If you’ve watched and re-watched every episode of Game of Thrones (well, we’d forgive you for skipping the final season), then you’ll likely jump at the chance to set foot in the Seven Kingdoms for real!
Any GoT fan worth their salt will know that of course Kings Landing is basically Dubrovnik with the addition of some swords, an iron thrown and occasionally a couple of dragons. But plenty of its most iconic backdrops are actually found in glorious Northern Ireland. The country is a great spot for a road trip in its own right, but why not make it fantasy themed?
Want to take a walk down Kingsroad, wander through the gates of Winterfell or follow in the footsteps of some of Westeros’ craftiest villains? Here’s how to make the best of the Game of Thrones trail in Northern Ireland.
To channel your inner Stark, take a trip to Castle Ward
It all begins at Winterfell, so you may as well too. Just don’t fall out of any high windows!
Castle Ward, 40 minutes outside of Belfast, has been owned by the Ward family for centuries and parts of it doubled up as Winterfell in some of the show’s very first episodes.
And the best bit? Some parts are run by the National Trust with means you can have a mooch around and dream of Jon Snow himself.
While a lot of the set was constructed especially for the show and later taken down, it’s still a pretty atmospheric spot! There’s also a purpose-built visitor centre where you can have a go at axe throwing or archery. Now you’re talking.
So Daenerys is your favourite character? Then don’t skip the Shillanavogy Valley
Remember those lush Dothraki Grasslands way back in season one? Come on, you know the bit when Daenerys married and camped out with Khal Drogo and his tribe! Such a shame Jason Momoa wasn’t in it for longer. Spoiler alert? Come on, we’re real GoT veterans here.
Game of Thrones associations aside, the lush Shillanavogy Valley in County Antrim is spectacular in its own right and perfect for a scenic walk. It’s even got links to a Northern Ireland legend – apparently, it’s where St Patrick kept a flock of sheep after he was driven to the area by a group of fearsome pirates! Jason Momoa, the Queen of Dragons, St Patrick and pirates? What a place!
Love a direwolf puppy? Try searching for one in Tollymore Forest Park
This 1600-acre forest, only an hour’s drive from Belfast, is another season one location.
You’ll spot it in the very first episode as it’s where Ned Stark finds the litter of direwolves which he then gifts to each of his children.
Keen for a new family pup? While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find any fluffy pups to take home with you, Tollymore Forest Park is a truly enchanting place for a stroll and even has a campsite if you fancy a full weekend out in the fresh air! Every cloud.
To trek along the Kingsroad (minus the Hot Pie), make your way to The Dark Hedges
Think the eerie tunnel of trees that runs from King’s Landing to Castle Black was created using CGI? Think again!
Known as The Dark Hedges, the amazing avenue is actually located between Ballymoney and Ballycastle and it was planted by the Stuarts way back in the 18th century. It has fast become one of Northern Ireland’s most visited attractions and is a must-have backdrop for your Instagram feed!
On screen, you’ll be able to see The Dark Hedges most clearly in the Game of Thrones episode when Arya Stark travels with Hot Pie and Gendry up to The Wall. Who could forget Hot Pie? Legend.
Have a beach day at Downhill if you can’t get enough of dragons
Dragonstone is another major Game of Thrones stronghold and it too was recreated in Northern Ireland! Yes that’s right the castle of Queen Dany herself, although it was another contender for the iron thrown occupying it when the filming took place.
Hop in your car and drive to Downhill Beach in County Down which was featured in season two when Stannis Baratheon first puts his faith in the Lord of Light. Stannis, a contender? You know what we mean.
The seven mile stretch of sand is listed as a Blue Flag beach, meaning it’s an ideal swimming spot if you can brave the cold Atlantic waters!
Take a trip down the Old Valyrian Canal, and head for Lough Neagh
While this location was only used for one Game of Thrones scene, it’s quite a memorable one! Found in Country Antrim, the Toome Canal served as the waterway in season five which Jorah Mormont and a bound and gagged Tyrion Lannister rowed down on their way to Meereen.
Toome Canal is a great hiking hotspot and it connects two stunning lakes: Lough Beg and the much larger Lough Neagh. You can even cycle along the 2km track or re-create the scene from GoT by hiring your own canoe and rowing. No need for the gag though!
While you’re in Northern Ireland, why not drive over the border into Ireland to explore its fascinating second city, Cork? Alternatively, check out our guide to Britain’s most beautiful beaches and get ready for a memorable coastal road trip!