Enter the captivating world of Westeros, a realm of epic battles, political intrigue, and fantastical creatures. Game of Thrones, the acclaimed HBO series adapted from George R.R. Martin’s bestselling novels, captured the imaginations of millions across the globe. From the icy lands beyond The Wall to the opulent halls of King’s Landing, the show transported viewers to a realm filled with complex characters, intricate storylines, and breath-taking landscapes.
In this blog post, we invite you on a remarkable journey to discover the real-world filming locations that brought the fictional realm of Westeros to life. While the series was filmed in various countries, we’ll focus on the stunning locales found across Northern Ireland. From the rugged shores to enchanting forests, these locations provided the backdrop for some of the most iconic moments in Game of Thrones history.
Join us as we delve into the rich tapestry of Westeros, exploring Northern Ireland’s hidden gems that played a crucial role in shaping the series. From Castle Ward, the embodiment of Winterfell’s ancestral halls, to the haunting Dark Hedges that witnessed Arya Stark’s fateful journey, each location holds its own secrets and stories.
As we venture through the scenic landscapes that once echoed with the cries of “Hodor” and the whispers of “Valar Morghulis,” we’ll provide insights into the specific scenes filmed at each location, rekindling your memories of the unforgettable saga. So grab your sword, don your cloak, and prepare to step into the realm of Game of Thrones, where fantasy and reality intertwine in the most extraordinary way. Winter is here, and the journey begins now.
Standing tall within picturesque County Down, Castle Ward is a remarkable filming location that provided the perfect backdrop for several iconic Game of Thrones scenes. This historic estate, owned by the National Trust, encompasses diverse architectural styles and breath-taking landscapes, making it an extraordinary setting for the series’ fictional world of Westeros.
Situated near the village of Strangford, approximately a one-hour drive from Belfast, Castle Ward is a unique architectural gem. The estate features two distinct architectural styles, with one half showcasing classical Palladian elegance and the other boasting neo-Gothic splendour. This architectural duality sets Castle Ward apart and made it an ideal location to represent the ancestral home of House Stark, Winterfell.
As you explore Castle Ward, you’ll encounter the iconic courtyards, towers, and archery range that featured prominently in Game of Thrones. The estate’s stunning grounds, including the tranquil Strangford Lough, ancient woodlands, and manicured gardens, provide a breath-taking backdrop that transports visitors into the heart of Westeros.
In Game of Thrones, Castle Ward served as the principal filming location for Winterfell, the home of the Stark family. Many pivotal scenes were filmed here, including the courtyard where Ned Stark’s execution took place and the walls that young Bran Stark scaled. The rich history and grandeur of Castle Ward brought the fictional world to life, leaving an indelible mark on the series.
Beyond its connection to Game of Thrones, Castle Ward offers a wealth of attractions. You can embark on scenic walks through the woodlands, enjoy picnics by the lough, or explore the Victorian laundry and cornmill. The estate also offers unique experiences such as archery and bike rentals, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the surroundings.
Visiting Castle Ward is an opportunity to step into the world of Westeros and experience the grandeur of Winterfell first-hand. Whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or simply seeking a captivating historical and natural destination, Castle Ward will leave you enchanted by its architectural splendour, stunning landscapes, and the echoes of epic battles and noble houses that still linger within its walls.
Hidden deep within County Antrim, the Dark Hedges stands as one of the most visually striking and iconic filming locations from the Game of Thrones series. This ethereal avenue of beech trees, with their gnarled branches intertwined overhead, creates an otherworldly atmosphere that perfectly captured the essence of the Kingsroad in Westeros.
The Dark Hedges is located near the village of Stranocum, about a 60-minute drive north of Belfast. The origin of these magnificent trees can be traced back to the 18th century when the Stuart family planted them as an impressive entrance to their nearby estate, Gracehill House. Over the years, the branches of the beech trees gracefully intertwined, creating a stunning natural archway that has since become an internationally recognised attraction.
Walking beneath the intertwined canopy of the Dark Hedges feels like stepping into a mythical realm. The sunlight filters through the dense foliage, casting enchanting shadows upon the moss-covered ground. The twisting branches create a tunnel-like effect, evoking a sense of mystery and wonder. In spring and summer, the trees are adorned with vibrant green leaves, while autumn transforms the landscape into a symphony of fiery reds and golden hues.
The natural beauty of the Dark Hedges extends beyond their appearance. The surrounding landscape of County Antrim is equally captivating, with its rolling green hills, lush meadows, and idyllic countryside. The juxtaposition of the ancient beech trees against the backdrop of the rural Irish landscape adds to the sense of magic and intrigue.
It is no wonder that the Dark Hedges was chosen as a prominent filming location for Game of Thrones. The avenue provided the perfect setting for several memorable scenes, notably Arya Stark’s escape from King’s Landing dressed as a boy, as she flees on her path to become a Faceless Man.
Visiting the Dark Hedges allows fans of the series to step into the footsteps of their favourite characters and experience the essence of the Kingsroad. As you walk through this enchanted avenue, you can almost hear the echoes of Arya’s hurried footsteps and feel the weight of her destiny.
Beyond its connection to Game of Thrones, the Dark Hedges has captured the hearts of travellers and photographers from around the world. Its beauty and timeless charm make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a touch of magic in their journey through Northern Ireland.
Sited along the Causeway Coastal Route in County Antrim, Ballintoy Harbour is a picturesque coastal gem that played a significant role in the Game of Thrones series. This charming little harbour, tucked between rugged cliffs and dramatic coastal scenery, served as the filming location for Pyke, the ancestral home of House Greyjoy on the Iron Islands.
Ballintoy Harbour is located near the village of Ballintoy, about a one-hour drive north of Belfast. Its secluded and unspoiled beauty made it an ideal choice to depict the harsh and unforgiving Iron Islands in the fictional world of Westeros. As you approach the harbour, you’ll be greeted by panoramic views of the stunning Causeway Coastline, with its striking cliffs, crashing waves, and expansive horizon.
Stepping foot onto the rocky shores of Ballintoy Harbour is like entering the realm of the Iron Islands themselves. The jagged coastline, with its dramatic rock formations and hidden coves, creates an atmosphere of ruggedness and resilience. The harbour is flanked by steep cliffs, offering sweeping vistas of the Atlantic Ocean. The sound of crashing waves and the cries of seabirds add to the immersive experience, transporting you to the windswept shores of Pyke.
In Game of Thrones, Ballintoy Harbour brought pivotal scenes to life, including Theon Greyjoy’s return to the Iron Islands and various scenes featuring the Greyjoy family and their fleet. The harbour’s unique charm and raw beauty perfectly captured the harsh yet captivating essence of the Iron Islands, offering a glimpse into the treacherous world of the seafaring Greyjoys.
Beyond its Game of Thrones connection, Ballintoy Harbour is a haven for nature lovers and those seeking an authentic coastal experience. The coastal paths and cliffs surrounding the harbour offer spectacular hiking opportunities, allowing you to explore the rugged beauty of the Causeway Coastline. You can also take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters or enjoy a leisurely picnic overlooking the captivating views.
Visiting Ballintoy Harbour is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of Northern Ireland’s coastline and to walk in the footsteps of the Ironborn. Whether you’re a Game of Thrones enthusiast or simply seeking a serene coastal escape, the charm and scenic splendour of Ballintoy Harbour will leave an indelible impression on your heart.
Nestled along the stunning Antrim Coast in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, Cushendun Caves is a captivating natural wonder that served as a mesmerising filming location for Game of Thrones. This coastal treasure, formed over millions of years by the relentless crashing of waves against the limestone cliffs, provided the setting for one of the most haunting and pivotal scenes in the series.
Located in the quaint village of Cushendun, approximately an hour’s drive north of Belfast, Cushendun Caves offer a unique blend of rugged beauty and ethereal charm. As you approach the caves, you’ll be greeted by a striking combination of towering cliffs, hidden alcoves, and the shimmering blue waters of the Irish Sea. The dramatic coastal landscape creates an atmosphere that is both awe-inspiring and slightly eerie, setting the perfect stage for the mystical world of Game of Thrones.
Stepping into Cushendun Caves feels like entering another realm altogether. The natural archways and cavernous formations, carved by the relentless power of the sea, create an otherworldly ambiance. The interplay of light and shadows within the caves adds to the sense of mystery and intrigue, transporting visitors into the heart of the magical lands of Westeros.
In Game of Thrones, Cushendun Caves took on the role of the eerie subterranean chambers where the priestess, Melisandre, gave birth to a shadow creature.
Beyond its connection to Game of Thrones, Cushendun Caves offers a captivating coastal experience. Exploring the caves and the surrounding area allows visitors to witness the raw power of nature and to appreciate the intricate beauty of the coastal cliffs. The village of Cushendun itself exudes quaint charm, with its traditional cottages and stunning coastal views.
Visiting Cushendun Caves offers an opportunity to step into the realm of fantasy and adventure, experiencing first-hand the allure of a Game of Thrones filming location. Whether you’re a fan of the series or simply seeking an awe-inspiring coastal escape, Cushendun Caves will leave you with a sense of wonder and a deep appreciation for the natural wonders of Northern Ireland’s coast.
Found at the foot of the majestic Mourne Mountains in County Down, Northern Ireland, Tollymore Forest Park is an enchanting filming location that transported audiences into the magical world of Game of Thrones. This sprawling forest park, with its ancient trees, meandering rivers, and moss-covered stones, provided the perfect backdrop for some of the series’ most memorable scenes.
Located near the town of Newcastle, approximately an hour’s drive south of Belfast, Tollymore Forest Park is a haven for nature lovers and adventurers. Its diverse landscapes, ranging from dense woodlands to open meadows, create an otherworldly ambiance that captivated both filmmakers and fans alike.
In Game of Thrones, Tollymore Forest Park served as the Haunted Forest beyond The Wall, where the Night’s Watch ventured and encountered the chilling White Walkers in the series’ opening scene. The park’s atmospheric and ancient trees, such as the iconic “King’s Highway” beech tree-lined path, added an air of mystery and foreboding to the chilling storyline.
Beyond its Game of Thrones connection, Tollymore Forest Park offers an array of natural wonders waiting to be explored. The meandering Shimna River, with its picturesque bridges and cascading waterfalls, provides a serene backdrop for peaceful walks. The park’s diverse flora and fauna, including towering redwoods and delicate wildflowers, add to the captivating allure of the surroundings.
Visiting Tollymore Forest Park allows you to step into the footsteps of the Night’s Watch and experience the magic of Westeros. As you traverse the winding paths and hidden corners of the park, you’ll feel a connection to the fantastical world that captured the hearts and imaginations of millions. Whether you’re a Game of Thrones enthusiast or simply seeking a tranquil escape into nature’s embrace, Tollymore Forest Park promises an enchanting experience filled with beauty, adventure, and a touch of the extraordinary.
Shane’s Castle is a historic and picturesque estate that served as a captivating filming location for Game of Thrones. This magnificent castle and its expansive grounds provide a stunning backdrop that perfectly captures the essence of the series’ medieval world.
Located near the village of Randalstown, about a 30-minute drive northwest of Belfast, Shane’s Castle is steeped in rich history and enchanting natural beauty. The castle itself dates back to the 14th century and boasts a captivating architectural blend of Gothic and French chateau styles. Surrounding the castle, the estate features rolling parklands, serene lakes, and dense woodland, creating a magical setting that transports visitors to a bygone era.
In Game of Thrones, Shane’s Castle played a prominent role in Season 1, serving as the location for the Lannister camp during the tourney. It was here that Bronn fought for Tyrion Lannister’s freedom in a thrilling combat scene. The castle’s atmospheric surroundings and its medieval charm made it a perfect choice to bring the world of Westeros to life.
Beyond its Game of Thrones connection, Shane’s Castle offers a captivating experience for history and nature enthusiasts alike. Exploring the castle’s ruins and strolling through the beautifully landscaped gardens and parklands allows visitors to immerse themselves in the splendour of a bygone era. The picturesque setting, with its tranquil lakes and expansive views, creates a sense of serenity and tranquillity.
Visiting Shane’s Castle offers the opportunity to step back in time, where knights once roamed the grounds and tales of chivalry unfolded. As you explore the castle and its surroundings, you can’t help but feel a connection to the medieval world that Game of Thrones beautifully depicted.
Whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or simply seeking a glimpse into the past, Shane’s Castle provides an enchanting experience that combines history, natural beauty, and a touch of fantasy. Lose yourself in the splendour of this historic estate, where echoes of the Lannisters and their tourney still linger, and let your imagination wander through the captivating lands of Westeros.
Perched dramatically on the cliffs of County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Mussenden Temple is a superb filming location that evokes a sense of wonder and grandeur. This iconic temple, perched on the edge of a precipitous cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, played a significant role in Game of Thrones, captivating viewers with its stunning beauty.
Located near the town of Castlerock, approximately an hour’s drive northwest of Belfast, Mussenden Temple is part of the Downhill Demesne estate. The temple was built in the 18th century as a library and is now a magnificent architectural landmark. Its location on the edge of the cliff offers panoramic views of the surrounding coastline, creating an unforgettable backdrop for both the series and real-life visitors.
In Game of Thrones, Mussenden Temple stood in as the exterior of Dragonstone, the ancestral seat of House Targaryen. Its commanding position atop the cliffs perfectly captured the imposing nature of this significant location in the series.
Beyond its Game of Thrones connection, Mussenden Temple offers a captivating experience for visitors. The stunning views of the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and the dramatic cliffs are truly awe-inspiring. The surrounding Downhill Demesne estate, with its landscaped gardens and tranquil pathways, provides a peaceful retreat where visitors can immerse themselves in natural beauty.
For more exciting places to visit across Northern Ireland and Great Britain, why not explore Monty’s Guide a little further and uncover some hidden gems that are waiting just around the corner.
About the author
Having worked across the heritage and tourism sector for over 10 years, Monty Beaumont is an expert when it comes to discovering new places to visit and great days out for the whole family.
He has previously worked for the National Trust as a General Manager in Cornwall, coordinated the complex operations of running a castle in Devon and the mastered the intricacies of providing exceptional hospitality and service at some of the finest historic houses in the UK.
As part of his vision and drive for Monty’s Guide, Monty travels across the country to find new places to visit and explore, and sharing his finding on montysguide.com, which is used by 1,000s of people each week to find their next great day out.
His experience and knowledge of the historic and cultural sector gives him a unique insight into the elements that make tourism and learning so important in our quest to understanding more about our heritage.