A trip to the Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland is one of the most incredible experiences a fan can have. According to Game of Thrones Tours, HBO considered no less than 14 countries before they chose Northern Ireland as the principal filming location for the award-winning series. And they chose well. They have captured some of our earth’s most breathtaking landscapes alongside dramatic castles, caves, and vistas known as the Causeway Coastal Route.
The route is rated as one of the world’s top five road trips. It stretches 120 miles from Belfast Lough to Lough Foyle and links the villages of Glenarm, Carnlough, Cushendall, and Cushendun.
This was the second time I was invited to Belfast to explore this region and its Seven Kingdoms. I made this trip back in 2014 to explore the Game of Thrones filming locations for seasons 1-4. It was incredible then too, but there has certainly been some sophistication of the tour since then. This time I was joined by my Geek Girl Travel partner in crime Emma Loggins (Fanbolt.com, the CW Couch Up with Emma, Walker Stalker).
Everything You Need to Know About Exploring the Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Northern Ireland
The first and possibly most important thing you should know is that both the Tourism Ireland and Discover Northern Ireland websites are going to be your best friend on this adventure. These are Ireland’s and Northern Ireland’s official tourism authorities on all things travel. They do a lovely job in helping you plan your trip. There is also a GOT filming locations App for Android and iOS.
While the hit TV series is filmed all over the world and known for its remarkably breathtaking filming locations, Belfast is the Official Game of Thrones Territory. Its main soundstage, Titanic Studios, is located in Belfast. There is no other place in the world which caters to GOT fans the way Northern Ireland does.
Follow the three-eyed raven through Northern Ireland, where crumbling castles and ancient landscapes become key Seven Kingdoms filming locations in Game of Thrones® – Ireland.com
Traveling to Northern Ireland to Game of Thrones Territory
Getting There and Where to Stay
You’ll want to get the best flight opportunities to Belfast. You can learn more about cheap flights here. Once you’re in Belfast there are a few places I can personally recommend. The last place I stayed at was the Bullitt Hotel. This trendy boutique hotel is located in the heart of Belfast and is great for those looking for a nightlife experience. Its rooms are very small, but clean and nicely decorated. Across the street is the Malmaison Hotel with a much more chic glam feeling and larger rooms.
Belfast tip: There is a really good and somewhat trendy restaurant next to the Bullitt Hotel called Bootleggers. I highly recommend giving it a try. I found it funny that they were named after American moonshine and even had mason jars with Georgia labels (I live in Atlanta).
Getting Around Belfast and to the Filming Locations
Most everything in Belfast can be done on foot. You can grab a Lyft to some key places in town like the Titanic Musem (right next to Titanic Studios). You can do the Game of Thrones filming locations experience on your own but you’ll have to rent a car. Tourism Ireland offers a great map and three-day itinerary here.
Taking a Guided Tour
If you’re not so hot on driving in the UK, you might feel more comfortable getting a tour guide. There are a variety of tours out there, but in my experience, the best tour is Winterfell Tours. Not only because they know the region well, but because they have worked beside the production. You’ll get to see actual footage of the scenes you’re visiting and that makes the experience quite different. I’ve experienced it first hand twice and it is amazing.
This is one of those videos you can take at face value. Northern Ireland is very magical with its craggy cliffs, dark mossy forests, ancient castles and unique landscapes. One trip to this fantastic edge of the world will undoubtedly leave you shrouded in awe and inspiration. There is no question why HBO chose Belfast and Northern Ireland to be home to the Game of Thrones filming locations.
Experiencing the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros in Northern Ireland
There is no other place in the world where you can visit as many parts of the Seven Kingdoms as Northern Ireland. Each location has an experience of its own. From its serene and peaceful landscapes to donning HBO branded Game of Thrones cloaks and even taking archery lessons at a film location, it’s memorable. Here are the experiences I’ve had broken down:
Pub hop to the best bars in Belfast where cast and crew regularly visit during filming. Take a picture with Titanic Studios in the background (cause that’s about as close as you’re going to get) but still uber cool. You can also check out the Titanic Museum because history.
Canal Steps in Braavos
The Canal at Carnlough Harbour is where Arya Stark was repeatedly stabbed by the Waif. Arya then jumps into the freezing water (it’s legit pretty cold) to escape and crawls up the steps into the streets of Braavos. It was a very “jump at you” kind of experience to visit this location. In part because it was so fresh in my memory (S6E7 The Broken Man), but also because the steps were very prominent in the scene.
Melisandre’s Shadow Baby
Tucked away on an elevated beach in the Village of Cushendun are the Cushendun Caves. This cove in the Stormlands is where the unforgettable scene (S2E4 Garden of Bones) between Melisandre and Davos takes place. Here she had the shadow baby that ultimately kills Renly.
The Stormlands & Nagga’s Hill, Oak Wyk
Larrybane is one of the most scenic locations along the Causeway Coast. It is home to massive sea walls which tower over turquoise waters that violently beat against an ice aged sea cave. It’s also where Brienne beat Ser Loras in a tournament. Where she is given a place in Renly’s Kingsguard. And where Renly swore to Lady Stark he would avenge Ned Stark’s death (S2E3 What is Dead May Never Die). Later on (S2E5 The Ghost of Harrenhal) it’s where Renly meets his fate by Melisandre’s shadow baby. Where Margaery confides to Littlefinger that she desired to be “the queen”. And where Davos tries to tell Stannis about the shadow baby.
Off the tour tip: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, a famous tourism site, sits just to the side of the Larrybane film location. It’s an incredible view and will give you a visceral understanding of the coastal waters beneath you. There is also a charming little Irish cottage restaurant called “The Red Door” which I’ve had the pleasure of visiting twice now. If you’re looking for an authentic Irish dish, I highly recommend the fish chowder.
Pyke, the Iron Islands, and Dragonstone
A very recognizable location, Ballintoy Harbour has been the set of five episodes across three seasons and has served as Pyke, the Iron Islands and part of Dragonstone in S2E2 The Night Lands, S2E3 What is Dead May Never Die, S4E2 The Lion and the Rose, S6E2 Home, and S6E5 The Door. Here are some key points about the location; Iron Islands, the funeral scene in Home, the drowning and rebirth of Euron, Yara and Theon’s escape in The Door, Theon’s baptismal in What is Dead May Never Die, Pyke.
This picturesque natural phenomenon is known as the Dark Hedges. It’s where Arya Stark fled King’s Landing dressed as a boy accompanied by Yoren, Gendry and Hot Pie (S2E1 The North Remembers). It’s also home to a spirit known as “The Grey Lady” who is said to appear at dusk amongst the trees.
Photo tip: The best angle to take the trees at is from the top of the hill where the official GOT signage is.
Off the tour tip: I highly recommend a detour to Giant’s Causeway. This natural phenomenon is best experienced late in the afternoon when the crowds are thin. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the remarkable remains of a volcanic eruption. It’s not to be missed.
Coast of Dorne
A perfect spot to arrive to at the end of your day is Portstewart Strand. Filmed as the Coast of Dorne, from its beaches you can get views of Inishowen and Mussenden Temple. This location can be remembered from S5E4 Sons of the Harpy when Ser Bronn and Jaime Lannister arrive at the coast of Dorne where they fight and kill the Dornish soldiers. Also a great spot for a sunset.
Off the tour tip: If you’re hungry, Harry’s Shack has incredible seafood and giant windows which you can enjoy the sunset from.
Direwolves and White Walkers
Perhaps one of the most magical forests I’ve ever seen is the Tollymore Forest. It’s the kind of place where bright green moss wraps around towering trees and where it’s always dark and mysterious. It’s also where you’ll be taken back to S1E1 Winter is Coming when Ned Stark, his sons Robb, Bran and Jon Snow and Theon Greyjoy stop after returning from Will’s execution. Here they come upon a dead stag and a mauled mother direwolf. Her cubs, as many as there are Stark children, are taken back to Winterfell. This is also where the Night’s Watch deserter discovers the haunted forest and discovers dismembered Wilding bodies.
In my opinion, one of the most exciting of all the Game of Thrones filming locations is Castle Ward. (Home to Winterfell and where we are introduced to key characters in S1E1 Winter is Coming). Castle Ward is a 16th-century tower that sits on 820 walled acres of gardens and woodland. It’s also the exterior of where Bran falls from a window, arguably one of the most memorable scenes in the series.
But your experience doesn’t stop at a pretty property and an infamous tower. Here you’ll get to meet with the great folks at Winterfell Tours who will get you into costume and teach you a thing or two about archery with their official Game of Thrones Experience.
The Twins & The Red Wedding
Another unforgettable spot among the many Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland is the where the Red Wedding was filmed. Known for hundreds of years as Audley’s Castle, the tower is one of “the Twins”, the other being CG. Scenes filmed here are; Ned’s picnic, Robb’s camp, where Robb Stark meets Talisa, the Twins, where Brienne confronts the Stark men, where Alton Lannister is imprisoned with Jamie, the Baelor Battlefield and the Lannister camp (S2E4 Garden of Bones).
Take all your comic cons, all your geek toy hoarding, all your binge watching and social sharing, then smush them all together into a big ball of epic. That’s what it’s like to find yourself exploring Game of Thrones Territory. It’s true when people tell you Ireland is beautiful in every stretch, cave, and corner, it’s all true. There is no other fandom experience that I have had, which is filled with as much geekdom as this. None. Period.
If you experienced the Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland or want to know more, share your thoughts in the comments below And follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.