Ruling kings, knights, magic and dragons; come on, this is all the stuff of fantasy. But is it? Can you believe that a whole load of those mind-bending Game of Thrones locations actually exist – and somewhere as easily accessible as Ireland.
No, there’s no slogging for days through the wilderness required here (looking at you, Lord of the Rings). It’s all right there, ready to see and every bit as incredible as they are on the screen. Here’s a selection of the best settings for some of the dramatic scenes in one of the biggest shows of all time. So here is it where Game of thrones was filmed. You will find out that it is actually possible to visit some of those places.
Game of thrones locations
Winterfell of House Stark
Winterfell may have been burnt to the ground and the Starks scattered to the four winds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go and pay homage to your favourite House and mine. Located at Castle Ward, Strangford, County Down in Northern Ireland, this is one of the most complete pre-existing sets used on the Game of Thrones series.
Although the 18th-century manor house is a little too modern for the medievalesque, dark fantasy world of political game-playing and bloody backstabbing, its castle tower, thick stone walls and arches are ideal. Chuck in a little CGI to fill in the background and you have the perfect fortress of the north.
Pyke of House Greyjoy
The old medieval ruins of Dunluce Castle are pretty cool to behold, perched on those high, rocky cliffs. Even in its long uninhabited state, it’s pretty imposing – so just think how it would have looked as a fully functional fort. Both its size and its location make it the perfect site for exterior shots of the Greyjoys’ seat of power.
They are always presented as a fairly rough and ready house, those Greyjoys; quasi-pirates with little time for ‘refined’ ways, even of the hardly eloquent northern folk from Winterfell, so the ruins are kind of perfect. Still, it requires a little bit of CGI to fill in the gaps and create those daunting pillars of rock that hold up the outer keeps.
Dragonstone of House Baratheon (formerly of House Targaryen)
Unfortunately Stannis Baratheon’s absolutely awesome, gothic style castle doesn’t actually exist. Rather it’s constructed completely by those genius CGI folks. Still, its location can be found at Downhill Strand. With its seemingly endless beach and dramatic and towering cliffs, it’s on these sands that Melisandre burnt the seven Idols of Westeros as an offering to the God of Light. You’ll no doubt recognise the Mussenden Temple that sits atop the cliffs.
Riverrun of House Tully
A prettier castle than the rest of the selection, the real seat of House Tully can be found found in County Armagh at Gosford Castle. Although it was built in the comparatively modern 1819, its Norman revival style of architecture means slots in perfectly with the Game of Thrones universe – plus it’s still actually standing, which is nice. Just means they don’t need quite so much computer animation.
Beric Dondarrion’s hideout, House Dondarrion (now The Brotherhood without Banners)
Although he was slain by The Mountain, Gregor Clegane, that didn’t actually leave him dead. Well, it did, but he was brought back to life by Thoros of Myr, formed a gang of reprobates and started raiding Lannister armies – all good.
Being dead, he lost his former lands in Blackhaven, but no worries because he found this pretty ace little cave, known in real life as the Boho Caves in County Fermanagh. Unfortunately, his luck with the Cleganes hasn’t got any better since being resurrected. He was slain again by Gregor’s brother, The Hound, right in this spot. No worries though, because he was brought back again, by the good Red Priest. Man, if only we all had so many chances.
Ah, young love – the first meeting place of Khal Drogo and Khaleesi. Yeah, OK, we all know it wasn’t that sweet at first. Still, they got better at it all in the end. In fact, they were so in love that Khaleesi traded the life of their unborn baby for Drogo resurrection, albeit as a zombified version – unknowingly of course – which she then killed, again. And it all started, right here, in the Shillanavogy Valley in County Antrim.
The Haunted Forest
The wooded area that surrounds the castle of Winterfell, it’s probably best remembered for being the place the Stark children came across their dire wolves. Although we all love Ned, he wasn’t all too keen on taking in the animals at first, figuring rather to kill them. But thankfully good old Jon Snow stood up for them and the rest is history (for all the ups and downs).
On this side of reality, The Haunted Forest is known as Tollymore Forest Park. It was also used to film the scene where Theon Greyjoy flees the House of Bolton, only to be re-captured by Ramsey Snow and… yeah, his thing cut off… ow.
Robb Stark’s camp during the War of the Five Kings
The moment that dashed all our hopes and dreams. Robb was doing so well, soundly thrashing the Lannisters in every battle they engaged him in, steadily making his way to King’s Landing. Then he met Talisa and broke his promise to Walder Frey, triggering a chain of events that lead to the Red Wedding. I still tear up over that.
Oh well, Talisa was worth it. You can’t go through life wondering what might have been, it’s just not healthy, even for a king. Though I guess being decapitated and wearing the head of your dire wolf isn’t exactly going to leave you in tip top shape either.
Anyway, you can see the spot where all this started at Audley’s Field near Castle Ward in County Down.
Lordsport, the Iron Islands
So this is where Theon Greyjoy arrives home to the Iron Islands and almost immediately hits on his sister, Asha, the dirty beggar. In real life, Lordsport is Ballintoy, a picturesque little fishing port that needed little work for the series. It’s incredibly beautiful (as is the surrounding area) and well worth a look.
The Dark Hedges
Being such an unbelievably cool setting, it’s a shame they only filmed a single scene here. You’ll probably remember it from Arya Stark’s escape from King’s Landing with Gendry and Hot Pie as they are carted off to join the Knight’s Watch.
In real life it’s an incredible looking corridor formed from arching beech trees. It’s a natural favourite for photographers, who come to capture the sight in different weather, and also a popular wedding photo spot.
Even if you’re not a Game of Thrones fanatic, these are some pretty incredible sights. After all, they were picked for a reason, and each live up to the dramatic scenes they served. In other words, if you aren’t a fan, but know someone who is dying to go, go with them, you’ll still love it.
Want to learn more about the Game of Thrones locations and even visit the studio? Well you’ll find all the information you need on Ireland.com.
Fancy making your own Game of Thrones pilgrimage? Check out all our awesome hostels in Northern Ireland on Hostelworld.
Have you seen any other parts of Westeros we’ve missed out? Tell us about them in the comments…