Geek Girl Travel Guide: ‘Game of Thrones’ Filming Locations in Northern Ireland
Are you ready to completely geek out?! Because touring Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland will result in just that. The hit series has caused a huge boost to the tourism industry and it’s not hard to understand why with beautiful forests, scenic mountains and extensive areas of moor. Simply put, there’s no place in the world which indulges Game of Thrones fans in the way that Northern Ireland does.
Rated as one of the worlds top five road trips, the Causeway Coastal Route extends 120 miles from Belfast Lough to Lough Foyle – and it boosts stunning castles, epic panoramas, and dramatic drives. This route includes several quaint coastal villages of Glenarm, Carnlough, Cushendall and Cushendun.
The Game of Thrones doors are also must-see locations in Northern Ireland. What are the Game of Thrones doors? In January 2016, one of the filming locations known as the Dark Hedges (Kingsroad to the people of Westeros) got hit by the storm Gertrude. Two trees fell during the storm, and they were carved into 10 amazingly designed doors – which each tell the story of a Game of Thrones Season 6 episode. These doors are on display all around Northern Ireland in different pubs, cafes, and inns which are near iconic filming locations for the series.
I was able to visit the beautiful countryside courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland, and I was in ultimate geek girl heaven with my travel partner in-crime, Christa Thompson (The Fairytale Traveler). This was our second Geek Girl Travel adventure, and one that I will never forget.
Are you ready? Depart from Belfast with me for an epic exploration of Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland – and the Game of Thrones doors!
Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Northern Ireland
Each of the Game of Thrones filming locations along the Causeway Coast and Glens offer fans a sign, which provides information and images to detail out the relevant scenes that were filmed at the location. It’s super helpful to jog your memory if you can’t remember exactly how to reenact the scene at each location!
Ballygally Castle Hotel
Ballygally Castle, Coast Road, Ballygally, Co. Antrim BT40 2QZ
The first stop on our Game of Thrones filming locations road trip was Ballygally castle. This beautiful stop in County Antrim is the proud home of Door 9 (which depicts the famous battle between House Stark and House Bolton – with the crests of House Bolton and House Stark, Ramsey Bolton’s hungry dogs and Winterfell Castle all adorning the door).
The 17th century castle itself is stunning as it overlooks the golden sands of Ballygally Bay along the Irish Sea. And if you’re into haunted locations – this is a haunted castle! So stay a night if you can and enjoy their Game of Thrones Afternoon Tea – it’s well worth it!
Braavos – Canal
Just a hop, skip and a jump north of Ballygally Castle is a must-stop at photo opportunity at Carnlough Harbour.
Season 6, Episode 7 – The Broken Man
After refusing to carry out the orders to assassinate Lady Crane, Arya Stark forgoes any thoughts of becoming one of the Faceless Men and negotiates passage to Westeros with a couple of traders. As she stands admiring the Titan of Braavos, she is approached by an old woman who is quickly revealed to be the Waif. Having been given the go-ahead by Jaqen H’ghar to kill Arya, the Waif repeatedly stabs Arya who only manages to escape by jumping off the bridge into the river. She surfaces, gasping, and crawls up the steps into the streets of Braavos. The harbour steps in the pretty coastal town of Carnlough were used for this short scene when Arya resurfaces.
And if you’re traveling with non-Game of Thrones fans – this area still offers amazing opportunities for history nerds as well! The Londonderry Arms Hotel (20 Harbour Road, Carnlough, Co Antrim BT44 0EU) situated in the village was built in 1848 as a coaching inn by Frances Anne Vane Tempest, Marchioness of Londonderry, great grandmother of Winston Churchill. This location also offers an amazing tea/coffee stop as well.
If you’re looking for an amazing tea/coffee stop along this route, definitely stop by the Londonderry Arms Hotel slightly before this photo stop!
A Cove in the Stormlands
This was one of my favorite stops – it’s absolutely breathtaking! The village of Cushendun stands on an elevated beach at the outflow of the Glendun and Glencorp valleys and at the mouth of the River Dun. Centuries before this genteel village was built, Cushendun was a safe landing place and harbour for the frequent travelers between Ireland and Scotland. The caves, formed over 400 million years ago, are easily accessible by foot along the coast from the village.
Season 2, Episode 4 – Garden of Bones
Following a parley between the brothers, where Stannis Baratheon fails in his attempt to get Renly to accept him as the true King, Stannis orders Davos Seaworth to smuggle Melisandre ashore to a cove situated below Renly’s camp. There, Davos watches in horror as the red priestess gives birth to the shadow creature which ultimately kills Renly.
Next to the Cushendun Caves is Mary McBride’s pub (once one of the smallest bars in Ireland) where you will see one of the famous Game of Thrones Door 8 (which depicts the events of Braavos – featuring the Faceless Man coin that first brought Arya to the free city. One could even surmise door 8 actually tells the story of Arya’s journey so far – the helmets of her former foes surrounding her most recent enemy).
The Stormlands & Nagga’s Hill, Old Wyk
Protected by Sheep Island and a shallow reef, Larrybane Bay is one of the most scenic locations along the Causeway Coast. There is a unique and unusual sea cave (with fine pillars, stalactites and stalagmites) beneath the limestone cliffs, which was formed shortly after the last ice age when the sea levels were much higher than they are today.
Season 2, Episode 3 – What is Dead May Never Die
This filming location was used for Renly Baratheon’s camp in the Stormlands.
Renly Baratheon and his Queen, Margaery Tyrell, watch a tourney where her brother Ser Loras Tyrell is bested by an unknown knight. Revealed as Brienne of Tarth, who has joined the forces of King Renly in the War of the Five Kings, she is granted her wish to be named to Renly’s Kingsguard, despite her gender and consequent lack of knighthood. Lady Catelyn Stark arrives in the camp to negotiate an alliance between Renly and her son, Robb Stark, the King of the North.
Season 6, Episode 5 – The Door
A Kingsmoot is held to decide the new ruler of the Iron Islands and Yara Greyjoy is the first to declare for the Salt Throne. Yara’s claim to the Throne is challenged by an Ironborn man who believes that a woman is not suitable to rule. Instead, he proclaims it should be her brother Theon Greyjoy, now that he has returned home. However, Theon supports his sister and urges the islanders to accept her as their Queen, Euron Greyjoy joins the gathering to make his case. Openly deriding both Theon and Yara, he wins the day by asserting his intention is to build a huge fleet, sail the Narrow Sea, marry Daenerys Targaryen and bring her and her dragons back to Westeros.
This location was also used for a Vanity Fair cover photoshoot with the cast.
The Red Door
14a Harbour Road, Ballintoy
The Red Door is a traditional Irish cottage with real turf fire – and it is just down the road from the previous location. They provide an amazing lunch and dinner menu (consisting of Traditional Irish Fayre and a wide range of dishes to suit anyone’s tastes).
Lordsport Harbour & Pyke
Ballintoy is an inviting village on the coast of County Antrim with the small fishing harbor.
Season 2, Episode 2 – The Night Lands
Theon Greyjoy has sworn allegiance to Robb and urges him to seek an alliance with Theon’s father, Balon Greyjoy. Theon reasons that Robb needs a fleet to attack King’s Landing and is confident that Balon will listen to him. Having boasted to the ship’s captain’s daughter of his important standing and how he will be welcomed back home, Theon is sorely disappointed at the lack of reception for his return as he sails into Lordsport Harbour.
Ballintoy Harbour on the Causeway Coast has become synonymous with Pyke and the Iron Islands and was first used for these scenes at this location.
Season 2, Episode 3 – What is Dead May Never Die
The nearby beach was also used for the filming location in the Iron Islands when Theon reaffirms his loyalty to his family by being baptized into the religion of the Drowned God.
Season 4, Episode 2 – The Lion and the Rose
Part of the beach to the left of the harbor was used for Dragonstone including the scene in this episode, when Melisandre presides over the burning of several of Stannis’s bannermen who have refused to cease their open worship of The Seven.
Season 6, Episode 2 – Home / Episode 5: The Door
Ballintoy Beach was used for the funeral scene in this episode and for the drowning and rebirth of Euron and Yara and Theon’s escape in episode 5: The Door.
The Dark Hedges
This was my favorite location. It’s one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland and a popular attraction for tourists from across the world. This beautiful road of beech trees was planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family with the intention of impressing visitors as they approached the entrance to the Gracehill House. Hundreds of years later, the trees still majestically stand and have become known as the Dark Hedges. And there’s even a ghostly presence that is said to appear at dusk amongst the trees – The Grey Lady (a lost spirit from a long abandoned graveyard).
Season 2, Episode 1 – The North Remembers
Following the death of her father, Ned Stark, Arya escapes King’s Landing disguised as a boy. Traveling on the Kingsroad in the back of a cart along with Yoren, Gendry and Hot Pie, all new recruits for the Night’s Watch, Arya starts her long and arduous journey north.
This scene was filmed at the picturesque Dark Hedges.
141 Ballinlea Rd, Stranocum, Ballymoney BT53 8PX
At the Gracehill House in Stranocum, County Antrim, you’ll find the 7th Door (This door features the signs of the recently deceased Three-Eyed Raven. You’ll also spot the Stark Direwolf sigil, a beech tree leaf hidden inside a crown – which perhaps referencing the specific trees from the Kingsroad itself).
60 Causeway Road, Bushmills, Co Antrim BT57 8SU
Alright, so Game Of Thrones didn’t film here, but it’s an absolute beauty of an attraction and a must-see stop along the Causeway Coastal Route. Dedicate at least 2 hours for this, so that you can thoroughly explore the Visitor Center and the gift shop – and then head down the structures.
About Giant’s Causeway
Formed over 60 million years ago, when molten lava cooled suddenly on contact with water, the Giant’s Causeway is an awe-inspiring landscape of mostly hexagonal basalt columns. Look out for the distinctive formations of the Camel, the Wishing Chair and the Harp. The £18 million Visitor Centre is an innovative, state-of-the-art facility which rises out of the landscape; with walls of glass, soaring basalt columns and sloping, grassed roof, the energy efficient building harmonies with the surrounding terrain while providing a range of visitor amenities: interactive exhibition, outdoor audio guides, tourist information, bureau de change, gift shop, refreshments.
Coast of Dorne
The golden sands and majestic dunes of Portstewart Strand lies between the mouth of the River Bann and Portstewart town. It’s an area of natural beauty and scientific intrigue which is owned and managed by the National Trust.
Season 5, Episode 4 – Sons of the Harpy
Cersei Lannister has despatched her brother, Jaime, to bring his ‘niece’ Myrcella back from Dorne to King’s Landing. Having recruited Ser Bronn of the Blackwater on his mission, the pair arrive on the coast of Dorne where they are discovered by Dornish soldiers; a fight ensures and the Dornish are killed. Although Jaime and Bronn think they have arrived undetected in Dorne, Ellaria Sand and Oberyn Martell’s daughters, the Sand Snakes, have learned of their arrival from the merchant captain who smuggled Jaime and Bronn ashore. Meeting secretly on the beach, Ellaria and the sisters vow vengeance and plan to start a war with the Lannisters.
The sweeping sands and dunes of Portstewart Strand on the North Atlantic coast were used for these scenes.
Portstewart Strand, Portstewart
If you’re looking for a dinner spot on your road trip, this is a delicious location! It’s a beach shack right on the sand which offers stunning views and fresh seafood from local boats. There’s an outside bar, coffee, and gelato are also offered – and they also offer breakfast on the weekends.
Lands around Winterfell
There are four way-marked trails of varying lengths which take fans on a tour of the park’s most beautiful areas. These trails follow a circular route and you’ll find an informative sign in the main park with additional information.
Oak wood from Tollymore Forest was the preferred material for the interiors of the White Star Liners including the Titanic – which was built in Belfast (more details at the bottom of this article on the birthplace of the Titanic which you can also visit while in Belfast). Furthermore, this forest, having been established in 1955, was the first state park in Norther Ireland. It covers 1600-acres and boasts a plethora of walking trails that can be conquered with the relaxing sound of the Shimna River to accompany you.
Season 1 Episode 1: Winter Is Coming
Ned Stark, his sons Robb, Bran and Jon and Theon Greyjoy are returning from Will’s execution, when they find a dead stag which has gored a female direwolf. She had given birth to pups, all of which huddle by their mother’s corpse. The direwolf is the symbol of House Stark and finding there are as many pups as there are Stark children, they take the pups back to Winterfell – one each for Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon Stark – and Jon Snow.
Parnell Bridge within Tollymore Forest at the foothills of the Mourne Mountains was the location used for filming these scenes, as well as being the location for the opening scenes of the show where the deserter from the Night’s Watch rides through the Haunted Forest and makes a grisly discovery of dismembered Wildling bodies.
Robb Stark’s Camp, Riverrun
The remains of this Cistercian Abbey (which was founded in 1180 by John de Courcy) are extensive. The location is beautiful and right beside the River Quoile – offering distant views towards de Courcy’s Cathedral town of Downpatrick.
Season 1 Episode 10: Fire and Blood
Joffrey is on the throne and has summoned Robb Stark to pay him fealty. Ignoring the King’s demand and knowing his father has been arrested in King’s Landing, Robb calls his bannermen and marches the Stark forces to war against the Lannisters. Camped near Riverrun, the Stark army wins the Battle of the Whispering Wood and Robb takes Jaime Lannister prisoner. His mother Catelyn arrives at the camp to relay the news that his father, Ned, has been executed at King’s Landing. The Houses of the North and the Riverlands rally to Robb and take up the cry, ‘the King in the North!’ The War of the Five Kings begins.
This episode used Inch Abbey as Robb Stark’s camp at Riverrun.
Winterfell – Downpatrick Road, Strangford, Co Down BT30 7BA
If you’re not able to do any other location, make time for this one – because it’s epic! Castle Ward has been home to the Ward family since the 16th century, and the 18th century mansion house on the property is also a must-see as it is an unique blend of classical and gothic architectural styles. It’s a National Trust property, and it is open year-round.
Castle Ward is also home to the Winterfell Tours – where you can take to the bow and arrow just like Ramsay Bolton’s showdown in the infamous Battle of the Bastards. You can also enjoy a fascinating behind the scenes audio-visual video (see how all the special effects from the series made the Winterfell you saw on screen), and you can even try on replica medieval costumes and props for truly immersive experience.
Before being burned by Ramsay Snow and becoming the seat of House Bolton, Winterfell was the seat of House Stark. In the first Season we are introduced to key players in the series and through pivotal scenes we get a clear insight into their characters. Bran, Jon and Robb practise archery in the courtyard with their father, Ned Stark; Arya, bored with her sewing lesson abandons it, grabs a bow and annoys Bran by out-shooting him.
The King, Robert Baratheon and the royal party arrive at Winterfell to make Ned Stark the Hand of the King and in so doing sets off a chain of events, which will have far-reaching consequences for the whole of the Stark family and the fight for the Iron Throne.
Castle Ward has become synonymous with Winterfell even though it was the filming location only for Season 1.
We also had a fantastic lunch in the Winterfell Tipi courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland – but you can indulge in a Game of Thrones feast there as well – along with a number of other extras if you purchase a group package. Get more details on these options here.
Audley’s Field & Audley’s Castle
Robb Stark’s Camp, Oxcross
This location is absolutely stunning… There’s a lot of “Audley” named locations in these parts. Named after the original Norman family who came over around 1210, the Audleys called this castle home up to the mid-17th century. It was a beautiful and remote spot that is easily accessible on foot if you’re already at Castle Ward.
It is a beautiful, rural spot with small fields and rolling low hills and easily accessible on foot if you are already visiting Castle Ward.
Season 2, Episode 4: Garden of Bones
At the behest of the monstrous Joffrey Lannister, Ned Stark has been beheaded in King’s Landing and his son, Robb is declared King in the North. Having amassed a sizeable army and won a trio of battles in the Riverlands, Robb wins a decisive victory at Oxcross. In the aftermath of the battle Robb meets Talisa, a healer from Volantis who is tending wounded soldiers on the battlefield. The meeting sets the two on a path that comes to a bloody end at the Red Wedding.
Audley’s Field, within the Castle Ward demesne on the shores of Strangford Lough was used for these pivotal scenes.
Northern Ireland, Strangford Village, Co. Down, BT30 7ND
After you finish geeking out at Winterfell, head over to The Cuan (where you will also find Door 1), it’s the perfect way to end your day, with a little entertainment and a lot of delicious food. It’s an immersive murder mystery dinner – Game of Thrones style. You won’t be able to break the cast out of character – and you’ll have to help them decide who is to blame for the recent murder that has occurred.
You can even stay the night here if you desire, this accommodation was actually the cast’s #1 pick for lodging, food and drinking while filming Seasons 1 and 2 at Winterfell – which is only 1 mile away. You can even stay in a room that Ned Stark (Sean Bean), Queen Cerssi (Lena Headey), Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Arya (Maisie Williams) or other cast members have stayed in.
Additional Must-See Places in Belfast
After you finish dinner/stay at the Cuan, you’re about an hour outside of Belfast. It’s a quick ride back into the city – and if you still have a little bit of energy once you arrive, you can cap off your Game of Thrones experience with a local pub that Game of Thrones cast members frequent during filming – The Spaniard, Duke of York, Laverys, and Weatherspoon.
My personal favorite? The Spaniard – a favorite of Kit Harrington and now a favorite of mine as well – they have a fantastic Old Fashioned and offer a unique Spanish vibe of rock and roll meets church (there’s a ton of Jesus décor). They get fairly busy on Friday and Saturday nights – but other than that it’s a small bar with a lot of flavor and filled with locals!
Visit the Titanic Quarter
Aside from Game of Thrones, there are a ton of other amazing locations that you should visit in Northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast. The birthplace of the RMS Titanic, which perished in 1912 at the hands of the infamous iceberg in the Northern Atlantic, also resides here. The renovated dockyards’ Titanic Quarter is a must for any history buff. It’s hard to describe the eerie feeling that overcomes you as you explore the Titanic Slipways, their comprehensive museum, and even the SS Nomadic (Exactly one-fourth the size that the Titanic was, the SS Nomadic was launched in April of 1911 and is the only White Star Line vessel still in existence today). You can find more information here at www.titanicbelfast.com.
Belfast City Seeing Bus Tour
Another great way to explore Belfast after your Game of Thrones filming locations is to pick up passes for the Belfast City Seeing Bus Tour. This tour offers an open top hop on/ hop off bus tour allowing you to get around the city with ease at 23 different stops (they even drive by the soundstages, Titanic Studios, that Game of Thrones uses while in production – but you can’t get inside these stages – they’re incredibly secured for the obvious reasons).
Planning Your Trip to Northern Ireland
Planning a trip to Northern Ireland yet? I truly don’t have the words to describe the beauty that this country bestows. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that you will want to have a thousand times over. I visited so many little villages that I would love to go back and have extended stays in. The people are remarkably kind and the food is just as good as you’re imagining. And there’s far more to nerd out on than just Game of Thrones filming locations – there’s also Lost City of Z, Dracula Untold, and (saving the best for last…) Star Wars filming locations (which we also have a guide coming for soon)!
Have you visited Northern Ireland? Are you planning your trip? Let us know your thoughts, suggestions, and/or questions below! And stay tuned for our future Geek Girl Travel adventures!