Banshees of Inisherin: How remote Irish islands captured 'atmosphere of the Atlantic'

Following the success of the Oscar-nominated film, the number of tourists visiting Achill Island and Inis Mor on Ireland's west coast have increased

Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin. Photo: Searchlight Pictures
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Colin Farrell had many people to thank following his best actor win at the Golden Globes for The Banshees of Inisherin, but he made a point of mentioning the locals of Achill Island and Inis Mor.

"We were just one big family," the Irish actor said at the Beverly Hills awards ceremony last month, before also name-checking his animal co-star in the critically acclaimed dark comedy, Jenny the miniature donkey.

Two weeks later, the movie, filmed on location on the two remote islands off Ireland's west coast, picked up nine Oscar nominations.

"Of course we have fingers crossed for a win," says Chris McCarthy, the manager of Achill Tourism.

"And we'll take any one of the nine nominations. We're not choosy."

The film is also up for 10 awards at the Bafta ceremony on Sunday.

Between July and November 2021, Achill Island's dramatic landscape of rugged cliffs, peat bogs and sandy beaches was transformed.

The island's Purteen Harbour, usually a working fisherman's wharf, became the location for a portside street scene with a 1920s shopfront.

And the pub where much of the film's action takes place, was built from scratch atop windswept cliffs on Achill's south-west coast.

Atlantic atmosphere

McCarthy said the film's director, Martin McDonagh, wanted the actors "to feel the atmosphere of the Atlantic" when they opened the door of the pub.

"They couldn't create this in the studio," McCarthy explains, standing at the spot as February winds whipped sea spray onto the cliffs.

Filming was an economic boon for Achill, injecting €1.7 million ($1.8 million) into the area, home to fewer than 3,000 inhabitants.

Now it is looking to capitalise on a tourism bounce. Every time a clip from the film or an awards speech goes viral online, McCarthy and his team see a surge in bookings.

Mick Lynch, owner of Lynott's Pub on Achill, explains that visitors had already begun inquiring about the film.

Among the souvenirs lining the pub's walls are what Lynch calls the movie's "infamous" shears, used by actor Brendan Gleeson's character to chop off his own fingers.

Lynch says his tiny pub, a dry stone wall structure with a thatched roof built as a jail in the 16th century, is a true-to-life version of the pub created for Banshees.

"If these walls could talk, the stories they'd tell ... this is the real thing," he explains.

Banshees bus tour

US singer Taylor Swift, a fan of the film, has asked for the pub from the movie set to be rebuilt so that she can visit.

"We don't need to," Lynch says. "She can come here."

Alan Gielty, manager of Achill Coaches, has created a guided tour around the movie locations.

"For the last month an awful lot of people are travelling to the island just to see the sights of the movie," he explains.

"It's already bringing in a lot of interest from outside and it's going to be very, very busy."

Madeline Condell, who was one of 120 extras in the film, said the island was in the grip of an Oscars buzz.

Condell owns two donkeys that missed out on appearing alongside Jenny. She said there would be more than a few parties planned for the night of the March 12 awards.

"We almost feel like we deserve an Oscar as well because of the beauty of the area," she says.

"It's such a lovely place to visit and anyone that ever does visit always falls in love with the place."

Updated: February 17, 2023, 7:01 AM