Welcome to Westeros… in Northern Ireland
Posted on Jul 23, 2017 by Dawn Rainbolt
Of course, Westeros (and Essos!) aren’t real places. But Ireland definitely is.
The Seven Kingdoms are part of an imaginary world created by the fantasy writer, George R. R. Martin, and brought on screen by HBO.
Whether you’re a fan or not, we can all agree that the backdrop for the series is breathtaking. Why is that? Probably because many of the Game of Thrones filming locations were in Ireland!
Read on to see how to visit a few of the prettiest Game of Thrones filming locations in Ireland.
Ballintoy Harbour / Lordsport on the Iron Isles
Starting off our list of Game of Thrones filming locations is Ballintoy Harbour, a tiny but picturesque harbour on the Antrim Coast. The rugged shore of Ballintoy Harbour is a place largely passed over by the 21st century, quaint and quiet. Only a short way from the world-famous Giant’s Causeway, Ballintoy Harbour is also near the idyllic clifftop ruin of Dunluce Castle, which inspired C.S. Lewis, another fantasy writer, to create his regal castle in Narnia in The Chronicles of Narnia.
On screen, Ballintoy Harbour becomes Lordsport of the Iron Isles, where Theon Greyjoy arrives and meets his sister after his long years spent away in Winterfell. The Iron Isles are an archipelago of windy, rugged rocky outcrops off the coast of Westeros, ruled by the Greyjoy family.
The Dark Hedges / The Kingsroad
A walk down the Dark Hedges…already, it sounds like an imaginary place! However, we assure you that it is very real, and that’s it’s real name. The famous Dark Hedges is a mystical, foreboding tree-lined avenue made up of a canopy of interlocking tree branches. Planted in the 18th century, the beech trees frame the entrance to the Georgian manor, Gracehill House.
In Westeros, the sinister trees become part of the Kingsroad when Arya Stark is travelling north in disguise as a boy after having escaped King’s Landing following the assassination of Ned Stark.
Sandy Brae in the Mourne Mountains / Vaes Dothrak
The hauntingly beautiful Mourne Mountains have some of the most beautiful hiking paths in Ireland. Vast landscapes and broad foothills go on as far as the eye can see. Cutting through the desolate Mourne Mountains is the 35km-long Mourne Wall, built to enclose the Silent Valley Reservoir, though it does little more than enclose the remote summits and vast valleys of the Mourne Mountains.
On-screen, the mystical Mourne Mountains are the entrance to Vaes Dothrak, the only city in the Dothraki Sea, and capital of the nomadic Dothraki people. Kaleesi, Ser Jorah and the Dothraki visit Vaes Dothrak in the beginning of the series. As with Ballintoy Harbour, the Mourne Mountains are no strangers to fantasy: C.S. Lewis claimed to be inspired by their magical landscapes.
For other phenomenal hiking trails in Ireland, including Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains, see our Insider’s Guide to Ireland’s Top 20 Hikes for practical information, as well as what to wear when hiking in Ireland.
Other Stories About Northern Ireland
Tollymore Forest Park / The Haunted Forest (and the Wolfswood)
Tollymore Forest Park, located in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains, is a full of rocky outcrops, jagged grottos and caves. There are also stone follies and more than a dozen bridges crossing the Shimna River. Perhaps best of all, there are forests of beautiful, exotic trees. It is a lovely place for an easy hike under canopies of green leaves along the trickle of the Shimna River. Check out our list of best bike rides in Ireland, including an incredible route through the Mourne Mountains and Tollymore Park.
On-screen, Tollymore takes on a far more sinister note: it is here that the dreaded White Walkers regroup to begin their march on the kingdoms of men. Alternatively, it is also here that the Stark family finds the direwolves that become the Stark family companions throughout the following seasons (even as the family disperses) at the beginning of the series.
Cushendun Caves & Beach / The Stormlands
The jagged rocks that form the dramatic Cushendun Caves cling to the surrounding beach on the Antrim coast. Formed some 400 million years ago, the caves are covered in moss and carpeted in sand. Part of the long-distance hiking route, the Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal, both the Cushendun Caves and Beach are a lovely place for a coastal walk.
On-screen, Cushendun Caves and Beach form the backdrop for the Stormlands, and was where the Red Woman Melisandre birthed the Shadow Baby who later assassinated Renly Baratheon.
Shane’s Castle / The Red Keep tourney grounds & the Summer Sea
The picturesque ruins of Shane’s Castle on the shores of the pretty Lough Neagh is a working estate consisting of over 1,000 acres of peaceful forests and farmland, habited mostly by sheep and cows. The ruins, though hard to trace their origins, date back to the 16th century, possibly even a century or two earlier. It was made a ruin by a terrible fire in 1816. Today, it is a popular spot for themed events, festivals and weddings – and Game of Thrones fans!
In Westeros, Shane’s Castle serves as the backdrop for the royal jousting tournament in order to honour Ned Stark, as well as the dungeons of King’s Landing. It is rumoured to feature in season six. Nearby Lough Neagh became the Summer Sea where Ser Jorah commandeers a vessel on which to transport a captive Tyrion Lannister. It also was where Brienne of Tarth fought a group of bandits on her quest to take Jamie Lannister to King’s Landing.
Larrybane Head / Storm’s End
Known for the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and located along the Causeway Coastal Route, Larrybane Head is not far from Ballintoy Harbour. Larrybane Head itself is dramatic to say the least. Waves crash far below, and rugged cliffs plummet into the ocean. The rope bridge is some 20 metres long and not for the faint hearted!
Larrybane Head, with the help of some CGI, is transformed into the Stormlands near Storm’s End, location the seat of House Baratheon, the house that originally usurped the Iron Throne more than a decade before the start of the novels (and where Renly Barratheon’s army was camped in season 2).
Castle Ward / Winterfell
Castle Ward, County Down, is a beautiful 18th century manor house, home to the Ward family since 1570. Castle Ward’s most intriguing feature is its two-faced nature: the front half of the house and facade is designed in classical Palladian style while the back half of the house (interior and exterior) and facade are designed in Georgian Gothic, and seems right out of a Gothic horror tale! It’s also not too far from Tollymore Forest Park.
In Westeros, Castle Ward portrayed the outdoor scenes of Winterfell, ancestral home of the Starks, in the pilot and season 1, including the archery scenes. (It’s also where the Whispering Wood was filmed, along with Robb Stark’s battle camp, and a few battle scenes). Today, Castle Ward is not only open to the public, but you can take a ‘Game of Thrones Tour’ featuring, archery, costumes, and more!
Corbet Village & Castle / Riverrun
Corbet is a tiny, rural village in County Down, located not far from Tollymore Forest Park. There are ruins of a castle, a trickling stream, and a lake popular with anglers. It is located in a quiet, unspoilt region of Northern Ireland’s farmlands.
Corbet is a new filming location for season 6, where the local ruins were used to film exterior shots of Riverrun Castle in the Riverlands, where the siege of the castle and other exterior shots were filmed in season 6. Further northeast of Corbet is Saintfield village, where the iconic Battle of the Bastards was also filmed in County Down.
Interested in visiting Northern Ireland and some of its Game of Thrones filming locations? See our trips below!
|20th Apr - 26th Apr 2019||Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal||€1,710||6 place(s) left||Book Now|
|4th May - 10th May 2019||Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal||€1,710||8 place(s) left||Book Now|
|1st Jun - 7th Jun 2019||Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal||€1,710||8 place(s) left||Book Now|
|22nd Jun - 28th Jun 2019||Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal||€1,710||6 place(s) left||Book Now|
|20th Jul - 26th Jul 2019||Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal||€1,710||6 place(s) left||Book Now|
|10th Aug - 16th Aug 2019||Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal||€1,710||8 place(s) left||Book Now|
|31st Aug - 6th Sep 2019||Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal||€1,710||6 place(s) left||Book Now|
|14th Sep - 20th Sep 2019||Hiking - The Causeway Coastal Route & Donegal||€1,710||8 place(s) left||Book Now|
If none of these trips are right for you, request a tailor made trip that suits your Game of Thrones filming locations intrigue.
For more info about filming locations in Northern Ireland, check out Tourism Ireland’s list of filming locations.
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Posted on Jul 30, 2018 by Dawn Rainbolt