Regular readers will know that I can’t watch anything Irish without wondering where it was made. Lately, I’ve been interested in where Game of Thrones was filmed as quite a lot of the show is shot in Northern Ireland.
I’ve also been playing around with Google Maps, and have created a map showing the major Northern Ireland locations used for Game of Thrones thus far — just in case anyone’s planning to visit. You can explore the map below to find the locations (blue pins) and see what was filmed where, or you can scroll down and read the location notes on this page instead. There’s also a wonderful slideshow of location photos that I found on flickr at the end of the post.
Warning: plenty of spoilers ahead if you’re not up-to-date with the show!
Interactive Map of Game of Thrones’ shooting locations
View Games of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland in a larger map
Castle Ward, Downpatrick, Co. Down
Castle Ward is stately home set in a 820-acre estate. It has served as parts of Winterfell, the ancestral seat of House Stark. However, much of the exterior views are of an actual castle in Scotland improved with some CGI.
The grounds of Castle Ward Forest Park housed the Lannister encampment in the first season.
Shane’s Castle, Randlestown, Co. Antrim
Shane’s Castle is a ruin on the shore of Louth Neagh, and as such is a very versatile location for Game of Thrones. Multiple scenes have been shot in and around the 2600-acre estate; it’s hosted the Tourney of the Hand in honor of Ned Stark, was seen to good effect when King Robert Baratheon and posse arrived at Winterfell, and served as the King’s Landing dungeons. (I still get the shivers when I think of that newly-minted knight getting a lance in the neck.)
The shores of the nearby lough saw Brienne of Tarth despatch a group of wildmen while escorting Jamie Lannister to King’s Landing, and a distinctive arched bridge has been seen several times. The fact that Shane’s Castle has provide locations for both the frozen northlands of Westeros, and the more-temperate south, would seem the perfect testament to Northern’s Ireland’s changeable weather.
Read about the legend of the Banshee of Shane’s Castle….
Moneyglass Estate, Toomebridge, Co. Antrim
Various scenes have been shot here (Winterfell in season 2; when Arya meets the caged men on the Kingsroad), but they all pale in comparison to the “Red Wedding” scene that shocked viewers so much. (Those who had already read George R.R. Martin’s books, just smirked smugly.)
Shillanavogy Valley, Co. Antrim
Below the slopes of Slemish mountain (where St. Patrick slaved away minding sheep when first brought as a slave to Ireland), lies the Shillanavogy Valley, which provided the location of the Dothraki camp early in the series.
Cushenden Caves, Co. Antrim
This location is where (in season 2) the ‘Red Priestess’ Melisandre of Asshai gave birth to her ‘shadow baby’ who later kills Renly Baratheon. The caves are a short walk from the village.
Murlough Bay, Co. Antrim
With views of Rathlin Island and the scottish mainland, Murlough Bay is breath-takingly beautiful, but hard to get to. Visitors have to follow a narrow road winding down a steep incline, andd some simply give up and go to one of the more-accessible strands. For Game of Thrones actress Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark), shooting at Murlough Bay was very special, because she used to swim there as a child. Murlough Bay provided the backdrop for Theon Greyjoy and Asha riding to the road to Pyke.
The Dark Hedges, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim
The Dark Hedges is an avenue of 200-year-old beech trees on the Bregagh Road near Ballymoney. They were already one of Northern Ireland’s most-famous landmarks long before Ayra Stark escaped from King’s Landing disguised as a boy. The avenue is said to be haunted by the Grey Lady, a ghost who appears at dusk, but she has not made her debut in the series just yet.
Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
Around the other side of Fair Head, you’ll find the village of Ballycastle, birthplace of both Conleth Hall (Varys) and the character he plays, as some of the Free Cities’ scenes have been filmed there.
Larrybane Head, Co. Antrim
Perhaps better-known as the site of the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge (which has not yet appeared in the series), the famous peninsula accessed by the bridge has been seen in the background several times in the series, but most notably as Storm’s End, seat of House Baratheon (again, with the help of some CGI). Several key scenes were filmed there.
Larne, Co. Antrim
The exterior set for Castle Black was built near Larne, in the Ballylumford area, on the northeast side of the harbor. Another may have been built on the south side, at Mahermorne.
Cairncastle, Co. Antrim
A small village north of Larne, Cairncastle has proven another versatile location. Ned Stark beheads the Nightwatch deserter here in episode one, and Catelyn captures Tyrion. Various other minor scenes have been shot around the area. No direwolves are currently thought to be roaming these hillsides, however.
Ballintoy Harbour (note correct, British spelling) served as Lordsport Harbor on the Iron Islands in the second season. (See the photo slideshow below for some pics from the set at Ballintoy Harbour.)
Downhill Strand/The Mussendun Temple, Castlerock, Co. Londonderry
Viewed from the beach below (Downhill Strand) the Mussendun Temple was seen on the cliffs overlooking Dragonstone, when the seven idols of Westeros were burned. (For location shots for this scene, see the slideshow below.) The Temple was originally built as a library in imitation of an ancient Roman temple, it’s now used as picturesque setting for weddings. The temple is part of the Downhill Estate, but Downhill House itself was gutted by fire in the 1800′s, and is just a shell today. Perhaps it will be used in a future season of Game of Thrones?
Tollymore Forest Park, Co. Down
The opening scenes of the pilot episode (much of which became episode 1, season 1) where a white walker slaughters some wildlings before reanimating one of them, was filmed in Tollymore. The snow-covered woods have been the regular stand-in for the wild lands north of the wall.
Poulnagollum Cave, Co. FermanaghNo, the filmmakers haven’t imported Gollum into GoT to try and secure a tie-in deal with Lego, Poulnagollum (which translates roughly as “hole of the doves”) is a cave in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark. It appears in the show when Beric Dondarrion hides out there in season 3. Co. Fermanagh is rich with caves, some of which are accessible through the Marble Arch Caves’ visitor’s center. The Poulnagollum cave is only accessible by trained cavers, but it can be seen by following the Poulnagollum Cave Walk route in Belmore Forest.
Inch Abbey, Downpatrick, Co. Down
The ruins of Inch Abbey provided the backdrop for “The Twins,” Walder Frey’s twin castles in the riverlands. It is here that Catelyn Stark learns of her husband’s fate and vows revenge.
Slideshow of Game of Thrones’ Location Photos
Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR. Photoset (c) Amanda Killen/craftedfromtheheart from flickr Local photographer Amanda Killen managed to get pics from two of the Northern Ireland locations as the production was shooting, Ballintoy Harbor and Downhill Strand.
Video #1: A preview to season 2, in which the producers sing the praises of Northern Ireland locations. (May contain spoilers!)
Video #2: A preview of the new locations for season 3, including some in Northern Ireland. (Naturally, beware of spoilers…)
Those are the major Game of Thrones‘ locations to date — as far as I can discover — in Northern Ireland. I’ll attempt to update this page as future episodes are made, and if anyone has shooting news or corrections, please let me know in the comments. (Photo credits: HBO, unless otherwise stated.)
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