A Game of Thrones guide to Northern Ireland
GOT fan? If you’ve already visited Kings Landing in Croatia the next top spot for fans of the Iron Throne is a quiet corner of the UK. Visit Winterfell, the Iron Islands, the Kings Road and Dragonstone on an easy road trip around the lush green country of Northern Ireland. Whilst you’re at it add in a few well known sights like the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge to make one truly epic road trip.
Castle Ward is first on the list. A short drive south from Belfast this grand castle was the setting for the Stark family home, Winterfell. It doesn’t disappoint providing tours with an emphasis on the HBO series as well as the history of the actual castle. You can even dress up with a tour like this one and play with swords. You might even get lucky and see a direwolf from the original series!
The castle grounds are also where you will find the Twins. Wander away from Castle Ward down towards the coast and you will come across Audley’s Castle, the tower is one of “the Twins”, the other being CGI. Other scenes filmed here include when Robb Stark meets Talisa, where Alton Lannister is imprisoned with Jamie, the Baelor Battlefield and the Lannister camp.
Inch Abbey is a beautiful ruin where Robb Stark’s camp was set in season one, just down the road from Winterfell. It’s a lot less well known and free to explore.
The King’s Road
Make your way up north for one of the most beautiful and mysterious sights of the series. The Dark Hedges were used as the setting for the King’s Road in season 2. They certainly don’t disappoint with a symmetrical line of cragged old beech trees taking you down a dark path. Get there just after rainfall to add extra drama to your photos with reflective puddles and rising mist.
The Iron Islands
Northern Ireland’s rugged coastline is a bleak and harsh place especially in winter. It’s the perfect setting for the stronghold of the Iron Fleet. Ballintoy Harbour has been the set of five episodes across three seasons and has served as Pyke, the Iron Islands and part of Dragonstone in S2E2. At Dunluce Castle you get a real sense of life at the end of the world. It lays in ruins but retains so much character and intrigue.
The beautiful 11km stretch of sand at Downhill, one of Northern Ireland’s best beaches, was the filming location of Dragonstone in Season 2. Downhill Strand is the place where the seven gods of Westeros were sacrificed by Lady Melisandre. Dragonstone was the ancestral home of House Targaryen and once stronghold of Stannis Baratheon.
Castle Black and the Wall
Magheramorne Quarry in County Antrim is the filming location of the entrance to Castle Black. Although the huge ice wall was created digitally you can still see the entrance but it might be a little difficult to recognise!
GOT’d out? Visit these other top attractions that make Northern Ireland unique.
The Giant’s causeway has been attracting visitors from all over the world long before GOT came here. The Basalt columns cover the coastline jutting out in perfect geometric patterns. These hexagonal columns were created by an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. Legend tells that Fionn, the giant, built the huge causeway to fight another giant in Scotland (you can actually see the other end of the causeway in Scotland and visit Fingals cave where the sea makes music). Entrance is free if you enter a different way, but the National Trust will charge a fee if you park in their car park.
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Just a few kilometres east of the Giant’s causeway near Ballintoy you can find a creaky rope bridge linking a small fishing island to the mainland. Crossing it requires a head for heights as there is a 30 meter drop to the ocean and jagged rocks below. Just make sure you can face the return journey! There have been a few people that have had to call out a boat back to the mainland rather than stepping back on to the swaying bridge!
Northern Ireland is a beautiful country to explore in the summer and is not just limited to these sights. Head to Belfast where you can visit the Titanic museum or the north west coast which boasts some of the best surfing in the UK.
Check out this Google map below of the best bits to visit in the UK including those mentioned above.