You’ll notice that the Game of Thrones filming locations are in Northern Ireland. This was the original Kingdom of Ireland and home of Ulster. The landscape here is rich in atmosphere and in history. This was home of the Chieftains of Ireland, a fierce group who loved their land and had a magical belief system. You can feel that magic as you explore and discover this hidden side of Ireland.
Tollymore Forest Park, County Down
Tollymore Forest Park made its appearance in the first season of Game of Thrones. These were the woods where Ned Stark discovered a litter of abandoned direwolves, the symbol of House Stark, which he let his children adopt. Tollymore covers an area of 1,600 acres. It is home to fallow deer and red squirrels and has made numerous appearances in the show. Tollymore Forest Park stands in as The Haunted Forest where the Wildlings live and the Night Walkers roam. It also served as backdrop for the heart-stopping scene where Ramsay Bolton set his savage hounds on the unfortunate Theon Greyjoy.
Castle Ward, County Down
Just 40 minutes from Belfast, Castle Ward is known to Game of Thrones fans as Winterfell, otherwise known as House Stark. Both the tower house at Castle Ward and the estate’s farmyard have starred in many of the Game of Thrones most pivotal scenes. This includes the shocking moment when Bran Stark, having witnessed Jaime Lannister engaging in incestuous relations with his sister, Queen Cersei, was pushed from a tower and left for dead. This scene marked the Game of Thrones as something unique and like nothing seen before. Much worse was in store for both Winterfell and the Starks…
The Dark Hedges, County Antrim
The Dark Hedges is the most instantly recognizable of all film locations in Northern Ireland. They first appeared when Arya Stark, on the run from the Lannister’s, disguised herself as a boy. Formed by a series of interlocking trees, The Dark Hedges have an eerie quality that’s perfect for a ghost story. It is said that this popular destination, one of the most photographed in Northern Ireland, has its own ghost. According to local lore, this dark avenue is haunted by a ‘Grey Lady,’ the ghost of a local servant girl who died under mysterious circumstances.
Dunluce Castle, County Antrim
Game of Thrones fans know Dunluce Castle as the House of Greyjoy in the Iron Islands, home of Theon and Yara Greyjoy. A medieval castle, Dunluce Castle’s history matches its dramatic cliff top location. There are amazing tales of shipwrecks, banshees, and a kitchen that fell into the sea. Though it now lies in ruins, the castle is open to visitors, and it can be accessed via a bridge from the mainland.
Portstewart Strand, County Derry
A gorgeous Blue Flag beach managed by the National Trust, Portstewart Strand served as the Dornish Coast. In season 5 of the Game of Thrones, Jaime Lannister was sent to bring Princess Myrcella Baratheon back to the safety of King’s Landing. Unfortunately, as is often the way in Westeros, things didn’t go as planned for Jaime in Dorne—he encountered the vengeful Sand Snakes!
Downhill Beach, County Derry
The picturesque backdrop for Dragonstone Island in Game of Thrones, Downhill Beach is one of the longest stretches of sandy beaches in Northern Ireland. The ancestral home of House Targaryen, ‘Dragonstone’ first appeared in Game of Thrones when Stannis Baratheon fell under the spell of the ‘Red Witch’ Melisandre. They then rejected the Seven Gods of Westeros in favor of the mysterious ‘Lord of Light.’ Downhill Beach is also famous for Mussenden Temple, which sits on a cliff above the beach. Originally built as a summer library on the estate of Frederick Augustus Hervey, this temple has breathtaking views.
Cushendun Caves, County Antrim
One of the most memorable scenes in the Game of Thrones is the birth of the shadow baby assassin. You can visit the caves where the ‘Red Witch’ Melisandre gave birth to her shadow baby at the Cushendun Caves. They are near the picturesque coastal village of Cushendun in County Antrim.
The Cliffs of Fair Head, County Antrim
The Cliffs of Fair Head on the Causeway Coast starred in the show when they were the backdrop for an important scene. It is on these cliffs, standing 600 feet above the sea, that Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow first met. It’s the union that fans waited for. The Mother of Dragons and the new King in the North were not a disappointment. Along with fantastic views, spectacular scenery, and a series of walking trails, many visitors take a ferry to nearby Rathlin Island, home of Northern Ireland’s ‘upside-down’ lighthouse.
Your Destination Expert can take you where the heroes and villains reside in the world of Game of Thrones. Northern Ireland is the land of ancient Chieftains, magic, and stunning scenery for all. Let’s go!