Gaga for Game of Thrones! | Northern Ireland

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game of thrones ireland

The countdown is on!

It's approximately a little more than a month that the new season(6) of Game of Thrones will be broadcast. I have upcoming travel plans to Norway - to chase the Northern Lights, yet I'm equally excited for season 6!

Game of Thrones is a spicy mix of incest, politics, debauchery, wickedness, dragons - anything and everything that transports you to an alternate universe! After season 5 was telecast, we [husband in tow] paid a visit to Malta and were thrilled when we realized, we'd unknowingly stepped into King's Landing aka the Mdina.

The Mdina was breath-taking, (bound to be as it is a UNESCO World Heritage site) which got us thinking - If our experience of the Mdina was anything to go by, the other locations were going to be equally exciting.

That fuelled the craze to explore Game of Thrones (GOT) locations in neighbouring Northern Ireland where almost all of season 1 & 2 was filmed.

I was warned that the amount of CGI implemented does make it feel a little drab- but I know it's necessary to imagine as you wander.

Feel the vibe!

Visualize a castle with a damsel in distress while standing next to a lake, picture gnomes hiding in bushes in a plain garden – fantasy does add zing to everyday life, doesn't it?

While keeping our expectations realistic we set off to check some famous GOT locations for ourselves.

Here are details of a road-trip you could take, to embark on a free:

Journey of the 7 kingdoms

We started from Belfast, taking in the amazing scenery that the Causeway Coastal route offers and halted at our first pit-stop, Cushendan Caves.

(You could take a detour to visit Shillanavogy Wood, which was used as the Dothraki grasslands, after Daenerys and Khal Drogo were married)

game of thrones ireland

Cushenden Caves

Ocean waves were hammering against the rocks, at the Caves of Cushendun, as we made our way to the 2 caves that sat at the end of the pathway. I mentally imagined the scene in GOT and continued to walk right till the end of the passageway, to find shut wrought iron gates!

On asking around I was told, the passageway is the only entrance to a house that sits on the other side of the hill - so technically we were trespassing!

Imagine my surprise!

I tried to navigate to the other caves in the labyrinth, but was advised against it. It was high tide and water was slowly filling the other caves.

game of thrones ireland

The GOT connection

Season 2, episode 4

Melisandre, the red priestess, is brought ashore by Ser Davos to give birth to the shadow baby, who then proceeds to kill Renly Baratheon.

An additional reason to visit

The countryside is stunning and the views are to die for! But what is to be noted is, on a clear day you can see Scotland sitting in the distance!

game of thrones ireland

Ballintoy Harbor

It was about noon when we reached Ballintoy Harbour.  Winds were blowing at 25 mph, and as my tiny piece of Black Forest disappeared in a second with the wind, I realized taking a walk around the harbor wasn't going to be easy.

So I continued to admire the bright, quaint little houses that sat beside the harbor. What took me by surprise was that the tourism board of Northern Ireland had erected a plaque with Alfie Allen on it! It was unmissable!

Beside the harbor, rugged rocks jutted out of the ocean and waves continued to slam against them, spraying us with water in the cold weather!

I knew it was time to move on!

game of thrones ireland

The GOT connection

Many scenes have depicted Ballintoy Harbor as The Iron Islands. This is the place where Theon Greyjoy meets his sister Yara and unknowingly makes a fool of himself! (Wouldn't be the first time though!)

An additional reason to visit

The Carrick-a-rede rope bridge is located 10 minutes away. It's one of the most exhilarating bridges in the world and is a great activity to try!

game of thrones ireland

Larrybane

After we'd crossed the menacing (but fun) Carrick-a-rede we proceeded to Larrybane, in the opposite direction, towards the ocean.Downwards we went, till we reached a flat patch of ground surrounded by tall limestone walls with the ocean staring at us in the front. Bang opposite, was also a tiny island and something that looked like a water wheel, sat perched on top of it.After spending some time trying to figure out what it exactly was, we turned round the corner and continued further down, realizing we were probably the only ones who were wandering around in that area!game of thrones irelandgame of thrones irelandThe GOT connectionThis site is used in numerous episodes. This is where Renly sets camp, Brienne beats Ser Loras and is given a place in Renly's Kingsguard and the events that succeed in the episode, occur.An additional reason to visitThis place is a great location to stroll, search for hidden beaches and coves and even caves! It gives you the feeling as if you're the only living souls for miles around!game of thrones ireland

The Dark Hedges

Sinister and literally dark!

We visited at dusk and whiled our time away, waiting for visitors to disappear! Twilight peeked through the branches and engulfed the area, casting magical shadows.

There was an amazing play of light and shadow - courtesy the beech trees planted 2 centuries ago, that still retained their allure. The avenue of trees was planted by the Stuart family to impress visitors, as they approached the Georgian mansion - Gracehill house.

The GOT connection

Season 2, episode 1

This is the same road that Arya travels on, while escaping King's landing, accompanied with Gendry and all the other's who're off to join the night's watch.

An additional reason to visit

Apparently the 'Grey lady' haunts and traverses the whole length of the The Dark Hedges and vanishes at the last beech tree. Some say she is a distressed soul from the adjoining grounds, some say she is related to the Stuart family.

Well, it just adds more mystery to the whole spot :)

game of thrones ireland

Castleward

The enormous grounds of Castle Ward required a dedicated day to explore. The countryside extended infinitely in 3 directions while the lough extended in the fourth.

Castleward is nothing short of heaven for nature lovers. Cows continued to graze without a care in the world. As we navigated our way through the grounds carefully avoiding cow pies, we also chanced upon seals!

game of thrones irelandgame of thrones ireland

William, who was our instructor for the Archery experience we had opted for, accompanied  us on our walk providing interesting trivia along the way.

After I failed miserably at Archery, I then continued my obsession, by trying out authentic HBO GOT memorabilia!

game of thrones ireland

The GOT connection:

Heavily used as Winterfell, Castleward was also used in scenes depicting Robb Stark's camp and Robb and Talisa's walk, as well as numerous others.

An additional reason to visit:

The picturesque village of Strangford sits 10 minutes away from Castleward. This is one village that should sit at the top of your list if you want to experience laid-back Irish culture!

Although there were more locations like Downhill Strand (which was used as Dragonstone, where the old God's burn on the beach) and Tollymore Forest park (where the very first scene of season 1 -  the haunted forest was filmed) to visit, we sadly could not accommodate all of it over 2-3 days.

HBO will probably divert from George R.R. Martin's plot in the upcoming series as the next book doesn't seem to be arriving anytime soon. And once the series finally comes to an end...Maybe I will have a lot more countries on my list and a complete GOT tour!

For now, all I wish is a glimpse of the Northern lights AND for Jon Snow to live!

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Disclaimer: This was a guest post for Elvoline.

 


 
PRACTICAL DETAILS
Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland
  • As mentioned earlier, all attractions, except entry to Castleward, are free
  • If you want to opt for the 'Winterfell experience', at Castleward, the best way is to make an advance booking from here

 


 
ADDITIONAL READS

So you're a Game of Thrones fan? Here's an article dedicated only to Winterfell!

 


Who's your favorite character in Game of Thrones? ;)


 

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