Big Game Of Thrones fan, are you? Know your Starks from your Lannisters, your Stormlands from your Winterfell? Seen every episode, multiple times? Speak fluent Dothraki? Okay, maybe that last one’s pushing it.
What we’re saying is that we appreciate thousands of you are devoted to HBO’s award winning series. We also know you like to discover where the action took place, to tour filming locations, experience a bit of the mystical world of Westeros for yourselves. With that in mind we’ve put together one of our ;”>Really Good Road Trips, our informal guide to sampling the true splendour of the Seven Kingdoms. Take a day and pick your favourites, take three, four, five and visit them all…it’s up to you.
Belfast’s Titanic Quarter is the perfect place to start any voyage of discovery. The Paint Ball Studios [on the same site as the stunning Titanic Belfast Maritime Museum] were used to film many of the series’ most memorable internal scenes. As it’s a working studio members of the public cannot gain access, but the Titanic Quarter, and in particular the city’s tribute to the world’s most famous ship, is a suitably dramatic launch point for Game Of Thrones devotees.
From Belfast it’s best to follow the renowned Causeway Coastal Route [One Of The World’s Great Road Journeys], although there are more than a few optional detours. Straight from the outset you could delay the sensation of salt in the air. Head for the northeast corner of Lough Neagh and Shane’s Castle and demesne near Randalstown, setting for The Hands Tournament in honour of Ned Stark (and other scenes). Alternatively, follow those Causeway Coastal Route signs, through the castle town of Carrickfergus, and on to the awesome Antrim Plateau Sallagh Braes featured in Season 5). At Cairncastle is where the first Game Of Thrones character to lose his head (literally) met his grisly end at the hands of the aforementioned Lord Eddard. A few short miles will bring you to the picturesque village of Glenarm. Carry on through the glorious Glens of Antrim (or) travel inland a further 10 miles or so and in the shadow of Slemish Mountain (where St Patrick tended sheep) lies Shillnavogey Road, or in Westeros speak the grasslands of the Dothraki city Vaes Dothrak.
Cushendun Caves (in the village of the same name) will be a ‘must see’. It was here HBO filmed the scene where Melisandre gave birth to the shadow baby and the caves, formed more than 400m years ago, are easily accessible on foot. Hug the dramatic County Antrim coastline and have camera at the ready as you cast your eyes on Murlough Bay, Larrybane and the ‘challenging’ CarrickaRede Rope Bridge. The latter, a bridge suspended across a gaping chasm, was used as a backdrop, together with computer generated images; whilst Murlough and Larrybane were transformed into Pyke Island and Stormlands.
If you continue to hug the coastline you will eventually see signposts for Ballintoy Harbour where an increasingly tight, twisting road leads you to, what for many, will be a familiar site Lordsport Harbour, scene of Theon Greyjoy’s homecoming. Harbours and inlets are a feature of this stretch of coastline and less than four miles further along the Whitepark Road is the turning for Dunseverick, another picture postcard setting spotted by HBO’s eagleeyed location team. At this point you can again choose to head inland, or steer in the direction of the seaside resort of Portrush. Plump for the former and your destination will be one of Northern Ireland’s most photographed phenomena (amateur and professional alike). The is a hauntingly beautiful avenue of warped beech trees that was used to depict The Kingsroad.
Decisions, decisions! Stick to the coast road and it will require the steelyeyed focus of an Unsullied warrior to resist the obvious attractions. Maybe best to just give in to the temptation to view The UNESCO World Heritage Site Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle, before tackling the next major Game Of Thrones location. Portstewart, with its charming promenade, also boasts one of the best stretches of golden sand in Ireland. The Strand and its surrounding sandhills became the Kingdom of Dorne in Season 5. To be honest ‘best beach in Ireland’ would be a real heavyweight contest, and continue past Castlerock towards Magilligan and you will find another contender AND Game Of Thrones favourite. With the iconic Mussendun Temple perched on the cliff top above, Downhill Strand Melisandre burned the Seven Gods of Westeros in sacrifice. A few yards from the entrance/exit of Downhill is a steeply ascending road to Bienvenagh (An Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The panoramic views are nothing short of spectacular, and provided HBO with a location for Daenerys, Dothraki, and of course the occasional dragon.
Please note: This trip/tour/itinerary is not sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with HBO or anyone associated with Game of Thrones