If you’re a fan of the hit TV show ‘A Game of Thrones’ then a visit to Northern Ireland is a must! I’ve already been fortunate to visit other countries that provided locations for Game of Thrones- Iceland, Girona, Duobrovnik in Croatia but Northern Ireland is the home base for Game of Thrones with the most film locations and the studio being in Belfast being used as the base for this epic TV show. There’s more that’s appealing about a visit to Northern Ireland then just Game of Thrones; the beautiful and varied landscape, the food and drink and the friendly locals. Northern Ireland has a dark history, even in recent times, but it’s a palace of growth and change and is well worth traveling to.
Yet again another early flight to get from London to Belfast, thankfully a short one. Belfast is the perfect city in Northern Ireland to base ourselves for the few days we had up there. Naps were required after lunch once we checked in at the hostel. Off for a wander through the streets of central Belfast to search for street art and food views of the city. We found ourselves at Belfast’s oldest traditional pub (300 years old) filled with many locals and even some tourists. We luckily found seats near the bar so we sat for a couple of hours drinking Guinness and Irish cider, chatting and people watching. Once it was dark we made our way across the river to check out the titanic museum to find it all lit up and reflecting into the water.
Our first full day was spent on a small group bus tour through Paddy Wagon Tours to visit some of the best Northern Ireland has on display. A drive though the countryside to the first stop -The Dark Hedges- made famous in a Game of Thrones. The trees were bare as the uk was just coming out of winter but wandering along the road that runs under the arch of trees it was easy to picture the sight when they’re covered in deep green. On to the causeway coast to face my fears and cross the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and so worth it for the views (when I was back on solid ground and could open my eyes). The rope bridge and island it led to was another GoT locations. If it weren’t so windy I’d possibly have been less scared as I slowly inched my way across the bridge but we were on the coast of Northern Ireland so not much chance of less wind. And we were lucky to have been able to cross it on that day as we found out it was closed the next day due to high winds. A lunch stop at a local pub with a wooden carving on their front door. Which turned out to be related to Game of Thrones! in 2016 a storm blew down some of the trees along the dark hedges so the wood was repurposed and turned into 10 wooden door carvings with GoT symbols/themes and then placed on 10 pub doors around Northern Ireland. After a warming pub feed and a pint of cider it was on to one of the most well known natural attractions Northern Ireland has on offer, the Giants Causeway. Basalt columns of varying levels created over time to form a structure that inspired its own legend, that it was built as a causeway between Ireland and Scotland by a giant. A bit of fun climbing up and down and walking along the columns and soaking in the ocean air. A quick road side stop to get a view of Dunluce Castle, or the ruins of (and another Game of Thrones location), on the way back to Belfast.
Our Second, and last, full day in Northern Ireland involved another bus tour, this time an actual Game of Thrones bus tour that took us to all the film locations on the eastern side of Northern Ireland and filled in with lots of behind the scenes information an stories by our tour guide who was an extra in the TV series in various roles from Dothraki to soldiers in the north. We got to see Winterfell and hear the secrets of how the castle was CGI’d together to create the set we see on the series. Many of the different film locations used in GoT were all very close to each other if you looked on a map, or like we did, could even walk between spots but in the series used for scenes that were meant to be miles and miles apart. Lunch at another pub with another Game of Thrones carving on the door and being so close to where Winterfell scenes were filmed the pub hosted some of the actors on days of filming. They’d even produced their own ‘kings mead’ which was sweet like honey. The tour included a surprise extra, a visit from another extra in the tv series and 2 prominent characters from the earlier series- The Direwolves. The actor had many stories and photos to share and the two pups were more then happy for photos and pats. Their fur was so much softer then I was expecting. At the ruins of Inch Abbey we had the opportunity to dress up in cloaks and carry swords as if we were from House Stark in the North, posing amongst the ruins for photos and even getting to hold some of the main characters swords. A trek through Tollymore Forest took us north of the wall to white walker and Wildling territory though with a lot less snow when we were there. It was a great tour filled with facts on the tv series and film locations, behind the scenes edits and wild stories of long days on set and a tour I would highly recommend to any GoT fan heading to Northern Ireland.
Going on these two bus tours gave us the perfect opportunity to not only see the locations of one of our favourite TV series but also to see so much of the beautiful Northern Ireland in just two days.