5 Must-Visit Game Of Thrones Locations In Northern Ireland
From the heart of Winterfell to the Dothraki Sea of Essos, Northern Ireland has served as the real-word backdrop for many of the locations featured in George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy saga. Belfast is home to Titanic Studios, where the bulk of the series' interior scenes are filmed. The rugged coast of Antrim stands in for the Pyke and Iron Islands. And the versatile landscape of County Down has served as both the Haunted Forest and the cradle of Vaes Dothrak.
It's an essential visit for any Game of Thrones fan, and as such, we've summarised 5 filming locations worth prioritising during your own trip. The list is by no means exhaustive, and if you'd like to find more or even join a guided tour from Belfast, see our Game of Thrones locations day tour.
Game Of Thrones Northern Ireland Locations Map | Click For Larger View.
1) Castle Ward:
Game of Thrones fans know Castle Ward as the keep at Winterfell: home of the beloved Stark family, site of countless atrocities by Ramsay Bolton, and the prize of the nail-biting siege that concluded season six. Rich as Winterfell's fictional history is, Castle Ward's actual history is perhaps richer still. It's stood since the 16th century, seeing rulers and owners come and go - some insane, some avaricious, some good and fair in the tradition of the late Ned Stark. The history of the property stretches up through the near-present: two members of the IRA were killed there by a bomb explosion in the 1970s.
2) Pollnagollum Cave:
The name "Pollnagollum" isn't a Lord of the Rings reference - it's Irish for "cave of the doves." In Game of Thrones, Pollnagollum housed a gang of bandits and a mystical priest. It served, in other words, as the hideout for the Brotherhood Without Banners, whose leader Beric died to be raised from the dead again and again. The real Pollnagolum is idyllic and lush. There's a waterfall gushing over the lip of a limestone cliff, a thick forest, and a much larger system of connected caves to explore.
3) Slemish Mountain:
Slemish Mountain was once the home of a slave who worked as a shepherd. He escaped and later returned - then a Catholic priest - to convert his former master. That slave was St. Patrick, and today Slemish Mountain is a site of pilgrimage every St. Paddy's Day for many of the faithful. It's also where the Dothraki Grassland scenes were filmed for Game Of Thones.
There, Daenerys Targaryen- a political exile from the continent of Westeros- breaks both her own de facto captivity and that of thousands more during a campaign of conquest across swathes of Essos. Much like St. Paddy in the story, the Breaker of Chains then makes her own return journey across the Narrow Sea.
4) Downhill Strand:
Remember that scene early on in the show where the fanatic red priestess Melisandre burned the Old Gods' effigy to make way for her Lord Of Light? This is that beach. It's gorgeous, with dramatic cliffs which stretch for miles. There's also quite a bit of old architecture nearby that didn't make it into the show but is worth seeing nonetheless - notably the Mussenden Temple, a small circular chapel that now sits directly on the lip of the cliff, and the Downhill Demesne.
The Demesne is a mansion built by a stylish Earl and decorated to evoke an Italian villa which, in the 19th century, was gutted by a fire. The ruins still stand, and the view is breathtaking.
5) Tollymore Forest Park:
Tollymore Forest is the setting for some of Game Of Thrones darkest scenes - those involving the ethereal and horrifying White Walkers, for example, and some of the worst depravities of Ramsay Bolton. If you visit, however, don't worry that you'll be hunted by ice zombies or a gleefully sadistic Iwan Rheon. Instead, wander through the huge redwoods, check out the Gothic gate arches and admire the experimental plots of trees, such as Monterrey pine and eucalyptus, that would fit as well in sunny California as they would in misty Northern Ireland.