EUFCN Location Award 2021 Finalist: Cahir Castle
Standing on a rocky island on the River Suir is Cahir Castle: one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles, the place where Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table, accepts the challenge from the mysterious Green Knight.
Cahir Castle is one of the finalists of the EUFCN Location Award 2021, the annual prize for European filming locations organized by the European Film Commissions Network (EUFCN). The location was submitted by Screen Ireland.
In this article, Location Manager Rossa O’Neill, Rosemary Collier, Director in Heritage Services at OPW, and Eleanor Morrissey, OPW site manager at Cahir Castle, share their experience during the filming of David Lowery’s The Green Knight.
Dating back to the mid-12th century, Cahir Castle was built to be a state-of-the-art defensive fortress and it has been the scene of sieges and bombardments for centuries. The Castle served as a key setting for David Lowery’s film The Green Knight, a fantasy retelling of the famous medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, produced by Wild Atlantic Pictures.
“Cahir Castle offers a variety of interiors and exteriors that help set the scene for an Arthurian tale,” says Rossa O’Neill, Location Manager for the film. “The entrance to the castle for example has a two-tiered path. This is where we see both Gawain & Essel enter the castle and the headless Green Knight ride off on horseback. There are lots of areas where cast can meander through a medieval market setting before scaling the steep tower steps or entering into a grand banquet hall.”
Appearing to grow from the actual rock on which it stands, and featuring battlements, heavy gates, turrets, towers and a stunning courtyard, Cahir Castle was the perfect double for the legendary castle of Camelot.
The castle was transformed on screen as an ominous, foreboding fortress representing the home of the dying King Arthur’s court. It is here that Sir Gawain takes up the Green Knight’s challenge, and where much of the first act of the film takes place. This was in fact the second time Cahir Castle has been used as a double for Camelot, the first being its use in the 1981 film Excalibur.
Cahir Castle is a designated National Monument of Ireland and is cared for by the Irish Government’s heritage conservation agency, the Office of Public Works. In the scouting for The Green Knight , the castle was the front runner from early on.
“The first thing we did was sit down together and look at reference pictures that Director David Lowery and Production Designer Jade Healy had put together of various castles,” says Rossa O’Neill. “From that I was able to show them some similar options and then we hit the road and went castle hunting. The Office of Public Works who run Cahir Castle were incredibly supportive when it came to facilitating filming.”
“Working on site at Cahir Castle during the filming of The Green Knight was a wonderful experience which allowed us to see the courtyards dressed for filming, re-creating the appearance and atmosphere of how they may have been in centuries past,” says Eleanor Morrissey, OPW site manager at Cahir Castle. “Like most medieval fortresses, Cahir Castle has quite restricted access – a definite advantage when defending against attack – so it was sometimes a challenge to get materials in and out, but looking at the film it was most certainly worth the added effort.”
The well preserved 13th-century castle, beautifully displaying the craftmanship of the medieval masons, provided a wonderfully authentic backdrop for a tale of honour, bravery and courage.
“Anybody who has visited it will easily see how its impressive battlements rising above the River Suir make it a dream location for internationally acclaimed fantasy films such as The Green Knight or Excalibur”, says Rosemary Collier in The Office of Public Works. “We are privileged to care for and conserve Cahir Castle and we hope to welcome many of the viewers near and far who have seen it on the screen to this iconic Irish heritage site.”
The locals in Cahir town centre, County Tipperary, welcomed the production with open arms. “There was a great excitement during filming,” says Location Manager Rossa O’Neill. “Even the ducks from the castle moat tried to get in on the action!”
The general public has now the chance to vote for their favourite location among the 5 in the EUFCN Location Award shortlist:
Berlin for The Queen’s Gambit – Berlin Brandenburg Film Commission (GERMANY)
Cahir Castle for The Green Knight – Screen Ireland (IRELAND)
Kornati National Park for Murina – Filming in Croatia (CROATIA)
Malaga for The Crown (Season 4) – Andalucía Film Commission (SPAIN)
Stadlandet for Dune – Western Norway Film Commission (NORWAY)
A lucky name will be picked among the voters and will have the chance to visit the best European filming location of 2021.
The European Film Commissions Network is a non-profit association that supports and promotes the European film industry and culture. It currently represents 95 European film commissions and film institutions from 31 different countries.