It’s perhaps the most famous British film series of all time. We’ll never forget that iconic train station in London, the dramatic Scottish landscape, and the broad Welsh beaches that gave Dobby a final resting place (sob – still not over that one). But what about our sister island, across the Irish Sea? When did Harry Potter show his Irish pride?
From dancing leprechauns at the Quidditch World Cup to Luna Lovegood’s song-like Irish lilt, the Harry Potter films pay homage to St Patrick’s favourite country in more ways than one. Not only did the boy wizard have Ireland to thank for some of his best classmates, teachers and family members behind-the-scenes, but the filmmakers also showed some appreciation for Seamus Finnigan’s homeland by adding it to their list of filming locations.
Although most of the filming took place at Leavesden studios in Hertfordshire (and the film sets are still there today for you to go and visit), the production team scoured the UK and Ireland searching for stunning natural locations for Harry and pals to defeat the baddies in.
Let’s talk about the Ciffs of Moher in County Clare. Potterheads will know them as the dramatic cliffs that Harry and Dumbledore visit in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – the sheer height of the black clifftops along with the relentless crashing sea make it a perfect place to hide a Horcrux. For this scene, CGI just wouldn’t cut it – only Ireland could offer a 13km full-scale set that would bring the magic to life.
And that’s just the backdrop. Plenty of homegrown Emerald Isle talent can be found in the foreground, earning those coveted roles as the heroes and villains with all the luck of the Irish. Take Evanna Lynch, for instance. The County Louth-born actress gives Luna Lovegood a kooky Irish edge she didn’t necessarily have in the books – her unique accent makes warnings about nargles and wrackspurts sound all the more intriguing. In fact, the cast list simply glitters with Irish names.
There’s father and son duo Brendan Gleeson and Domnhall Gleeson who play (the non-related) Mad-Eye Moody and Bill Weasley, along with Ciaran Hinds as Aberforth Dumbledore and Devon Murray as Harry’s aforementioned, proudly Irish classmate Seamus. Fiona Shaw, Geraldine Sommerville, Richard Harris – these actors all hail from Ireland, although you might not guess when you see them on screen.
And let’s not forget the Northern Irish talent – Dublin-born Michael Gambon plays Dumbledore with a Northern Irish accent, but County Antrim has its real-world representatives in the form of Michelle Fairley (Mrs Granger) and Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockheart). Essentially, these films are a love letter to the British Isles, demonstrating the best our small cluster of islands have to offer.
So there you have it. You might not get a pint of Guinness at the Leaky Cauldron, but this film franchise proudly shows its shamrock green Irish colours. Although, a word of caution before you Apparate to the nearest clover field – it’s probably full of nargles.