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The ultimate Game of Thrones road trip

Northern Ireland was the backdrop for many parts of Westeros. Explore the Seven Kingdoms from the North to Dorne, with several GoT locations along the route.

Travel | Road trip

With a total travel time of just over 11 hours, this trip could be spread out over a weekend, and is jammed packed with history and awesome vistas for good measure.

With the release of Season 8 not scheduled until mid-2018, we couldn’t find a better way to keep the song of Ice and Fire fresh in your mind until then, by truly experiencing the locations at which some of the most memorable scenes were filmed.

Northern Ireland was the backdrop for many parts of Westeros. Explore the Seven Kingdoms from the North to Dorne, with locations from several seasons along the route.

With such a diverse landscape, you will quickly learn why it was chosen as the perfect location to bring the R.R Martin series to life.

Let’s begin…

1. Vaes Dothrak, Lands North of Winterfell / Leitrim Lodge Mourne Walk, The Mourne Mountains

Begin your voyage at Leitrim Lodge Car Park at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, and set off on the Mourne Way Walk. Follow the rolling hills and winding streams on this peaceful adventure through the “Irish Rockies.” This area is a lesser-known filming location for the show, but was used for at least two backdrops. This area is also where C.S Lewis got his inspiration for Narnia.

GoT moment:

  • The foothills became the lands north of Winterfell where Bran first meets Jojen and Meera in the woods.
  • The sloping mountainous landscape with brown and green hues was used as the grand entrance to Vaes Dothrak.

Travel time to next destination: 35 minutes

2. The Haunted Forest & Beyond the Wall / Tollymore Forest Park, Newcastle

Continue north towards Newcastle to Tollymore Forest Park, or The Haunted Forest. Peppered with beautiful gothic stone architectural bridges and arches, Tollymore Park is a spectacular setting which was originally part of an ancient estate.

GoT moment: This forest opens the show, with the Stark boys discovering the dire wolves here in Season 1, Episode 1.

  • Bran (and the viewers) see the icy blue eyes of a White Walker here for the first time.
  • Theon Greyjoy was hunted in these woods by the psychopathic “Bastard of Bolton”, Ramsey.

Travel time to next destination: 35 mins

3. Slaver’s Bay, Seven Kingdoms / Murlough Nature Reserve (Murlough Bay – Dundrum)

Carved into the County Down coastline is Murlough Bay better known in Westeros as Slaver’s Bay. After Daenarys freed the slaves in the that area, she changed the name to Bay of Dragons.

GoT Moments:

  • It’s here that Tyrion and Ser Jorah are discovered by a slave ship and captured.
  • The slightly lewd incest scene with Theon and his sister Yara on a horse – before he realises they’re siblings.
  • After the Battle of the Blackwater, this is where Ser Davos was rescued in his bloody state.

Travel time to next destination: 5 mins

4. Season 6 backdrop / Dundrum Castle

Built at the start of the 13th century by John De Courcey, this castle is said to be one of the most beautiful of Normandy castles in Northern Ireland. With such a stunning vantage point, it’s not surprising that this castle was chosen for the show.

GoT Moments:

  • The superb views of the Murlough Nature reserve and the stunning Mournes which sweep down to the sea were used as the dramatic backdrop to Season 6 scenes.

Travel time to next destination: 25 mins

5. Winterfell Backdrop / Inch Abbey, Downpatrick

The first site for Winterfell is the stunning ancient monastic site of Inch Abbey, also founded by DeCourcey in around 1193, and is nestled on the north bank of the Quoile River.

GoT moment:

  • This ancient ruin features in a number of scenes set in Winterfell, most notably when Robb & Catelyn Stark learn of Ned’s death.

Travel time to next destination: 10 mins

6. Riverrun, The Twins / Quoile River, Downpatrick

Head for the north bank of the Quoile river that leads to Strangford Lough, and you will find the location for 2 major Winterfell sites.

GoT Moments:

  • The Tully funeral attended by Robb and Catelyn, when they set a boat out to sail while completely enveloped in flames.
  • Riverrun backdrop.
  • Parts of the river are supposedly used to depict the Old Valyria Canal.

Travel time to next destination: 16 mins

7. Winterfell Castle / Castle Ward, Co. Down

One of the most iconic locations in the Seven Kingdoms, the 820-acre walled demesne of Castle Ward in Co. Down provided a prime location for House Stark. Explore the grounds to get a real feel for the Northern scenes we’re so familiar with from our TV screens. Most of the Game of Thrones tour will include Castle Ward , immersing fans into the world of GoT.

GoT Moments:

  • This the main filming location of Winterfell, and the castle demesne is the backdrop for many scenes, even those not supposed to be in Winterfell itself.
  • Where Bran climbs the wall and falls from the tower
  • When Tyrion gives Joffrey a slap
  • Where Ned kills Sansa’s Dire Wolf, Lady after Cersei demands it.

Travel time to next destination: 10 mins

8. The Twins / Strangford Lough, Co. Down

Located on the banks of Strangford Lough, Co. Down, castles ruins (with some CGI-assistance) is morphed into The Twins and general Riverrun area. In the show, this is an important crossing – controlled by the Freys - for travellers from The North to the Western Riverlands.

GoT Moments:

  • It was here the Starks sought an audience with the treacherous Freys to cross the Green Fork.
  • The banks of Strangford Lough is also where Jamie Lannister was captured, and set free.

Travel time to next destination: 1 hr 10 mins

9. Summer Sea, Jousting Tournament / Shane’s Castle

14th Century Shane’s Castle, perched at the edge of Lough Nenagh lends itself well a multitude of location possibilities.

GoT Moments:

  • The jousting tournament that celebrated the naming of Eddard Stark was filmed at the castle, and is popularly known as the scene when The Mountain (Gregor Clegane) beheads a horse after losing his joust.
  • Lough Nenagh is transformed into the Summer Sea, South East of Westeros, when Jorah takes Tyrion captive and steals a boat to deliver him to his queen Daenerys in Mereen.
  • According to fans, Shane’s castle was supposedly also used as The Great Sept backdrop in Season 5. This is where Cersei was sentenced to atone before she could see Tommen again.

Travel time to next destination: 55 mins

10. The birth of the shadow, The Stormlands / Cushendun Caves

Known as the The Red Caves, east of the beach formed over 400 million years and served as the perfect dramatic backdrop for the harsh stormlands

GoT Moment:

  • Red Priestess Melisandre gives birth to Stannis Baratheon’s “son” – a shadow assassin – in an attempt to reclaim The Iron Throne, which Ser Davos watches in terror.

Travel time to next destination: 35 mins

11. The Dark Hedges / Bregagh Road, Ballymoney

Orignally planted by the Stuart family to impress visitors as they approached the Georgian mansion, now Gracehill House, these iconic Throne’s trees are a natural phenomenon and are well worth the visit to Antrim. Unfortunately, some trees were badly damaged after Storm Doris. Visit Gracehill House at the end of the hedges, which is home to one of the many Game of Thrones doors, commemorating Bran’s transformation into the Three-Eyed Raven.

GoT Moments:

  • Arya Stark is spotted here when she escapes from King’s Landing, disguised as a boy, and hiding in a cart.

Travel time to next destination: 30 mins

12. The Dornish Coast / Portstewart

Some of the dunes at Portstewart stand at 30 metres high and were formed about 6,000 years ago. This sandy landscape brings the harsh, desert land of Dorne to life.

GoT Moment:

  • Season 5 sees Jamie and Bronn arriving in Dorne, only to be met by a sand snake (before cooking it over a fire and eating it) and of course, the not-so-friendly Dornish locals.

Travel time to next destination: 30 mins

13. Dragonstone / Downhill Beach

The 120Ft cliff top, decorated with the Mussenden Temple (plus a bit of CGI thrown in for good measure) serves at the epic and austere island of Dragonstone.

GoT Moments:

  • In season 2, Melisandre burns the 7 old gods on the beach of Dragonstone, introducing the new Lord of Light.
  • Fans also suggest that the beach and cliff were filmed during Season 7, when Dany finally reaches her birthplace and Targaryen ancestral home, ready to take back what is her birth right.

Travel time to next destination: 25 mins

14. Dothraki Greenlands, Mereen / Binevenagh Mountain

Hike up the Binevenagh Mountain, to the edge of the Antrim Plateau. The summit spans over 6 miles, which serves as the grasslands outside of the City of Mereen. The hike starts at Leighry Road as is 4.5KM long.

GoT Moment:

  • After Drogon rescues Dany from her death in the pit of Mereen, he brings her to his lair in these grasslands. It’s here that she drops her ring before the swarm of Dothraki horsemen capture her and bring her to the new Khal Moro.
  • Jorah eventually reaches this location and finds Dany’s ring.

The longest journey time is the final leg of the Ultimate Game of Thrones Roadtrip, but we’ve saved the best for last. The Marble Arch Cave Geo Park is a stunning place of natural beauty, with hikes and activities suitable for everyone. Plan your day here:

Travel time to next destination: 2 hrs 29 mins

15. Brotherhood without Banner’s Hideout / Pollnagollum Cave (Marble Arch Cave Geo Park)

Through the beautiful Belmore Forest walk, you will reach Pollnagollum Cave which features a 12-foot limestone waterfall. The forest and the cave are a part of the Marble Arch Cave Geopark.

GoT Moment:

  • While trying to find their way to Riverrun, Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie are half-invited, half-captured by the Brotherhood without Banners for food and shelter, and taken to their underground hideout. This is when Arya is abducted by ex-brotherhood member Sandor Clegane (The Hound), and their tumultuous but often hilarious friendship is formed.

* Before you set off on the Game of Thrones roadtrip, make sure your car insurance cover is up to date.

Tags: Road trip