Northern Ireland is really embracing the fact it is Game of Thrones territory. There is a “Welcome to Westeros” at Belfast Airport. The tourist board have created an app of film locations. As well as several extra attractions designed just for Game of Thrones fans. So whilst we were in Belfast we decided we had to visit some of the locations used for filming the programme.
Northern Ireland: Game of Thrones Territory
HBO film a lot of principal photography for Game of Thrones at the Titanic Studio in Belfast. As well as in the surrounding areas, that serve as locations for Westeros. Unfortunately, the studios aren’t open to the public. But you can see some of the sets towering over the waterfront. Whilst we were there, they were filming at Moneyglass. Which is now used as the Winterfell set, again this is not accessible to the public. Fear not, there are still plenty of film locations to see in Northern Ireland.
When visiting the locations, you will see tourist board plaques, relating to Game of Thrones. The plaques contain information about filming, like which scenes feature this place. As well as including behind the scenes photos and screencaps from the television show.
When researching our trip to Belfast, we found several companies that ran Game of Thrones tours from both Belfast and Dublin. There also seemed to be two tour routes. One north of Belfast along the coastal route and one south of the city. We decided to hire a car and attempt to do both tour routes in a day. (Which didn’t work out, more on that later).
We started heading north along the Causeway Coastal Route to Carnlough. The harbour here serves as the Braavos canals in the programme. Notably when Arya jumped in the canal during her fight with the Waif and had to crawl up the steps.
As I mentioned in my post about the Giant’s Causeway, the bad weather meant Larrybane Quarry was closed. So we missed out on seeing that location. The next stop on our tour was Dunluce Castle. This ruined medieval castle on the cliffs depicts the Iron Island. Primarily, when Theon Greyjoy returned home to the Pyke.
One of the most dramatic locations in Northern Ireland is The Dark Hedges. The avenue of trees is a must for everyone visiting the area, but especially for Game of Thrones fans. They filmed the scene on the King’s Road here, in the opening episode of season two, when Arya is fleeing King’s Landing. Unfortunately, several of the trees were destroyed in a storm last spring.
As I mentioned the Northern Ireland tourist board are encouraging Game of Thrones to visit. One of the attractions is Journey of Doors, using the wood from the fallen trees ten intricate wooden doors were carved and places in pubs in Northen Ireland, each pub is near a location used for filming Game of Thrones, so spotting the doors can become a fun game whilst visiting the locations.
On the first day exploring Game of Thrones‘ Territory, also decided to visit the Giant’s Causeway (as it was en route). We ended up spending a ridiculous amount of time there, as it was truly breathtaking. So we postponed visiting Castle Ward until the second day.
In the first few seasons of Game of Thrones, they filmed a large number of scenes at Castle Ward. Although the property isn’t used for filming anymore. It has become a must-see attraction for fans of the show. Winterfell Tours, operating cycle or boat tours around the grounds, as well as offering archery demonstrations. Once again, we opted to adventure on our own and spend the morning wandering around the beautiful area.
Castle Ward is a National Trust property with a Gothic house and beautiful grounds. The old demise includes a Tower, courtyard and stables. These buildings create the backdrop for Winterfell in the first season. Memorable when Tyrion slapped Joffery during their visit up north.
They also filmed a lot of additional scenes on the grounds of Castle Ward. The ‘Battle of Whispering Woods’ in season one and Robb and Talisa’s wedding were all filmed here. We walked along the towpath on the bay, which is used as a filming location for the Riverlands. It was easy to see why they used this beautiful location for the Trident.
Of course one of the most famous locations on the Trident is The Twins, home to Walder Frey. And sure enough on the banks of the bay is the old castle that they used for filming scenes outside The Twins in season one. As with a lot of the locations, they footage is heavily CGI’ed in post-production. But it was still nice to get a sense of the place.
A short drive from Castle Ward is Inch Abbey. The ruin of a medieval monastery is a historic location in Ireland. However, it was also the filming location of Robb’s camp in the finale of the first season.
I loved seeing all the locations and adore the fact Northern Ireland is embracing the fact it is Game of Thrones Territory! It has given me the taste for exploring more locations. I would love to go to Croatia or maybe our next visit to Ireland would include a trip to Skellig Michael where they filmed Star Wars: The Last Jedi.