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! So, join me and discover 10 of the most popular filming locations for Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland!
Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland: Winterfell (south of Belfast)
1/ Castle Ward Estate
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. If you’re only going to visit one location, make it this one! In this relatively small area there are 9 different filming locations to be explored!
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/ Inch Abbey
The ruins of this 12th century abbey, situated on the banks of the River Quoile is the place where Catelyn Stark found out about Ned’s death and vowed revenge. It is also the location where the North swore loyalty to Rob Stark as “King of the North”.
3/ Tollymore Forest Park
This beautiful 630 hectares park has been used several times in Game of Thrones. It all started with the three men of the Night’s Watch coming across a white walker in the very first episode. Tollymore is also the set for Theon’s failed escape and the place where Bran eventually meets the three-eyed raven from his dreams.
Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland: Westeros (north of Belfast)
The hills above the small village of Cairncastle are the place where Ned Stark beheaded the deserter of the Night’s Watch in the series’ very first episode. It is also the place where Catelyn Stark captures Tyrion Lannister. 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/ Cushendun Caves
Used as a setting for the Stormlands, the place where Davos rows Melissandra ashore before she gives birth to the shadow baby. Again, absolutely stunning scenery, even if you’re not a GoT-fan!
3/ Murlough Bay
This secluded section of the North Coast was the setting of 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. It is not an easy place to get to, but following the narrow road all the way down is absolutely worth it!
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.
5/ Ballintoy Harbour
My all-time favourite location 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.
6/ Downhill beach
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!”
7/ The Dark Hedges
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!
Back in Belfast, have a look at the Titanic Studios, where many of the interior scenes were shot! Since this is a working studio, it is unfortunately not accessible to the general public. So no, you won’t be able to sit on the Iron Throne yourself… But just imagine all the beauty that has come out of this studio!
All there’s left to do now is to watch the series all over again and try to recognize the magical places you’ve been to!
Have you visited the filming locations for Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland? Or have you been to other places just to see where you favourite series was filmed?