It is difficult to avoid reference to epic fantasy series Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland these days. The guide on the Belfast tour bus proudly announced Titanic Studios in the capital’s rejuvenated docklands as the “home of Game of Thrones” and that was only the start of the Game of Thrones film locations I saw while travelling in Northern Ireland.
Right next to the shiny new Titanic Museum in Belfast, die hard GoT fans can do a tour of the studios where filming of the television series is based.
The reason for this is that a Northern Ireland government agency is pumping funding into the project and Northern Ireland is reaping the benefits as tourists flock to Game of Thrones film locations. Similarly to the boost to New Zealand tourism provided by the filming of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
The stunning Causeway Coast is a major drawcard for travellers in Ireland, whether or not they are fans. The Giant’s Causeway itself is a seriously photogenic natural wonder but is only the start of the appeal of this coastline, which is scattered with quaint villages, seaside towns and beautiful beaches.
The coastal village of Cushenden, with its lovely sandy beach, is also the proud owner of some seriously spooky caves where Red Priestess Melisandre of Asshai gave birth to the shadow baby.
There is more cave action at Ballintoy Harbour, which was used as the landing place on the bleak Iron Islands in series two. In actual fact Ballintoy is a colourful harbour with a charming tea shop.
They filmed the burning of the Seven on Downhill Beach near the town of Portstewart, which is a great place to stay and has many of the traditional seaside town attractions.
A drive inland from Portstewart led to the Dark Hedges, a 200-year-old tunnel of trees that was used as the route Arya Stark took to escape King’s Landing.
Also near Ballymoney is the the Leslie Hill estate, used as a location during the first weeks of filming season one. The field of willows here was used in scenes from the Dothraki Sea.
Other locations in Northern Ireland include the Mourne Mountains, Castle Ward (this stands in for Winterfell), Cairncastle and Shane’s Castle.
Last year I was at another GoT film location, at the gloriously medieval Doune Castle in Scotland.
And of course the other-worldly landscapes of Iceland were used for scenes ‘North of the Wall’.
Other country locations used in the Game of Thrones series so far include Essouria in Morocco, Dubrovnik in Croatia and the island of Malta. So it should be easy to combine exploration of George RR Martin’s world with travel!
by Natasha von Geldern
Do you love travelling to places with literary or film connections?
If you liked this post why not pin it?