It’s back…..are you as Game of Thrones® obsessed as us?
For fun we were looking to see what film locations we could visit in Northern Ireland and were amazed at the amount there are, and thought we would put them into an article with some handy links to plan your own Game of Thrones® trip. The order of the locations is given in a loop starting and finishing in Belfast.
Relive the magic of Game of Thrones® as you travel through the now-iconic filming locations in Northern Ireland, as some of the most pivotal scenes of the show found their real-world settings there.
For the final season, the cast and crew filmed an epic battle sequence for 55 nights straight in the villages of Toome and Magheramore, which is only about 30 minutes from Belfast. This area has held many supporting roles in the show; including Lough Neagh which appeared as the Summer Sea, the body of water to the south of Essos and Westeros, and the Toome Canal filled in for the Old Valyrian Canal, where Jorah Mormont and Tryion Lannister are attacked by the stone men in season five.
Since season two, most of the scenes involving Winterfell, the home of the Stark family, have been shot in Toome and the nearby village of Moneyglass.
Take a 15-minute drive to the east, on the northeast bank of Lough Neagh, sits the ruins of Shane’s Castle near Randalstown. The castle ruins, which date back to the 1300s, were the scene of the dramatic Tourney of the Hand in season one and have represented both the dungeons of King’s Landing and the crypts of Winterfell.
Now, head along the beautiful coast to Magheramorne Quarry near Larne, this abandoned quarry was retrofitted (with a healthy dose of CGI special visual effects) to be the setting for multiple locations in the north of Westeros, including Castle Black where the Night’s Watch are stationed, the Wildling village of Hardhome, and the massive wall that separates the realms of night from the kingdom of men.
The rolling hills of Cairncastle, which sit on the other side of Larne, have portrayed a range of Westerosi locations. You can visit the stone where Ned Stark portentously beheaded a man in the very first episode of the series, and pace the grounds where Catelyn Stark captures Tyrion Lannister. Cairncastle was also the setting for The Neck at Moat Cailin, where Lord Baelish tells Sansa Stark about his plans for her future with the Bolton family.
Luckily the Shillanavogy Valley is just a 20-minute drive to the west from Cairncastle. Shillanavogy Valley, which rests in the shadow of Slemish Mountain in Co. Antrim, is the setting for the Dothraki Grasslands where Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen is most often seen in Season 1.
After travel to Carnlough, a charming town that sits on Carnlough Bay. The stone walls and docks of the harbour are where Maisie Williams filmed Arya’s scenes along the Bravos Canal in season six. The town is also renowned for its fish and chips, so tuck in!
En-route out of town, stop at Glenariff in the Glens of Antrim, which represented the lush Vale of Arryn. Veer back north towards the craggy coastline to visit the mysterious and beautiful Cushendun Caves. This is the spot where the Red Priestess Melisandre births the shadow assassin to carry out Stannis Baratheon’s bidding.
A 25-minute drive up the coast will land you at Murlough Bay, known as Slaver’s Bay and, later, the Bay of Dragons in Essos. Murlough Bay is a highlight of the Causeway Coastal Route and boasts unparalleled views of Rathlin Island. On an especially clear day you can even see the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.
An imposing cliff at the northeast corner of Co. Antrim, Fair Head was the location for one of the most anticipated meetings in Game of Thrones® history – when Jon Snow meets Daenerys’ dragon/child Drogon for the first time in season seven. A popular rock-climbing spot, Fair Head also makes a lovely hike.
Another 30 minutes or so along the Causeway Coastal Route will take you to Ballintoy Harbour, which has been used as the location for Pyke, the seat of power of the Iron Islands, the kingdom of the Ironborn that splintered from Westeros. The world-famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is just 10 minutes away.
From there, come back inland and down to one of the most iconic Game of Thrones® locations, the mysterious Dark Hedges of Gracehill House in Ballymoney. They have been used as a location for The King’s Road, which is the longest road in the Seven Kingdoms, running from the Wall at Castle Black all the way to King’s Landing.
Less than 20 miles from the Dark Hedges, you’ll find the sandy beaches of Portstewart, the filming location for the Dornish coast. Dorne is the southernmost kingdom of Westeros, home to the House of Martell and the Sandsnakes. It’s where Jaime Lannister and Bronn of the Blackwater set foot on land during their mission to rescue Princess Myrcella Baratheon.
Downhill Strand is the setting for Dragonstone, the ancestral castle and island of the Targaryen family in Blackwater Bay. It’s where Stannis Baratheon and his troops set up camp in the early seasons, and where Daenerys and her army first set foot on her ancestral homeland. Be sure to explore the stunning Mussenden Temple, too, a National Trust Historic Site modelled after the Temple of Vesta in Ancient Rome.
Head southeast to Pollnagollum Cave in Belmore Forest, part of the Marble Arch Caves Geopark which is worth a visit in its own right. Fans will recognise this cave as the hideaway of the Brotherhood Without Banners in season three. Also, southeast from Binevenagh is Gosford Castle in Markethill, Co, Armagh, which was the setting for the Tully family’s ancestral home of Riverrun.
Travelling to the Mourne Mountains next, this granite mountain range in Co. Down has performed double duty as the setting for Vaes Dothrak, in addition to the woods north of Winterfell where Bran Stark meets Meera and Jojen Reed. The nearby Tollymore Forest Park has also served as a filming location for the woods surrounding Winterfell but might be even more recognisable as the Haunted Forest beyond The Wall, where the Wildlings and the White Walkers roam. Six hundred acres of ancient redwood trees and crumbling gothic ruins await you.
As you begin your journey back north to Belfast, stop at Inch Abbey, an ancient monastic site. The historic ruins, which date back to 1180, are the spot where Catelyn and Robb learn of Ned Stark’s death, and where Robb Stark becomes King in the North. While there, check out the town of Downpatrick too, believed to be the burial place of St. Patrick himself.
In season one of Game of Thrones®, Castle Ward and Demesne near Strangford served as the setting for Winterfell.
The 18th-century property, a National Trust site, has fully embraced its modern claim to fame, offering visitors the chance to live a full ‘Game of Thrones®’ experience, dressing up in character and practicing archery in the very spot where Robb, Bran Stark and Jon Snow do in the series.
Finally, it’s time to head to Belfast City, where there is currently a touring exhibition, which opened at TEC Belfast 11th April and runs until 1st September. The dramatic exhibition combines costumes, authentic props and majestic settings from all seven seasons to create an interactive and immersive experience. this all-new exhibition will drop fans into the centre of the Seven Kingdoms for an up-close and personal look at authentic props, costumes and set decorations from the show. Link for more information.
Doors of Thrones
When some of the trees along the famous Dark Hedges (better known as the ‘Kingsroad’) blew over in Storm Gertrude, the felled wood was carved into a set of 10 intricate doors, hung across a variety of locations in Northern Ireland, each telling the story of a Season 6 episode. Click for more information.
- The Cuan, Strangford, Co. Down
- Fiddler’s Green, Portaferry, Co. Down
- Percy French, Newcastle, Co. Down
- Blakes of the Hollow, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
- Owens, Limavady, Co. Londonderry
- Fullerton Arms, Ballintoy, Co. Antrim
- Gracehill House, Stranocum, Co. Antrim
- Mary McBride’s, Cushendun, Co. Antrim
- Ballygally Castle, Ballygally, Co. Antrim
- The Dark Horse, Belfast, Co. Antrim
What about the kids?
If you are looking for something for the kids to do in Belfast, I would highly recommend the W5 Award Winning Science & Discovery Centre. With over 250 amazing interactive exhibits in four incredible exhibition areas, W5 provides a unique experience as well as fantastic fun for visitors of all ages. In addition to permanent exhibits, W5 also presents a changing programme of large- and small-scale temporary exhibitions and events. They have a daily programme of live science demonstrations and shows. Click for more information.