With our three year anniversary on the horizon – not to mention the return of our favorite HBO show – we thought we’d take a walk back through our top three posts of all time. Today from our Locations of Thrones series is the Northern Ireland shooting location post. Must say we can’t wait until April and we can plunge ourselves into season four. Until then, enjoy! So far, Game of Thrones has been a huge boon for Northern Ireland’s economy, bringing back millions into the country. With more seasons to come, it’s like to continue to bring money in not only from the production itself, but fans inspired to visit out of interest in the show, or in the stunning vistas featured on-screen. Here’s a few locations you might want to put on your Game of Thrones itinerary:
The Paint Hall in Belfast
The production centered at Belfast’s Paint Hall Studio, a historic building in the ‘Titanic Quarter.’ Once the main Harland and Wolff painting hall, it includes a large indoor space and hosts sets like Bran’s bedchamber, a chamber at Castle Black, Winterfell’s feast hall (a replica of the real life hall at Castle Doune in Scotland, where the pilot was shot), the High Hall at the Eyrie, and the sky cells beneath. Though it does not seem that the Paint Hall is open to the public, reports from fansites Winter-is-Coming.net and Westeros.org seem to indicate that driving by during production might net you some interesting sights.
Castle Ward and Audley’s Castle
The Castle Ward estate, likely the area around Audley’s Castle and Strangford Lough, served as the scene for House Stark’s Winterfell, the campsite of the Lannister army, lead by Lord Tywin Lannister and the site of the Young Wolf’s encampment in Episode 8. Open to the public, it was home of the Ward family since the 16th century, with a unique 18th century house. While the entrance side of the building is done in classical style, the opposite side is distinctly Gothic. The duality continue throughout the house, divided through the centre. One of the most complete demesne landscapes to survive in Ireland, its 820 acres includes an exotic sunken garden, paths that wind their way through woodland, and Audley’s Castle on the shores of the Lough. The castle is a 15th century three-story tower house, most commonly put up for lesser lords and gentry, named after its 16th century owner, John Audley. There’s much to see aside from the filming locations on the estate – worth a weekend drive! Visit the site for admission and opening hours, which vary by season.
Redhall Estates, Ballycarry
Several inn scenes, including the scene where Queen Cersei demands the death of Sansa Stark’s direwolf, Lady, were shot at the Redhall Estates, a 16th century country house set in its own traditional parkland. Though the Estate is available for weddings, you likely will not be able to visit unless you’re invited to one – Redhall is still being used as a family home. Must be nice!
Magheramorne is a tiny hamlet of about 75 people, with an old limestone quarry that’s been set for redevelopment, but has seen more action as a film set of late. The Quarry has been the primary location for Castle Black and the Wall for season 1. There’s not much to visit aside from the set, which may be inaccessible, but here’s a great article about turning the quarry into Castle Black with visual FX: http://www.awn.com/articles/article/playing-game-thrones
Tollymore Forest Park was the first state forest park in Northern Ireland, established in 1955. It was the location for what is called the ‘prologue’ scene – when the men of the Night’s Watch come upon the dead wildings and the wights in the first episode. It’s also likely location of several ‘beyond-the-Wall’ scenes. The park was named one of the top 20 British picnic sites in 2000 by the Sunday Times, and it has four walking trails, along with space for campers and tents (for a charge). The Shinma River also flows through the park. Visit the site for charges and park information.
Rowallane Gardens, Saintfield
The production likely has filmed at Rowallane Gardens, and reports seem to indicate that Season 2 will see a return. Created in the mid-1860s by the Reverend John Moore, the garden reflects the natural landscape of the area, with wide displays of shrubs, and several wildflower meadows. It is also home to a natural Rock Garden Wood, with shade-loving plants, and a walled garden with herbaceous plants, shrubs and bulbs. Visit the site for admission prices and opening hours.
Ballymoney has not only been used in Season 1, but Ballintoy Harbour in Ballymoney will be transformed into a setting for Season 2 as well. Debate on Winter is Coming seems to agree that this town’s rugged harbour will probably stand in as Pyke and the Iron Islands, home of Stark ward Theon Greyjoy and the seat of House Greyjoy. While it hasn’t yet been mentioned, TourAbsurd has a fabulous picture of the stunningly creepy (and haunted) Dark Hedges of Ballymoney, which also need to be in Game of Thrones at some point in the future. Aside from show locations, the area boasts a wide variety of outdoor activities, along with a museum, a farm museum, and tons of kid-friendly attractions.
@DocFourFour, intrepid Belfast Game of Thrones extra with a blog called Hurry Up and Wait, pointed out my omission of Shane’s Castle – the site of the Hand’s Tourney, where Gregor Clegane so memorably beheaded a horse. The castle, in Antrim, was first built in 1345 by a member of the O’Neill dynasty of Ulster, and named Edenduffcarrick. Though many expansions were made to the castle over time, most of it was destroyed by fire in 1816, leaving only the fortified esplanade, the cannon and the grand conservatory. There are definitely some interesting tales about both the castle and its owners; chess sets made of bones and a white lady that heralds death. Unfortunately, to go looking for her, you might need to find a gig as an extra – the castle is only available for private parties, special and corporate events; the restaurant by arrangement. Visit the site for contact information.
Belfast Moot with the Brotherhood without Banners
There have now been two annual ‘moots’ in Belfast, held in October, for fans and (now!) viewers to meet George R.R. Martin and – with luck – the cast and crew of Game of Thrones. The reports from the events are glowing, and make us want to try to make our way over to join in the fun! Watch this forum on Westeros.org if you’re interested in meeting with fans in Belfast, or anywhere else: http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/forum/7-brotherhood-without-banners/
Though we haven’t yet had the chance to visit Northern Ireland, we’ve heard much about its beauty from people who have, and it’s well evident on the show. One day we’ll visit – but until then, have you been anywhere on this list, or to Northern Ireland? Or have you been watching Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments!