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Game of Thrones Attracting Huge Numbers to Northern Ireland

April 9, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

Tourism Ireland is carving out new markets and creating new tourism products to meet the demand of increased visitation as a result of the phenomenal popularity of Game of Thrones.

Carice van Houten as Mellisandre & Stephen Dillane as Stannis Baratheon ...As the Season Four release of the medieval fantasy series Game of Thrones continues, Northern Ireland braces for its latest influx of tourists – set jetters.  The series which is based on George R.R. Martin’s best-selling novels and broadcast in more than 70 countries, has made some of Ireland’s stunning locations must-see attractions for dedicated fans.

Northern Ireland is host to most of the fantastical locations featured in Game of Thrones from its pilot through to Season 4.  According to Michelle Fairley (Lady Catelyn Stark), ‘The Causeway Coast and Glens looked amazing on film and suited Game of Thrones with the rugged, barren and at times, wild backdrops.”

Northern Ireland and in particular the Causeway Coast and Glens tourism body are capitalising on the new interest and are creating numerous products and tailoring existing products in order to enable consumers to see the Westeros landscape for themselves.

An easy three-day self-drive itinerary as well as a new map has been created by Causeway Coast and Glens tourism and a PDF can be found on the website detailing exact Game of Thrones locations and highlights along the way.  For true fans wanting to have a Game of Thrones experience, step back in time with an archery session at the home of Winterfell (Castle Ward).  And if you are really hoping to get all the inside details from the set, a tour with one of the extras from the program is the way to go.   Signage is being placed in key locations from the series, to make self-touring easy and can currently be found at Ballintoy Harbour with Inch Abbey, River Quoile and other locations to follow.

Key Northern Ireland Game of Thrones locations are easy to access for fans and include:

  • Castle Ward overlooking Strangford Lough, County Down is more familiar as Winterfell and is featured when King Robert Barratheon arrives at Winterfell.
  • The ruined Shane’s Castle near Randalstown in County Antrim, was where Ned Stark was chained up (doubled as Kings Landing) and The Hand’s Tournament took place.
  • The haunting avenue of trees near Armoy known as The Dark Hedges, County Antrim, is where Arya Stark escaped from King’s Landing.
  • Cushendun Caves, County Antrim, where sorceress Melisandre births a shadow baby.
  • The magnificent Murlough Bay is used for the Iron Islands, where Theon Greyjoy and his sister Asha ride on horseback and where actress Michelle Fairley used to swim as a child.
  • Ballintoy Harbour, Antrim is where Theon Greyjoy sets foot back on the Iron Islands and where he later admires his new ship and crew.
  • Inch Abbey on the River Quoile, County Down, provided the backdrop for Walder Frey’s twin castles in The Riverlands, where Catelyn Stark learns of her husband’s fate and vows revenge.

According to Diane Butler, Manager of Tourism Ireland, Australia & New Zealand, television and film fans are highly motivated to visit production locations and have a significant impact on boosting the economy.  “We are thrilled Game of Thrones is able to expose the beauty and history of Northern Island to a global audience, giving so many people the chance to see the region in a fresh light”.

Tourism Ireland is planning to leverage the cinematic landscape, exciting new tourism product and the sophisticated studios in Belfast through an integrated marketing communications campaign to new channels and new audiences.

“We are noticing a significant boost in visitation as Game of Thrones fans search out their very own land of fire and ice beyond the screens,” she said.  “According to Tourism Ireland, at the end of Series Three, Game of Thrones is estimated to have generated in the region of £65 million (AUD$123 million) for the local economy.”

“Northern Ireland is a superb place to film because you find spectacular beauty within a very quick car drive from Belfast” said Robert Boake, Location Manager Game of Thrones Season Two.

Belfast is an ideal starting point for all things Game of Thrones.  The city drew massive crowds in June 2013 for the HBO Game of Thrones exhibition (www.gotexhibitionbelfast.com/gotexhibition) which has since toured the world but due to its popularity will be returning to Belfast this year. The exhibition saw 18,000 visitors over 10 days. 12,500 tickets to the exhibition were distributed in advance of the event and tickets sold out in one day. Over 30 per cent of tickets were sold to out of state visitors from as far as Australia, South America, and Europe.

In the Game of Thrones, kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars and noble men vie for power in the bloody struggle for the Iron Throne.  Betrayal, lust, intrigue and supernatural forces shake the four corners of the Kingdom.  The series takes the viewer from Iceland to Morocco and Croatia but the majority of scenes are filmed in Northern Ireland countryside and in the Titanic Studios in Belfast.

David Benioff, Executive Producer and Writer on Game of Thrones said, “I remember when we were scouting other countries, they just didn’t look right, there is something, it’s hard to put your finger on, but they felt a little too, new. You really need to believe you’re in a space that has been there for thousands of years and you get that in the Irish forests”.

Season Four will no doubt take fans on yet another exciting journey which can then be replicated in Northern Ireland in locations steeped in local myth and legend, where ancient warriors walked long before leading men.

Game of Thrones Season 4 is currently screened only on Foxtel’s Showcase channel.

For more information on Northern Ireland and Game of Thrones visit  www.ireland.com/gameofthrones and http://www.causewaycoastandglens.com/Game-of-Thrones-Itinerary.T1163.aspx

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