Northern Ireland was once a no-go zone where no sane traveler would venture. The beauty of its countryside was overshadowed by stories of troubles, bombs and sectarianism. And although all wounds aren’t completely healed yet, this little odd piece of the UK is nowadays more and more on the tourist radar. Even Lonely Planet has chosen Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route as one of the top areas to visit in 2018!
But above all, Northern Ireland has become a country of magic, history and fantasy thanks to one American television series that half the world seems to be watching: Game of Thrones!
I am lucky enough to live in Northern Ireland and have had numerous opportunities to explore all these wonderful locations! Hell, I’ve even seen Kit Harington riding his bike in the centre of Belfast! So, join me and discover 15 of the most popular Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland!
Game of Thrones locations south of Belfast
1/ Castle Ward Estate – Winterfell
Welcome to Winterfell! Follow the signs to Clearsky Adventure and you’ll end up at the tower where Jamie Lannister pushed Bran into the deep end.
Inside the courtyard, you can dress up as a member of the Stark family (including swords), you can practise your archery skills on the very same spot where Jon Snow and Rob Stark instructed Bran in archery. And if that’s not enough, you can also hire a bicycle and cycle along beautiful Strangford Lough, where Brienne brought Jamie Lannister ashore and where Rob’s camp was filmed.
2/ Audley’s Field- Robb Stark’s Camp, Oxcross
A 20 minute walk from Winterfell, you will find the stone ruins of Audley’s Castle. The castle overlooks the waters of Strangford Lough and the fields around it is where Talissa tended to the wounded soldiers after the battle of Oxcross. Later on, Audley’s Field is where Alton Lannister is imprisoned with Jaime.
3/ Inch Abbey- Robb Stark’s Camp, Riverrun
The ruins of this 12th century abbey, situated on the banks of the River Quoile is the place where Catelyn Stark informs Rob about the execution of his father. It is also the location where the North swore loyalty to Rob Stark as “King of the North”.
Apart from the Game of Thrones connection, Inch Abbey is also a very peaceful and atmospheric spot where you can get a great idea of exactly how massive the structure was when it was built.
4/ Tollymore Forest Park- lands around Winterfell
This beautiful 630 hectares park, situated at the foothills of the Mourne Mountains, has been used several times in Game of Thrones. It all started with the three men of the Night’s Watch coming across dismembered bodies in the snow. Tollymore is also the place where the direwolf pups were found and where Bran eventually meets the three-eyed raven from his dreams.
Game of Thrones locations north of Belfast
1/ Cairncastle- North of Winterfell
The hills above the small village of Cairncastle provided the wild landscape where Ned Stark beheaded the deserter of the Night’s Watch in the series’ very first episode. It has also featured as the place where Catelyn Stark captures Tyrion Lannister. A nearby location shows you where Littlefinger told Sansa Stark they were returning to Winterfell, now occupied by Bolton. Even if you do not watch the series, it is worth driving up: the green fields of the Antrim plateau with the Irish sea below is a sight not to be missed!
2/ Carnlough Harbour – Canal steps of Braavos
After Arya Stark has been stabbed multiple times by Waif, she jumps off a bridge into a canal. The filming location is the little harbour of Carnlough, where she crawls back out of the water via some stony steps.
The harbour is really picturesque and from the harbour walls you get a beautiful view of the surrounding coastline!
3/ Cushendun Caves – Stormlands
Used as a setting for the Stormlands, the place where Davos rows Melissandra ashore before she gives birth to the shadow creature. The caves were formed over 400 million years ago! Again, absolutely stunning scenery, even if you’re not a GoT-fan!
4/ Murlough Bay – Slavers Bay
This secluded section of the North Coast was the setting for the Iron Islands. It is here where Theon Greyjoy goes horse riding with his sister Yara and the place where Davos is shipwrecked after the battle of Blackwater Bay.
Later on in the series Tyrion and Jonah get captured here by the slavers.
It is not an easy place to get to, but following the narrow road all the way down is absolutely worth it for the stunning views over the Atlantic!
5/ Fair Head – Dragonstone Cliffs
Murlough Bay looks out over Fair Head, a spectacular promontory rising at 600ft above sea level. Varys confronts Melissandra here about her avoidance of Jon Snow and advises her to leave Westeros.
Fair Head is also the place where Jon Snow meets Daenerys and the dragons at Dragonstone.
6/ Larrybane – Stormlands
Right next to the Carrick-a-Rede Ropebridge, one of Northern Ireland’s most famous visitor attractions. This is the place where Renly Baratheon’s camp was set up. It’s also the place where we first meet Brienne and where Catelyn Stark agrees on a treaty with Renly in favour of her son Rob.
7/ Ballintoy Harbour – Pyke & The Iron Islands
One of my favourite places in Northern Ireland! The little café provides a perfect backdrop to the small fishing harbour and the (often) wild sea! It is the place where Theon Greyjoy arrives back on the Iron Islands and where he first meets his sister Yara. The nearby beach was used to film Melissandra’s burning of Stannis Baratheon’s bannermen.
8/ Portstewart Strand – Coast of Dorne
Jaime and Bronn come ashore here to rescue Myrcella, but are soon discovered by the Dorne soldiers.
The beach is two miles long and very popular amongst surfers.
9/ Downhill beach- Dragonstone
A 10km stretch of sand and a tiny temple perched on a cliff top beside it, no wonder Downhill beach is one of Northern Ireland’s favourite beach locations. It was used as the spot where Melissandra and Stannis burned the old gods and where Melissandra chants: “For the night is dark and full of terrors!”
10/ Binevenagh Cliffs – Dothraki grasslands
Dramatic cliffs offer stunning views over Donegal and Lough Foyle.
When Daenerys escaped the Slaver City of Meereen on the back of Drogon, she gets surrounded by the Dothraki horde here. It is also in these stunning surroundings that Jorah and Daario found Daenerys’ ring.
11/ The Dark Hedges- The Kingsroad
Before Game of Thrones, very few people went to visit this beautiful avenue of beech trees. To me however, it has always had a very magical atmosphere! It is on this lane that Arya Stark makes her escape from King’s Landing, dressed as a boy.
The site has become so popular that coaches can no longer drive up! Unfortunately it has been severely damaged over the last few years due some severe storms.
Have you visited some of the Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland? Or have you been to other places just to see where you favourite series was filmed?