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By Ashford Studios, Sep 23 2015 05:27PM

ONE hundred extras, three herds of goats, two enormous Viking ships in the middle of a forest, several burning campfires, a gang of make-up artists, hair stylists, assistant directors, researchers, producers, one director, a disgusting bucket of fake blood and guts, three portable smoke machines, an articulated crane, several acting megastars from one of Ireland’s most popular shows and one over-dressed giddy journalist.

Set visits don’t come any better than last week’s exclusive trip to a secret location in picturesque Wicklow. I’ve been on TV and movie sets dozens of times throughout my career but nothing prepared me for the five hours I spent ogling RTE Two’s Vikings as it was being filmed.

By Ashford Studios, Sep 23 2015 05:23PM

Behind the scenes: The film and TV industry

02:57, 25 August 2013 by Ian Kehoe

Ashford Film Studios's founder Joe O'Connell with Vikings producer Morgan O'Sullivan. Photo: Feargal Ward

Joe O'Connell skips out of Ballyhenry House, his beautifully-restored period mansion, and makes towards his Bentley. "Follow me," he says. "I want to show you something."

O'Connell revs off behind the back of the house, before driving off on a sudden adventure. Past the stables. Off the gravel road. Through his polo pitch. Coming to a halt at the edge of a lush field, in the shadows of the Wicklow Mountains. He summons me to join him.

"Take a look at that," he says, pointing to a full-scale Viking village wrapped around a man-made lake tucked neatly out of sight in the middle of the 250-acre Co Wicklow estate that O'Connell and his family call home. "Surprised?"