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Travel

Exploring the filming locations of Stanley Kubrick's Ireland

Genius is overused in the field of cinema, but Stanley Kubrick certainly is one. He wasn’t merely an artist dedicated to his craft, but a singular, soulful person eager to explore his work to the fullest of its potential. With that, Barry Lyndon might just be his most lyrical work, offering a dissertation on man’s desire for enlightenment in a war spanning many countries.

Quietly humble, and lacking the directorial interpolations of 1980s epics The Shining and Full Metal Jacket, the film gently moves viewers along to take in the detail of the adventure, as it stockpiles the Irish scenery, as witnessed by the roguishly handsome Ryan O’Neal.

Luxuriating in a hefty run time, the film is not meant as a casual Friday night watch, but demands attention from its discerning viewers. Every shot is framed like a painting, giving purpose to the memento at large. Although he never said it, I suspect Zack Snyder borrowed from this movie for his astonishing Justice League.

Kubrick was drawn to Ireland, to its history, poetry and music, a hybrid that stemmed from the glorious scenery he was fortunate enough to film. He couldn’t have made the island look any prettier, even if he’d tried.

Stanley Kubrick’s Ireland:

5. Castletown House

Designed in the 1720s, Castletown was considered something of a radical proposition when it was built, but has since gone on to set the template for the aesthete for similarly expressive Irish buildings. For many, it’s Ireland’s earliest and finest Palladian house, which is why it was a shoo-in for Stanley Kubrick. 

The house nestles in nicely with the decadence, densely lit camera angles, and cerebral shots. From the side avenues pivoting into the wide gardens to the decorous buildings that echo the discontentment that swallows the protagonists, the house acts as another character in the web thinly disguised as a historical drama. 

The estate welcomes people into the tearooms, and there is a garden trail that allows guests to meditate in, as the foliage offers ample opportunity to slow down, breath and walk. It’s an essential place to visit on a summer’s day. 

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4. Dublin Castle

Seen by many to be the central political nerve system to the country in question, Dublin Castle acted as Britain’s portal into Ireland. Following Irish independence in 1922, the castle was handed over to the provisional government spearheaded by Michael Collins, and now acts as a reception to every Irish President on their inauguration. 

Used in some key moments during Barry Lyndon, the castle also features in Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins, a historical document on the changing political tides in Ireland. History is imprinted on the walls of the building, which isn’t surprising, considering that it has stood in the same place since the reign of King John, the first Lord of Ireland. 

It’s a gorgeous part of the island, and provides veritable proof that a landscape can be agrarian and industrial in equal measure. But what it offers is a stunning glimpse into an Ireland typified by British rule, now serving as a mouthpiece for the independent island. 

(Credit: Lisa Fecker)

3. Moorstown Castle

For those of you who are unversed in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Clonmel was considered to be a hangout for the Anglo-Irish upper classes. Laurence Sterne was raised there, and the greenery fed into many of his most scintillatingly written works. 

Moorstown Castle can be found in Clonmel, a pivotal emblem of a bygone Ireland, as murderers and monks paraded the town with gumption, generosity and good-will. It was built by James Keating, an ally of the Earl of Ormond before ownership was handed down to Robert Cox of Bruff in 1635. The property is said to be under private ownership as of the time of writing, but Kubrick and company got to shoot around the premises, giving the movie an added sense of elegance and class. 

Indeed, Kubrick put the castle into the modern-day lexicon, and guests who tend to visit the premises say that they were inspired to do so by the film. Gorgeously re-produced on celluloid, the film captures the mystery, the magnitude and the mythology that surrounds the Munster castle. 

(Credit: Alamy)

2. Powerscourt House

This large garden estate can be found in Co. Wicklow, and has hosted a number of films, including The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse. The garden, vast and lush as it is, lends itself to 19th-century dramas, and the area is virtually unchanged. Considering the setting in Barry Lyndon, the film needed an authentic local to offer luxuriance, liveliness and a sense of high culture. 

Wicklow, as a region, has been used in a number of interesting projects. Mel Gibson opted to shoot his Scottish opus Braveheart there, feeling that the green wilderness suited the barren battlefields that formed the backbone of his feature. It’s an excitingly visceral movie, although it lacks Kubrick’s measured focus, or attention to minutiae. 

Stanley Kubrick‘s film is a tale of tremendous nuance, every detail poised with purpose, every camera angle adding to the mosaic that cements the work together. Exceedingly hypnotic, and edited with tremendous precision, the beats offers one startlingly well-produced feature film that’s pleasantly Irish in tone and timbre. 

(Credit: Amanda Susan Munroe)

1. Waterford Castle

And so we land into Waterford, my hometown, a city that can proudly boast its virtue as Ireland’s oldest. Believed to be founded in 914 AD, the city now stands as one of the Isle’s more popular destinations. Director Danny Boyle has been known to visit the area, and Bryan Ferry performed a sell-out concert there in 2011. 

Owned by the Fitzgerald family, the house stands as one of the pivotal emblems of the county, and the owners in question are believed to be descendants of Patrick Fitzgerald, son of the de jure 6th Earl of Kildare. These days, it serves as a hotel and golf course, making it far removed from the rustic romanticism of Kubrick’s 1975 epic. 

Naturally, the hotel is surrounded by lush greenery, making it the perfect place for tourists to play golf, or cognate beneath the swishing, swirly trees. And Kubrick used the scene to demonstrate the ferociousness of Ryan O’Neal’s titular character.