6 Game of Thrones Landmarks To Visit
In days gone by, when somebody thought of Northern Ireland, it was likely in relation to it’s greatest ever accolade, the Titanic... which sank, or the iconic time-travelling DeLorean from the eternally famous Back to the Future films, which wasn’t a very good car. There are plenty of other things that may come to mind as well, but in recent years, Northern Ireland has become synonymous with the hit HBO TV show Game of Thrones based on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series, a Song of Ice and Fire. Here I have listed 6 Game of Thrones iconic hotspots scattered across the province which you should definitely add to your visit list, if you ever find yourself on the Emerald isle.
The Dark Hedges, county Antrim
Arguably one of the most iconic backdrops from the entire Game of Thrones series, seen for the first time in season 1 episode 2, when King Robert Baratheon and his entire entourage leave Winterfell and embark upon the lengthy journey to Kings Landing, taking Ned and Arya Stark with them. The Dark Hedges are seen several more times throughout the series, with little to no digital enhancement, making them one of the most natural and organic settings seen in modern-day television. The dark hedges themselves are easily accessed by the public, located in rural county Antrim, several miles from the nearby market town of Ballymoney, it is free to access and possesses an almost mystical ambience, palpable as soon as you begin the walk through the beech tree enclosure.
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Cushendun Caves, county Antrim
The Cushendun caves were featured in one of the spookiest scenes of Game of Thrones, in season 2 where the red witch, Lady Melisandre gives birth to the shudder-inducing shadow baby, which would bring about the demise of would-be King Renly Baratheon. Asides from the caves’ claim to fame, Cushendun and it’s neighbouring village Cushendall are both spectacularly beautiful seaside villages to visit, offering plenty of breath-taking scenery, coffee shops, restaurants and beaches.
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Castle Ward, county Down
An 18th century gothic castle enveloped in sweeping emerald grounds overlooking the majestic Strangford Lough in magical county Down is the location of the Stark’s family home in Westeros, Winterfell. Visitors are offered the chance to dress up as their favourite Game of Thrones characters, take part in archery and other family-friendly activities.
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Magheramorne Quarry, county Antrim
Just 5 miles south of the sea-port town of Larne lies Magheramorne Quarry, the filming location of the entrance to the iconic Castle Black, where protagonist John Snow, son of Ned Stark earns his stripes. Upon arriving at the legendary site, you will soon realise that the entrance to the castle as see on Game of Thrones is very real, the huge ice wall, not so much!
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Ballintoy Harbour, county Antrim
A short trip down the road from the world-famous Giant’s Causeway, known to the Northern Irish as the 8th wonder of the world. Ballintoy harbour is the real-world home of the iron Isles, specifically the location where Theon Greyjoy iterated the famous line, “What’s dead may never die” before being plunged into the icy Irish water only to emerge reborn as a… dead man, I suppose. Nevertheless, this is definitely a place that you will want to add to your visit-list.
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Downhill Strand, county Londonderry
Located in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Roe Valley is Downhill strand, a mesmerising 7 mile stretch of premium-grade sand and sea. It was here where Dragonstone was filmed throughout the show’s duration. One key scene which comes to mind is when the seven gods of Westeros were sacrificed to the lord of light by Melisandre.
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This is not an exhausted list of Game of Thrones filing locations in Northern Ireland, but they are in the opinion of this author, some of the best and most iconic places for any fan of the show to visit. Truthfully, you don’t even need to be a fan of a Game of Thrones to appreciate these beautiful locations, anybody who enjoys nature and the outdoors in general will have a great time working their way through this list!