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Game of Thrones® author George R.R. Martin Visits the Real-World Westeros

September 3, 2019 Visit Europe No Comments Email Email

As one of the key filming locations for the hit HBO show, Northern Ireland is a place where fantasy comes to life. You can imagine White Walkers roaming the forests, direwolves howling in the night and dragons soaring overheard. “Seeing Game of Thrones® come alive here in Northern Ireland was a unique thrill. My mind is still boggled, a little, by it.” said author of the series George R.R. Martin, on a recent visit. “The fact that Game of Thrones® has had this impact on Northern Ireland has been profound as well… it’s a pretty heady feeling.”

Martin visited the island of Ireland in August to accept an International Recognition Award as part of this year’s Irish Book Awards, but made sure to take a trip north to Castle Ward in County Down, where many of the key Game of Thrones® scenes were filmed.

“This is only the second time I’ve visited Castle Ward. It’s like Winterfell is coming to life here. So, that’s a little surreal and a little mind-boggling.” he explained. “It’s the crucial scene that drives the entire book with Bran’s fall. When Bran sees Jaime and Cersei, Jaime shoves him out the window and says… ‘The things I do for love.’ That’s a powerful moment, I think, in the television show and certainly in the books.”

All across Northern Ireland, the forests, mountains and moorlands were transformed into the scenic backdrops for the show’s most memorable moments. The lush Riverlands lie side-by-side with the Iron Islands, the Dothraki Sea and Winterfell are neighbours, and you never know when you might come upon a direwolf. Follow the stories of of the Seven Kingdoms, in Game of Thrones® Territory.

Game of Thrones locations in Ireland

Cushendun Caves | A Cove in the Stormlands
The Cushendun Caves are over 400 million years old. Found along the Antrim coastline, near the cosy village of Cushendun, they look out over the stony beach and the turbulent sea. In Westeros, these caves are the site of a dark crime. This is where Melisandre summons her shadowy demon beneath Renly’s Camp, in order to murder Stannis’ brother in the name of the Lord of Light.

Inch Abbey | Robb Stark’s Camp, Riverrun
Inch Abbey has quite the history – not only is it a beautiful Cistercian Abbey founded in 1180, it’s also where the War of the Five Kings began. The houses of the North took up the cry of “the King in the North!” after learning of Ned Stark’s death, spurring his son Robb on to war.

Binevenagh | The Dothraki Grasslands
Keep your eyes peeled – dragons abound in Binevenagh! This mountain is where Daenerys and her dragon Drogon find refuge in the Dothraki Grasslands after they flee the fighting pits of Meereen. The mountain itself marks the very edge of the Antrim plateau, looking out over County Armagh and County Londonderry. Walk the trail, and take in unparalleled panoramic views that stretch for miles – on clear days, you can even make out the west coast of Scotland in the distance.

Downhill Beach | Dragonstone
Downhill Beach is a stretch of spotless white sands, overlooked by Mussenden Temple, a replica of the Temple of Vesta in Rome. Here, tourists and locals alike converge to watch surfers take on the waves. But this immaculate beach has a darker side – this is where Stannis Baratheon rejects the seven old gods of Westeros. He is proclaimed as the champion of the Lord of Light by Melisandre and enters Dragonstone into the War of the Five Kings.

Castle Ward | Winterfell
Since the 16th century, the Ward family have called Castle Ward home. But in the Seven Kingdoms, this sprawling demesne has another name – Winterfell, ancestral home of House Stark. Here, you can practice archery in the same spot as Jon Snow, model some authentic Westeros attire and feast on a lavish medieval banquet inspired by the show.

Ballintoy | Lordsport Harbour & Pyke
Set sail across the seas, and prepare to come into contact with some of the most fearsome people in Westeros. Ballintoy Harbour, a picturesque port nearby the village of Ballintoy, is also known as Pyke – the home of the infamous Ironborn. This is where Theon Greyjoy arrives in the capital of Lordsport after his many years away as Ned Stark’s vassal. Nearby, Ballintoy Beach is where Euron Greyjoy is drowned to become the king of the Iron Islands.

Tollymore Forest | Lands around Winterfell
Tollymore Forest Park is home to magnificent redwoods, centuries-old stone structures and the forbidding White Walkers. Known as the Haunted Forest in Westeros, this expanse of wild woodland is where we first came face-to-face with the cold-blooded creatures. It’s also where the Starks encountered their newborn direwolves for the first time. Seek out treasures of your own in the mossy glow of these ancient trees – but be on the lookout for any blue eyes watching you from the gloom…

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