Chef and I are both a little obsessed with the TV show Game of Thrones. A few episodes into season one, I was totally hooked. The strong plot line of treachery and scandal and interwoven characters gets better and better with each episode and season.
When we discovered that 75% of the medieval fantasy series is filmed in Northern Ireland, where we were planning to stop on our holiday last year, we HAD to pay a visit to some of the filming locations. For centuries giants and dragons have been part of Northern Irish legend, so it’s very fitting that so much of the show is filmed there. The beautiful landscapes of Northern Ireland are ideal for the barren and unforgiving lands of Northern Westeros. It’s also the perfect place to crack out my “You know nothing Jon Snow” impression!
We happened to be visiting the world heritage site, The Giants Causeway and a couple of the filming locations are close by. The unique volcanic rock formation was every bit as stunning as we thought it would be. Though the Giant’s Causeway itself isn’t used in Game of Thrones, the ocean and area around it has been used for shots of The Stormlands. The Glens of Antrim and their isolated rugged landscapes have been used to film parts of the Dothraki Sea. Dragonstone – Downhill Beach
Standing on a cliff top above Downhill Beach is the Mussenden Temple in County Londonderry. This location was used to film the scene in season two when Stannis and Melisandre were burning the old gods on the beach in “Dragonstone”. It’s a dramatic setting and lovely beach too, though the water is a bit chilly, even in summer!
Iron Islands – Ballintoy Harbour As we drove on, we found a town called Castlerock, inspiration for Casterly Rock perhaps? The picturesque Ballintoy Harbour is where Theon Greyjoy returned to his true home in season two – the Iron Islands. He also met his sister Yara here in “Pyke”.
Here we stopped for a bite to eat in a quaint little café right on the harbour wall. We enjoyed an authentic Irish stew made with mutton, potatoes, carrot and onion with champ (mash with spring onion) on the side.
Stormlands – Carrick-a-Rede
Our next destination was Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It’s an iconic crossing that connects the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island and not for the faint hearted! The rope bridge is not used in Game of Thrones, though the magnificent headland has provided a backdrop for many scenes.
It was pretty amazing to see “Westeros” in person. The drive along the Northern Irish coast is considered one of the best in the world and I’d have to agree. We zipped around the country roads in our Audi hire car and had a wonderful drive back to Belfast, which took about an hour. In Belfast, we passed the Titanic Studios, where the interior set scenes are filmed. It was a hive of activity as filming of season five has just started (July 2014).
Northern Ireland is a country with a rich history as stunning and unforgiving as it’s landscapes. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We were wow-ed by the building that houses the titanic museum (next to the studios). Game of Thrones is bringing a new generation of tourists to Northern Ireland. There are guided GoT coach tours and even an archery experience. We were wondering what to do with ourselves till the next season airs, we were happy that our holiday to Northern Ireland helped to fill the void! Find out more at; http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/gameofthrones/