Northern Ireland Game of Thrones® territory
Blogs, Experiences, Game of Thrones
Published February 23, 2017
You don’t have to travel far to see why HBO chose Northern Ireland as the perfect place to film Game of Thrones®. From authentic medieval buildings, to beautiful landscapes and far-reaching views, Northern Ireland is the picture perfect filming location. In Part 1 of our Game of Thrones Filming Locations series we look at some of the best spots to visit along the Causeway Coast and Glens and further inland to Lough Neagh and its Waterways to bring your Westeros journey to life. Warning: contains spoilers!
Ballintoy Harbour in County Antrim is also known as Lordsport Harbour
Game of Thrones® territory voyage of discovery
Rated one of the Top Five Road Trips worldwide, the Causeway Coastal Route stretches some 120 miles from Belfast Lough to Lough Foyle in Derry~Londonderry. This stunning coastal drive takes in a number of Game of Thrones® filming locations and weaves through the Nine Glens of Antrim – including the pretty villages of Glenarm, Cushendun and Ballintoy – the spectacular seascapes of Portstewart and Downhill, and the mountainous terrains of Slemish and Binevenagh.
With a number of looped routes to travel inland, you’ll be spoilt for choice with unmissable attractions, striking scenery and iconic sights to explore.
Cairncastle – The Neck and North of Winterfell
From standing high atop Cairncastle, where Ned Stark beheaded the Night’s Watch deserter in Season 1 Episode 1, we travel to Glenarm, one of the Nine Glens of Antrim.
Thought to be the oldest chartered town in Northern Ireland – still retaining its historic street pattern – Glenarm has over 50 listed buildings and is home to Glenarm Castle, the ancestral home of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim, and the perfect place to stop off for an afternoon tea.
Here you can visit Steensons Workshop, one of six Économusées in Northern Ireland, and creators of some of the jewelled artefacts used in the series.
A short drive away will take you to Ballygally Castle, home to one of the doors from the Doors of Thrones. Carved from the storm-felled trees at the Dark Hedges, the ten intricate wood-carved doors are hung across Northern Ireland, each telling the story of a Season 6 episode.
Shillanavoghy Valley – Dothraki Sea
Travelling inland again, Shillanavoghy Valley lies under the gaze of Slemish Mountain, the legendary first known Irish home of Saint Patrick.
Fans will of course recognise the valley as the Dothraki Grasslands where Daenerys Targaryen rides towards Pentos in Season 1 Episode 2.
Located in County Antrim, Slemish rises about 1500 feet (437 metres) above the surrounding plain, and is the remains of the central core of an extinct volcano.
Toome Canal - Old Valyrian Canal
Travelling further inland again, we visit Toome Canal, a canalised waterway that flows into Lough Neagh.
It was here that Jorah set sail in a stolen boat with Tyrion as his captive in Season 5 Episode 5.
Bordering five of Northern Ireland’s six counties, Lough Neagh is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Europe and home to one of Northern Ireland’s PGI status foods, Lough Neagh Eels.
Cushendun Caves – A Cove in the Stormlands
From Loughs to caves, we join the Causeway Coastal Route once more at Cushendun where you’ll find Cushendun Caves.
Made famous by Game of Thrones® in Season 2 Episode 4 – the caves were formed over a period of 400 million years, and recognisable to fans as the Shadow creature’s birth site.
Located nearby, nestled at the foot of Glendun – one of the Nine Glens of Antrim – is the village of Cushendun, designed in the style of a Cornish village by eminent architect Clough Williams-Ellis.
This designated conservation area is where you’ll find the beloved sculpture of ‘Johann’ the goat – a famous Cushendun resident – and, of course, it’s home to another famous Doors of Thrones’s door in Mary McBride’s Bar.
Murlough Bay – Renly’s Camp and Slavers’ Bay
Murlough Bay, or Slavers’ Bay as it will be known to fans, is located in North East County Antrim.
It is here that Tyrion and Jorah come ashore and are accosted by slavers in Season 5 Episode 6. Fans will also recognise this location as Renly’s camp in Season 2 Episode 4.
The bay is best known for its outstanding beauty and far-reaching views across the sea to Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.
Larrybane – The Stormlands
Larrybane Bay is the dramatic spot chosen for Renly Baratheon’s camp in the Stormlands, and where Brienne of Tarth was named to Renly’s Kingsguard in Season 2 Episode 3.
The headland, sheltered by Sheep Island and a shallow reef, leads down to Northern Ireland’s famous and exhilarating rope bridge challenge, the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge.
This 4* attraction is suspended 100ft above sea level and the 30-metre deep and 20-metre wide chasm is traversed by a rope bridge that was traditionally erected by Salmon fishermen.
Cross the bridge to the tiny Carrick-a-Rede island (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) and enjoy a truly cliff-top experience.
Ballintoy Harbour – Set foot on the Iron Islands
Just a short distance away is Ballintoy Harbour - better known to fans of Game of Thrones® as Lordsport Harbour, Pyke and the Iron Islands where Theon is baptised into the religion of the drowned God, thus reaffirming his loyalty to his family in Season 2 Episode 2.
Ballintoy Harbour was also used as a filming location in Season 4 Episode 2 when Melisandre presides over the burning of the Bannermen, and is referred to locally as the ‘raised beach’.
The harbour, and the nearby village of Ballintoy, are a picture-perfect stop-off point along the Causeway Coastal Route, and home to another Doors of Thrones which can be found at the Fullerton Arms.
The Dark Hedges – The Kingsroad
Travelling inland again and close to the village of Armoy, visitors will be amazed by one of the most iconic Game of Thrones® filming locations, The Dark Hedges.
This beautiful tree-lined avenue and famous Northern Ireland landmark, was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century, and was used as a filming location for the Kingsroad in Season 2 Episode 1, when Arya Stark, dressed as a boy, escaped King’s Landing in the back of a cart.
Nearby at Gracehill House, you will find another famous door carved from the storm-felled trees. Built around 1775, James Stuart named the house after his wife, Grace Lynd, and the archway of intertwining beech trees was once part of the estate.
Not to be missed on any trip to Northern Ireland is the geological wonder which gave the Causeway Coastal Route its name.
The Giant’s Causeway sits at the centre of an Area of Outstanding Beauty and is Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Start your visit at the state-of-the-art Visitor Centre then stroll down to the intriguing polygonal stones to search out distinctive formations such as the Camel, Wishing Chair, Granny and Organ.
Portstewart Strand – Coast of Dorne
Back in Westeros again, the sweeping sands and dunes of Portstewart Strand, recognisable as a filming location in Season 5 Episode 4, is another must-see spot on your Game of Thrones® Territory adventure.
Maintained by the National Trust, Portstewart Strand is a Blue Flag Beach and an area of stunning natural beauty and of scientific interest.
You will remember that it was here that Jaime and Bronn came ashore on Dorne and fought and killed some Dornish men as they sought to bring Jaime’s “niece” Myrella back from Dorne to King’s Landing.
This is also the site where Ellaria and the sisters plan to start a war with the Lannisters.
Downhill Beach – Dragonstone
A short distance along the coast is one of Northern Ireland’s most-loved beaches, Downhill – an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) and a Special Area of Conservation.
An 11km stretch of sand and surf, this stunning beach is home to Mussenden, a tiny temple perched dramatically on a 120ft cliff top, high above the Atlantic Ocean.
Downhill beach was the setting for Stannis Baratheon’s rejection of the Seven Gods of Westeros in Season 2 Episode 1, where, increasingly under the influence of Melisandre, he allows her to burn their effigies as an offering to the Lord of Light.
Binevenagh – Dothraki Grasslands
Take a detour off the main Causeway Coastal Route and ascend a scenic drive to the summit of Binevenagh mountain – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Area of Special Scientific Interest.
With its line of dramatic basalt cliffs dominating the surrounding countryside, the panoramic views from the mountain top take in Roe Valley, the Sperrin Mountains, the North Coast and across Lough Foyle to Donegal.
Fans may remember Binevenagh as the shooting location in the Season 5 Episode 10 when Daenerys, searching for food, is spotted and surrounded by a Dothraki horde.
Just a short distance away you’ll find another of the Doors of Thrones housed in Owen’s Bar, Limavady.
Plan Your Own Journey to Westeros
If you’ve been inspired to discover the filming locations associated with the show or want to take a Game of Thrones inspired experience, visit discovernorthernireland.com to plan your short break.
*All tours and experiences are independently operated. They are not sponsored, endorsed, or affiliated with HBO or anyone associated with ‘Game of Thrones’.
Posted by Sarah
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