In just a few years Game of Thrones has become a pop-culture phenomenon. ‘Winter is coming’, the White Walkers, the worst wedding ever – it’s a series filled with iconic scenes, sayings and settings.
Most of its 8 seasons have been filmed in Northern Ireland, with the rugged landscapes and rural pastures perfectly complementing the huge interiors of the Titanic Studios facility in Belfast.
A break in Northern Ireland is a must for Thrones fans looking to say goodbye to the series, or just seeing where so many of its scenes were filmed. As the series draws to close, we’re taking a look at the best Game of Thrones filming locations.
Winterfell aka Castle Ward, County Down
Where the story started is a great place to begin your own tour. The Georgian farmyard of this National Trust property was the courtyard of Winterfell in the series opener.
Recreate the archery practice of the pilot episode, meet the Direwolves from the show and even enjoy a typically raucous banquet on your visit to the Starks’ home. After all, when in Winterfell…
The Kingsroad aka The Dark Hedges, County Antrim
The iconic exterior of the southern city of King’s Landing was captured in the mysterious Dark Hedges along Bregagh Road. This otherworldly avenue of beech trees needed little dressing.
When Storm Gertrude felled some of the trees they were converted into 10 intricately carved doors – each one telling a story from Season 6. They were then hung in establishments close to filming locations. Can you find them all?
The Twins aka Strangford Lough, County Down
Walder Frey’s stronghold of two towers at either end of a fortified bridge is actually one tower on the banks of Strangford Lough. This National Trust site is of enormous scientific importance due to a diverse landscape and incredible wildlife.
It’s also close to Castle Ward, so you can make it to Winterfell far quicker than a Thrones resident and tick two locations off your list as you do!
The Haunted Forest aka Tollymore Forest Park, County Down
The wild woods of Tollymore are where the White Walkers were first encountered way back in the first episode of Season 1. It’s also the site of Theon Greyjoy’s attempted escape from Ramsay Bolton and, more cheerfully, where the Direwolf pups were found.
A woodland wander can take you past all these locations and more, with a spectacular accompaniment of beautiful trees and birdsong.
Dothraki Sea aka Shillanavogy Valley, Ballymena
Not all of Ireland’s exteriors are as cold and grey as they appear on-screen in Game of Thrones. In some places winter isn’t coming, such as in this green valley under the Slemish Mountain outside of Ballymena.
Here, the wild, horseback Dothraki horde rode and made camp in Season 1. Though the real world setting is a little quieter, it’s no less scenic.
Dragonstone aka Downhill Strand, County Londonderry
This beautiful stretch of sand set under the watchful gaze of Mussenden Temple may seem like an assuming – though stunning – setting, but its appearance in Game of Thrones was dark, in more ways than one.
Here, the priestess Melisandre burned idols of gods to aid Stannis in his quest for the throne, declaring that the night is ‘dark and full of terrors’. We all know how that turned out. If only he’d enjoyed the more traditional pursuits available on the Blue Flag beach. Seaside amble, anyone?
Dorne aka Portstewart Strand, County Londonderry
The golden sands of Portstewart Strand were the setting for Jamie and Bronn’s attempts to infiltrate Dorne and rescue Princess Myrcella in Season 5. Another National Trust location, the surrounding dunes are filled with wildlife and great walks.
It’s a great all-year round location, whether you’re blessed with sunny Dornish weather or not.
Pyke Castle aka Dunluce Castle, County Antrim
With tales of ghosts, intrigue and bad luck, the dramatic ruins of Dunluce tell a tale to rival that of House Greyjoy, its Game of Thrones namesake. It was here at this castle, jutting out over the cliffs, that Theon Greyjoy had his less than stellar homecoming in Season 2.
Though effects were used to enhance the castle for its screen appearance, the real life setting is no less stunning.