Game of Thrones is filmed all over Europe and includes such breathtaking locations as Iceland, Morocco, Spain and Croatia. But the bulk of Game of Thrones filming locations are found in Northern Ireland and their close proximity to each other makes it easy for fans of the show to visit much of Westeros and Essos in just a few days. The show has made this region so hugely popular that Northern Ireland has seen an economic surge directly related to the tourism boost from people visiting their favorite Game of Thrones filming locations. The first four seasons alone introduced an economic benefit totaling £82m.
Some of our most popular Ireland vacations include many of these Game of Thrones filming locations on the itinerary. While there are quite a few Westeros landmarks in Northern Ireland, here are a few filming locations we believe are a must-experience for Game of Thrones fans.
1. Tollymore Forest Park, County Down (Haunted Forest)
This is where Game of Thrones began, the opening scene of episode one, season one. This park, site of the Haunted Forest, is a must-see for Game of Thrones fans and nature enthusiasts alike. The park lies at the foot of the Mourne Mountains and contains, among other things, the Shimna River, the Stone Bridges, the Hermitage, Cedar Avenue and experimental forest plots. There are a number of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, as well as camping and RV sites.
2. The Dark Hedges, County Antrim (The King’s Road)
This is the King’s Road, where Arya Stark has escaped from King’s Landing and is traveling with Yoren, Gendry, Hot Pie and others to join the Night’s Watch. The hedges are actually an avenue of over 150 beech trees planted in the late 18th century by the Stuart family as a landscape feature for the entrance to their Georgian estate, Gracehill House. Ghost hunters should keep their eyes open for the Grey Lady.
3. The Ward Estate, County Down (Winterfell)
The Ward Estate is Winterfell, home of the Stark Family. Castle Ward is the site where the Starks receive King Robert Baratheon. Audley’s Castle, at the end of the long view of Temple Water, was where Robb Stark stashed his army. The estate contains a number of attractions, including trails for exploring, a walled demense, the Victorian Past Times Center (a Victorian recreation of the estate where children can dress in period clothing) and the Strangford Lough Wildlife Center.
4. Mussenden Temple and Downhill Beach, County Londonderry (Dragonstone)
Just outside of Coleraine on the Causeway Coast is where Melisandre burned the old gods as well as where Stannis Baratheon drew his blazing sword, Lightbringer, from the flames. In 1785 Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristol (or the Earl Bishop) built Mussenden Temple. It was meant as a summer library and named in honor of his cousin, Frideswide Mussenden. The temple, perched atop a 120-foot cliff, and Downhill Beach below are one of the most photographs spots in Ireland.
5. Ballintoy Harbor, County Antrim (Lordsport Harbor, Iron Islands)
This is the harbor in the Iron Islands’ capitol city, Pyke, where Theon Greyjoy arrives to discuss an alliance between the Starks and the Greyjoys and where he first meets his sister, Yara. Parts of the beach were also used to shoot a scene featuring Aeron Greyjoy and Yara. What is most interesting about Ballintoy is that it is a raised beach, meaning that the beach now lies above the water level and is not inundated at high tide.
6. Portstewart Strand, County Londonderry (Dorne)
While much of Dorne is actually filmed in Spain (Alcázar de Seville), Jaime Lannister’s and Bron’s approach to the Water Gardens, disguised as Martell soldiers, was filmed here. Portstewart Strand, one of many National Trust sites used in filming, is famous for its miles of golden sand beaches, grass-covered dunes and numerous activities throughout the year. It is a great place to watch wildlife, swim and surf, among other water sports.
7. Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim (Runestone, Vale of Arryn)
Here is the practice ground where Littlefinger and Sansa Stark had to suffer through Robin Arryn’s dismal attempt at dueling. In County Antrim there are nine glens and Glenariff is known as “the Queen of the Glens,” the most beautiful of all. The park covers 1000 hectares. It has three waterfalls and a three-mile Waterfall Walkway, numerous forest trails and riverside walks as well as camp and RV sites. There is also a visitor center and restaurant.
8. Cushendun Caves, County Antrim (The Stormlands)
These caves are where Ser Devos took Melisandre ashore, as directed by King Stannis, and where Melisandre birthed the shadow assassin. The caves are easy enough to reach from the charming town of Cushendun, just be aware the area can be a bit muddy. And if you need refreshing after your visit to the Caves, try Mary McBride’s Bar, which has scenes of Braavos, free city of Essos, carved into one of the doors.
9. Quoile River, County Down (Riverrun)
The need for Robb Stark’s army to cross this river is what prompted the fateful bargain with Walder Frey. Additionally, the 12th century ruins of Inch Abbey, situated on the north bank of this river, was the camp of the Houses of the North and where they celebrated their victory in the Battle of the Whispering Wood. The Quoile River is also home to the Tulley family. The river empties into Strangford Lough, not too far from the Ward Estate.
10. Shane’s Castle, County Antrim (The Land of Always Winter/The Wildlings Site)
The jousting tournament that introduced the brothers Hound and Mountain and saw Gregor Clegane behead a horse was held here. Shane’s Castle was built in the 14th century and destroyed by fire in the early 17th century. According to legend, a banshee, angry that the room usually left empty for her had been occupied, started the fire. The ruins are located on the northeast shore of Lough Neagh and part of a working estate that includes farmland, woodland, cattle and sheep.
11. Dunluce Castle, County Antrim (The House of Greyjoy)
Dunluce Castle is a dramatic medieval castle that stands cliffside over the Antrim Coast. While what remains are ruins, this castle originated in the 1500s and spans a rich history including being the residents of Earls and at one point, Winston Churchill. Aside from being the House of Greyjoy on the Iron Islands, it was featured on the inner sleeve of the 1973 album House of the Holy by the iconic classic rock band, Led Zeppelin.
There are many other sites to see. Country Antrim is particularly rich in Game of Thrones filming locations, including Giant’s Causeway, Slemish Mountain, Shillanavogy Valley, Cairncastle, Murlough Bay, Larrybane and Carnlough. County Down has the Mourne Mountains and Portaferry. County Londonderry has the Binevenagh Mountain. And County Fermanagh has the Pollnagollum Cave.
Authentic Ireland has a special self-drive 6-Night Game of Thrones tour that takes you to many of these locations. It’s fully customizable which means we can make it longer and add even more Game of Thrones filming locations based on your timeframe.