filming locations…

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