Visit the Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland

‘Winter is coming’ and the fictional ‘North’ is set to take centre stage, when season seven of Game of Thrones returns this summer.

Many of the Game of Thrones filming locations are real locations in Northern Ireland. Here’s my guide to visiting some of the filming locations featured in the first two seasons. #staycationinspiration

WHERE TO STAY : BELFAST

Belfast City Hall. Belfast is a great place to stay for a staycation in Northern Ireland, the perfect base for a Game of Thrones filming locations road trip.
Belfast City Hall

I suggest you stay in Belfast as the city is well placed to travel both north and south on your two day quest. One of the main reasons why HBO chose Northern Ireland as the base for the series was the proximity of so many incredible filming locations to the capital, plus the abundance of creative talent in the province.

HOW TO GET AROUND:

You can join Game of Thrones coach tours such as Game of Throne Tours, which run from Derry, Belfast and Dublin, or McComb’s Travel, which run daily from Belfast, one heading north to County Antrim and the other heading south to County Down.

Or you can hire a car and drive yourself in a more leisurely fashion…here’s my guide to a self-drive tour. I have linked the names to their locations on Google Maps, so hopefully that helps with navigation.

DAY ONE – COUNTY ANTRIM

The iconic ‘Dark Hedges’, not far from the town of Ballymoney, has become one of the most photographed spots in Northern Ireland. An avenue of beech trees, which when bare in winter have a spooky quality. It was here in Arya Stark was seen fleeing King’s Landing at the end of season one.

The Dark Hedges on the King's Road where Arya Stark was seen fleeing from King's landing. A must see destination on any stayaction in Northern Ireland. A favourite with photographers and Game of Throne fans.
The Dark Hedges

It was a sunny day in June when I visited Ballintoy Harbour. Could this pretty quayside, framed by blue skies and calm seas, really be the ‘Iron isles’ homeland of the beleaguered Theon Greyjoy ?

Ballintoy Harbour appeared in Game of Thrones as the home of Theon Greyjoy The Iron Isles. Northern Ireland is a great place for a staycation.
Ballintoy Harbour

Larrybane quarry, not far from Ballintoy, near the terrifying Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, is a  former quarry. In season two it appeared as Renly’s military camp, thanks to some CGI magic.

Renley's camp - Larrybane. This car park in a former quarry was the scene of Renley's military encampment in Game of Thrones. Northern Ireland is a great place for a staycation.
Renley’s camp – Larrybane

The dank Cushendun Caves is where Melisandre gave birth to the ‘shadow baby’. Brrr… its a chilling location in every sense.

Cushenden Caves aka Stormlands. A Game of Thrones filming location, a must-see on a staycation in Northern Ireland.
Cushenden Caves aka Stormlands. Photo courtesy – Tourism NI

If time permits a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site ‘The Giant’s Causeway’ is a must on any trip to Northern Ireland. The massive hexagonal basalt columns will take your breath away and the legend of its creation proves that Ulster has her own tales to tell.  (The giant Finn McCool built it to reach another Scottish giant who he was quarreling with…as you do).

The Giants Causeway. UNESCO World Heritage site. A must-see destination on any staycation in Northern Ireland.
The Giants Causeway. Photo – courtesy Tourism N.I.

DAY TWO – COUNTY DOWN

Tollymore Forest Park has appeared several times on screen, most notably in the very first episode. It was here that the Stark children found the direwolf pups. The forest is not as menacing as GOT portrays it and has lots of lovely trails that make a hearty family walk.

Tollymore Forest Park is where the Starks discovered the dire wolves in Game of Thrones. A great day out for fans and familys alike. Northern Ireland is a great place for a staycation.
Tollymore Forest Park. Photo – courtesy Tourism N.I.

Inch Abbey is where Rob Stark was proclaimed “King inthe North”. The ruined monastery, near Downpatrick, dates from the 11th Century, we stopped here and enjoyed our picnic lunch, before heading to the spiritual home of the North …Winterfell.

Inch Abbey, where Rob Stark was proclaimed King in the north in Game of Thrones. A must see site for fans on a road trip visiting the filming locations in Northern Ireland.
Inch Abbey

Castle Ward is a National Trust property, with numerous Game of Thrones filming locations located on site. It is of course Winterfell, the ancestral home of the Starks and the beating heart of ‘The North’. Entrance to the estate costs around £10 per adult. 

Castle Ward aka Winterfell is the home of the Starks in Game of Thrones. For me this is the top destination on Game of Thrones filming locations tour of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a great place for a staycation.
Winterfell at Castle Ward. 

At Castle Ward you can embrace your inner Stark and enjoy a ‘Winterfell Experience’ courtesy of Clearsky Adventure Centre. You can meet the dogs who play the direwolfs on screen, enjoy a medieval banquet, dress up as a Stark and practice your archery and take a boat or cycle tour around the locations on Strangford Lough, see website for prices. As you can see from my photo, I am not a natural with a sword.. perhaps I should have tried archery….

Siobhan Starrs at Winterfell. I embraced my inner Stark and dress up in (fake) furs and cloak on a tour of Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a great place for staycation.

Other sites which you can visit on foot at no extra cost around the Castle Ward Estate include Audley’s Field aka Robb Stark’s camp, where Jaime Lanister was captured, and very close by an execution tree and the banks of the River Quoile, with the assistance of some move CGI magic became The Twins, home of the evil Walder Frey.

Audley's Tower and field where Jaime Lanister was captured at Robb Stark's camp. For me Castle Ward is the top destination on Game of Thrones filming locations tour of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a great place for a staycation.
Audley’s Tower and field
The Hanging Tree. Castle Ward estate boasts several Game of Thrones filming locations making it a must-see destination on any fan tour of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a great place for a staycation.
The Hanging Tree. Castle Ward Estate

The Riverlands on the Castle Ward estate on the banks of the Quoile River appeared in Game of Thrones as the home of Walder Frey aka The Twins. A road trip tour of Northern Ireland to see the filming locations of the popular show is a great way to spend a staycation.

The Riverlands on the Castle Ward estate on the banks of the Quoile River.

These are just a small selection of Game of Thrones filming locations scattered across Northern Ireland.  If you visit any of these locations or have any more to suggest, I would love to hear from you.

If you need more staycation inspiration for Northern Ireland, read my post about a family day out at The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

What are your tips for a staycation in Northern Ireland ? #staycationinspiration.

 

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