Northern Ireland might be a wee place, but not even the wildernesses of Iceland or the historic cities of Croatia played host to Westeros and Essos as much as this beautiful corner of our island. From wind-swept beaches to castles steeped in history, Northern Ireland’s diverse landscapes and wealth of historic treasures have served as an almost endless source of inspiration for both producers and viewers alike. Now, many visitors now seek to retrace the steps of series for themselves.
Relive the stories first hand
The Game of Thrones® hype has definitely been kicked up a notch with the recent release of the eighth and final season. So what better time to start discovering the places that served as a backdrop to some of the most memorable scenes? Discover an overview of the Game of Thrones® filming locations in Northern Ireland, as well as where you can find the amazing Game of Thrones® doors strewn across the region.
Here’s an in-depth overview of all of the major shooting locations across Northern Ireland – and I’ve even put everything on a handy map to help you plan the perfect road trip!
Castles & Ruins
Castle Ward, Audley’s Field & Inch Abbey, Co. Down
No self-respecting fantasy series would be complete without a proper castle – luckily we’ve plenty of them, and Northern Ireland has some of the island’s most spectacular. Let’s start our tour with probably one of the most famous filming locations of all, Castle Ward. The sturdy stone walls and outhouses that populate its farmyard stood in as none other than Winterfell itself, the ancestral home of the Starks. Those of you really looking to make a day out of your trip hear should consider the Winterfell Tours here – definitely one for you hardcore fans out there! As soon as you arrive you’ll be decked out head-to-toe in traditional garb, before setting out to take up arms at the faithful recreation of the archery range. You’ll be given expert guidance on how to brush up your archery skills and try your hand at a few rounds. Nearby is Audley’s Castle and Inch Abbey, both serving as the location for Robb Stark’s camp. It’s possible to follow a self-guided cycling tour along the Robb’s Trail.
Dunluce Castle, Co. Antrim
Like something taken straight out of a fairy tale, the weathered remains of Dunluce Castle stand on a rugged, perilous cliff that rise up from the crashing waves below. This breathtaking, almost mystical structure dates all the way back to the 16th Century and saw use as the seat of the earls who governed Co. Antrim. While its ruins may stand empty today, its strong walls were filled with life once more in Game of Thrones® as it was transformed into the House of Greyjoy. It’s possible to explore inside of the castle and wander the former halls, and there are also some great pathways on the surrounding hills where you can get some truly awesome views.
Guru tip: I recommend combining a trip to Dunluce Castle with a bigger roadtrip around the Antrim Coastal Route, one of the greatest coastal roads in the whole world!
Mussenden Temple & Downhill Strand, Co. Antrim
Another one of those places that never fails to take my breath away is Mussenden Temple. This small, lonely temple is perched high up by the sheer cliffs that overlook Downhill Strand below. While the beach itself became Dragonstone, it was the incredible view of the beach that really captured the imagination of the producers. Soak up the sweeping view of the beach by the temple itself, or head down to the beach to really admire the spectacular setting in its full glory. Crashing waves, rocky cliffs and the beautiful rotunda – these really are views that stay with you.
Mountains, forests & beaches
The Dark Hedges, Co. Antrim
The twisted boughs and ivy-clad trunks really do look otherworldly here at the Dark Hedges, and its inclusion as the King’s Road in Game of Thrones® really has propelled this incredible little corner of Antrim to world stardom – in fact I’d probably say that this is one of the most photographed locations in Northern Ireland! These incredible trees were planted all the way back in the late 18th Century to line the entrance to a nearby country estate and provide an entrance that would really wow the stately guests due to stay at the gaff. They stay that only around 90 beeches of the original 150 remain and there are rules and restrictions in place to protect the rest (you’re not allowed to drive along the road, for example), but if you’re in the area it’s always worth a wee stroll along this road. Just park your car up at the nearby hotel and let the eerie atmosphere do its magic!
Mourne Mountains & Tollymore Forest National Park, Co. Antrim
I was very happy to see one of my favourite corners of Northern Ireland get a feature in Game of Thrones® as well. The wild, wind-swept peaks of the Mount Mountains stood in for both the Mother of Mountains and Vaes Dothrak and even featured all the way back in the pilot episode. And nearby at the foot of the mountains is Tollymore Forest National Park, where lush flora and rushing streams are sheltered by the Mournes. Many of the bridges and streams here played host to some key scenes, including the Altavaddy Bridge (where the Starks find the direwolf and her pups) and thickets of pine trees that stood in for the Haunted Forest. Let’s just hope you don’t encounter any White Walkers here…
Shillanavogy Valley & Slemish Mountain, Co. Antrim
From Westeros we’re now making a brief detour to the lands of the Dothraki. For this it was the sweeping views of the Shillanavogy Valley that recreated the endless steppes of the Dothraki grasslands. You’ll recognise the area from the scene where the Khalasar rides for Vaes Dothrak as he departs Pentos. And the distinctive peak that rises above the plains is Slemish Mountain, most famous for being the first place in Ireland that Saint Patrick called home. Be sure to hike up to the top for amazing views – you’ll almost feel like you’re on top of the world here, and if the weather’s clear enough you’ll even be able to see out to Scotland as well.
Ballintoy Harbour & Carnlough Harbour, Co. Antrim
Two lovely little harbour towns played host to various scenes across the series. Picturesque Ballintoy was the perfect stand-in for the Iron Islands and its capital city, Pyke, thanks to its rocky coastlines and sheltered harbour. Perhaps the most prominent feature of Ballintoy was the scene where Theon Greyjoy arrives back home at the Iron Islands. Carnlough Harbour also played host to a major scene. However this time it was in Braavos, as Arya Stark makes a brave escape in the city’s canals following an encounter with the Waif. Both of these towns are absolutely lovely to visit – soak up the relaxed atmosphere and admire the wonderful views out to sea. And why not make your trip here part of a larger adventure along Antrim’s stunning coastlines?
Cushendun Caves, Co. Antrim
One of the best-known filming locations due to being used in one of the most infamous scenes in the series! The moody Cushendun Caves is where the Red Priestess gave birth to the shadow baby, while poor Davos Seaworth watched on in horror. As soon as you make your way down the little path to the cave you’ll instantly start recognising the rocks and cliff formations that shelter it and it’s a must for any Game of Thrones® tour. And while the caves themselves may be dark and gloomy, the actual village of Cushendun itself is a whole other story. Enjoying its status as a National Trust Conservation Village, this wee place is just dripping with rural charm and I adore the views of the terraced white cottages. Be sure to pop into the Corner House tea rooms for a little bite to eat once you’ve scoped out the caves.
Binevenagh Mountain, Co. Derry
The ridges of Binevenagh Mountain marks the geographical edge of the Antrim Plateau, and it’s here where the Dothraki Sea found its real-life counterpart. The scenes were filmed from the bottom looking up at the ridges, so head to the fields at the bottom first to get a good look at the mountain. But if you think those are good views, just wait until you see the views from the top. The gentle pastures, Lough Foyle and even the rolling hills of Donegal present a truly gorgeous setting and are the perfect reward for your trip up the mountain.
Murlough Bay, Co. Antrim
Widely considered to be one of Antrim’s most beautiful natural harbours – and I’d be inclined to agree! The gorgeous rolling hills give way to the sea, where you’ll be able to look out towards Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre, the southernmost point of Scotland’s Kintyre peninsula. The remoteness only adds to the magic of this place. This is another location that stood in for the Iron Islands, where Theon Greyjoy rides on horseback with his sister Yara, as well as Slaver’s Bay.
Portstewart Strand, Co. Derry
Stretching for 2 miles, the National Trust-owned Portsteward Strand is easily one of the most popular beaches in the area thanks to the beautiful walks to be had, and it’s a belter of a place to have a picnic as well. Come rain or shine, people will be out walking, swimming or simply watching the world go by. In Game of Thrones®, Portstewart was transformed into the shores of Dorne. Remarkably, all the other scenes that took place in Dorne were filmed in Spain – just goes to show that Irish beaches really are in a class all of their own!
Glenariff, Co. Antrim
Known as the “Queen of the Glens”, Glenariff is the largest of the nine valleys that makes up the Glens of Antrim, and definitely one of the most beautiful thanks to its dramatic hills and lush forests. It’s here where Robin Arryn underwent training in the Vale as both Littlefinger and Sansa Stark watch on. While you’re in Glenariff, be sure to make the hike to the so-called “Hidden Village”, or Galboly. It’s tucked away in a quiet corner close to Garron Point, and it’s well worth exploring the ruins of the abandoned clachan, now overgrown with trees and ivy. An amazing spot to really enjoy some some serene moments away from people and soak up the magical atmosphere of what’s almost like a little time capsule.
The Game of Thrones® Doors
In January 2016, Storm Gertrude swept across Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north of England, causing damages estimated at around £80 million. Unfortunately, the fragile trees that lined the Dark Hedges also bore the brunt of it – two trees were uprooted completely and a third of the remaining ones were damaged. But it wasn’t a complete loss.
The wood taken from the two felled trees were transformed into 10 beautifully crafted doors depicting scenes and characters from the series as a tribute to the legacy Game of Thrones® has left behind. Each of the 10 doors have been placed in different locations, each with a link to the filming that took place there. If you’re gonna be touring Northern Ireland to check out a few filming locations, be sure to include a few of these doors in your itinerary as well. What’s more, you can print out your own “passport” and collect all of the 10 stamps as you visit each location. It’s almost like the ultimate Game of Thrones® Easter egg hunt! Here’s a quick rundown of each location.
Door 1: The Cuan, Co. Down
It’s highly recommend to work through all of the doors in order, as you’ll very quickly realise they all go in chronological order as they depict events from season 6! That’s why the first door, situated at The Cuan, pays homage to the opening credits, with a map of Westeros strewn with sigils and symbols from each of the major houses vying for the Iron Throne.
The Cuan address:
The Square, Stranford
Downpatrick BT30 7ND
Phone: +44 28 4488 1222
The pub itself is conveniently just a stone’s throw away from Castle Ward, making it the perfect place to grab a bite to eat after your tour – I’m sure all of that archery will work up an appetite!
Door 2: Fiddler’s Green, Co. Down
Just a short distance away from Strangford on the other side of the water is the small town of Portaferry, and right in the centre of it is Fiddler’s Green. This pub/B&B was graced with the second Game of Thrones door, which depicts the Greyjoy kraken rising up to meet the flayed man of the Boltons.
Fiddler’s Green address:
10 Church Street, Portaferry
Newtownards BT22 1LS
Phone: +44 28 4272 8393
Nearby is Quintin Castle, dating all the way back to the 15th Century. It (as well as the bay close to it) served as the backdrop for Stokeworth across season 5.
Door 3: Percy French, Co. Down
If you’re planning an overnight stay while on the road, this is the place to do it! Situated in the grounds of the 4* Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, you’ll be able to enjoy some serious VIP luxury after viewing the door and treating yourself to a hearty meal. In fact you can even get a Westeros steak on the menu!
Percy French address:
Slieve Donard Resort & Spa
Newcastle BT33 0AH
Phone: +44 28 4372 3175
Nearby Tollymore Forest is paid homage to with all the leaves that frame each scene – while the direwolf pups were found in the forest, we unfortunately see Shaggydog meeting his demise.
Door 4: Blake’s of the Hollow, Co. Fermanagh
Blake’s of the Hollow may be a little out of the way compared to the rest of the pubs on this tour, but the detour is more than worth it. There are so many cosy little corners here, giving this pub that extra cosy atmosphere that I just can’t get enough of.
Blake’s of the Hollow address:
6 Church Street
Enniskillen BT74 7EJ
Phone: +44 28 6632 2143
One of the most intricate doors, it’s the first to feature Daenerys’ dragons – you’ll also spot the falcon of House Arryn keeping a watchful eye over everything below.
Door 5: Owens’ Bar, Co. Derry
You’ll get the warmest of welcomes from Owens’ Bar, but less could be said for the eerie White Walkers and the Night King who are the main focus of door 5 – after all, we find out a little more about the origin of the Night King himself.
Owens’ Bar address:
50 Main Street
Limavady BT49 0EU
Phone: +44 28 7772 2328
Close to the magnificent beaches that line this part of Derry, you’ll be close to the real-life version of Dragonstone – once you’ve had a nice stroll by the sea and admired Mussenden Temple you can treat yourself to a well-deserved pint here.
Door 6: Fullerton Arms, Co. Antrim
The first stop of many in Antrim, the Fullerton Arms is situated close to Ballintoy Harbour which famously stood in for the harbours and bays of the seat of the Greyjoys: the Iron Islands. This time Daenerys is right at the centre of attention here. Her mightiest dragon, Drogon, takes up most of the the space here, but in the coil of his tail you’ll see the horses of the Dothraki riding galloping into action.
Fullerton Arms Hotel address:
22 Main Street, Ballintoy
Ballycastle, BT54 6LX
Phone: +44 28 2076 9613
Ballintoy Harbour itself is just a half-an-hour walk away – or you could walk east along a fantastic cliff walk to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This too takes roughly
Door 7: Gracehill House, Co. Antrim
The closest of the doors to the Dark Hedges themselves, Gracehill House is just a short walk down the road – in fact the Dark Hedges were planted along the entrance road to this stately house when it was built in the 18th Century! You can park your car here for free and pop in for a lovely tea or coffee while you’re at it.
Gracehill House address:
141 Ballinlea Road, Stranocum
Ballymoney BT53 8PX
Phone: +44 28 2075 1209
The three-eyed raven is at the centrepiece of the door’s mural – meanwhile at the bottom you’ll find a crown entwined with beech leaves as a references to trees these doors were crafted from.
Door 8: Mary McBride’s, Co. Antrim
“Valar morghulis” – the High Valyrian for “all men must die” is the central motif on door no. 7, found in the tiny but excellent pub Mary McBride’s. You’ll spot the ominous figure of the faceless man amongst various helmets belonging to different characters, while the sigil of the direwolf keeps careful watch from above.
Mary McBride’s is situated in Cushenden, close to the infamous caves where Melisandre gave birth to the shadow baby. The pub itself was already a hit before Game of Thrones really took off, so expect wonderful, hearty food and a mean pint of Guinness to go along with it. The perfect place to rest up for a bit during your busy tour!
Door 9: Ballygally Castle, Co. Antrim
In the prestigious Ballygally Castle hotel is the ninth door, and one of the most dramatic. House Bolton and House Stark go head to head – while the direwolf emerges on top, you can tell it’s come with a cost due to the deep scars that now run across its face.
Ballygally Hotel address:
Ballygally BT40 2QZ
Phone: +44 28 2858 1066
The hotel itself is one of the best in the area thanks to its brilliant location right by the Antrim coast and its luxurious interiors. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay that comes with a bit of that VIP factor, you really cannot go wrong with this gorgeous 17th Century castle.
Door 10: Dark Horse, Belfast
The final stop of your “Doors of Thrones” tour will eventually bring you back to the capital. Although no scenes were filmed here in the city, it was still decided to install one here as a homage to the incredible support filming crews had from businesses and individuals across Northern Ireland as a whole.
Dark Horse address:
30 Hill Street
Belfast BT1 2LB
Phone: +44 28 9023 7807
Also fitting as the final stop of the tour is the depiction of how things have eventually shaped up at the end of season six – the Lannister lion may be front and centre, but you’ll spot a few shneaky nods to Jon Snow’s alluded parentage…
Start planning your Game of Thrones® adventure
Game of Thrones has done much to really throw the spotlight on some truly stunning corners of Northern Ireland. Sure, these locations always had a bit of CGI magic done on them in the series but visit in person and you’ll quickly realise that even without the special effects, these places really will take your breath away.
To help you plan your own trip to Northern Ireland, be sure to have a look at my most recent staycation deals. From city breaks to country escapes, there’s something for every budget.