Northern Ireland is renowned for its majestic beauty and otherworldly landscapes, but did you know it was also a major filming location for HBO’s popular TV show, Game of Thrones?
Over the course of ten years, the hit programme was filmed in breathtaking locations all over the world, with 25 locations alone filmed across Northern Ireland, including the settings for Winterfell, Riverrun and Slaver’s Bay. It’s perhaps no surprise given Northern Ireland’s reputation for vast beaches, endless stretches of coastline, dense woodland and awe-inspiring views everywhere you look.
If you’re a fan of the show and love a road trip that takes you off the beaten track to the most scenic of destinations, we’d recommend hiring a car with us in Belfast, and taking a self-drive tour to the top 10 Game of Thrones Northern Ireland locations. Handily – most of the spots are within a 90-minute drive away.
If you’re not short on time however, you could easily spend five days exploring all 25 locations in Northern Ireland at your own pace.
Read on to discover our recommended tours and locations for the ultimate Game of Thrones tour from Belfast.
Just a short drive up the coast in County Down, the elegant Castle Ward is probably one of the best known Game of Thrones filming locations, since it’s the location of Winterfell – the Stark family home. As the backdrop to the pilot and series one of the series, many key scenes were filmed here, including the Baelor Battle, and the scene in which Brienne of Tarth confronts the Stark men.
Castle Ward features a grand stately home as well as 820-acres of woodland trails leading to a corn mill, farmyard, and nature centre, so there’s plenty to see and do here. As a visitor you can even opt to dress up in Game of Thrones character costumes and try your hand at archery on the castle lawns.
Also based in County Down, the ruins of Inch Abbey Monastery are also a famous filming location for Game of Thrones. The medieval building built by Norman knight John de Courcy in 1180 was used as the set for the Riverlands scenes, where Robb Stark’s army wait at the trident to cross. It was also the filming location of Hoster Tully’s funeral. Little remains here, bar the foundations and low walls of the ruins, but it does make for a pleasant walk to take in the atmospheric setting besides the marshes of the River Quoile.
Inch Abbey can be found just off the A7 Belfast Road, north of Downpatrick.
Located on a hill near the town of Newcastle in County Down, Tollymore Forest Park is perhaps one of the series’ most atmospheric locations – playing the part of the inimitable Haunted Forest. This is the location where the Starks first found the dire wolves, as well as the place the terrifying White Walkers marched into the realm of men. You can book a guided walking tour of this enchanting forest with several of the key filming moments highlighted along the way, as well as Stark wool cloaks provided for participants. Just be sure to dress appropriately and wear comfortable footwear for this 90-minute walking tour.
Situated along Antrim’s breathtaking Causeway Coast, the Cushendun Caves are another GoT location well worth visiting. These caves, in the area portrayed as the Stormlands, are the site where Davos Seaworth and the mystical Lady Melisandre first landed ashore back in Season Two, as well as being the haunting location where Melisandre gave birth to a spooky shadow baby. Easy enough to explore by yourself, it takes just over an hour to reach the caves from Belfast – head towards Ballymena and then follow the signs to Cushendall. The Cushendun caves are just 10 minutes from there.
On your Game of Thrones tour from Belfast, you can’t miss The Dark Hedges – a unique and unusual spot whereby beech trees form on either side of a narrow road to create the illusion of a never-ending tunnelled hedge. It’s a great place for a photo opportunity – and a location you might recognise from GoT in the scene where Arya Stark escapes King’s Landing, among other points during season one and two. It’s best to visit this spot during quieter times and seasons, as the road can get quite busy with tourists at peak times.
Perched on the North Antrim Coast is the sheltered, and scenic location of Larrybane Bay and Quarry. The quarry set the scene for the introduction of one of the series’ pivotal characters, Brienne of Tarth, in season two, when she fought Ser Loras Tyrell in a tournament in front of King Renly and his new Queen Margaery Tyrell.
Without the props and characters from the show, it may not be instantly recognisable as Renly Baratheon’s camp, however by venturing to the clifftops above Larrybane, you’ll be afforded magnificent coastal views including that of the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, making it a panoramic must-see during your Northern Ireland road trip.
Located close to The Giant Causeway – one of Northern Ireland’s premier destinations – is Ballintoy Harbour, a quaint harbour in the village of Ballintoy, County Antrim. This picturesque harbour is the most northern point of the Antrim Coast and Glens coastline, an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – so shouldn’t be missed on your Game of Thrones Ireland tour.
Fans will also notice it is at this coastal harbour that Theon Greyjoy arrives back to the Iron Islands and where he first meets his sister, Yara. It makes for a lovely spot to sit and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Over in County Londonderry, you’ll find Downhill Strand – a gorgeous stretch of beach framed by craggy clifftops featuring the ruins of a unique 18th century building – Mussenden Temple. The seven-mile long stretch of coastline was the location for scenes between Stannis Baratheon and his mistress, the enchanting but terrifying Melisandre. Dragonstone – as the area is named in GoT, is the location Melisandre burned the old gods, while further along the coast you’ll find the Cushendun caves where she gave birth to a shadow demon.
Luckily, the beach is very accessible from the main road, making it an easy stop off on your road trip.
In an area marked for Outstanding Beauty, Binevenagh marks a six-mile plateau with a steep cliff face overlooking coastal plains and the sea. Boasting breathtaking panoramic views for miles, the location was chosen for the Dothraki Grasslands and Sea, above the city of Meereen, where Daenerys is rescued by her dragon Drogon and brought to his lair.
The natural, rocky setting makes it a hotspot for sports and nature enthusiasts including runners, climbers and hand gliders. There’s even an artificial lake on top of the mountain for those interested in trout fishing.
This beautiful cove is hidden just off the famous Causeway Coast main road, with a small road leading towards the sea (although the last part has to be made on foot). You’ll be granted views across the sea to Rathlin Island as well as the Scottish Islands, making it a great spot for photos.
The bay also represents GoT’s famous Slaver’s Bay, and notably features in a scene whereby Tyrion Lannister and Ser Jorah Mormont are walking to Mereen, only to be taken prisoner by those on a passing slave ship.
Only have a day to explore? Pick up your car and journey through County Down to the key filming locations for Winterfell Castle, Winterfell Forest and the Riverlands.
The round trip is 116 miles and takes 3 hours 37 minutes in total, although be sure to include plenty of time to stop off at each location.
For a slightly longer route which takes in more of the key filming locations, head North towards the coast.
The round trip is 165 miles, and takes 3 hours 53 minutes in total. Be sure to allow for plenty of time to stop and explore the surroundings.
Head up to the coast to take in some of Northern Ireland’s most scenic locations, and the locations of some of GoT’s most memorable moments.
The round trip is 139 miles, accounting for 3 hours 30 minutes of driving time.
HBO filmed the epic series Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland across 25 locations – all within an hour or so of Belfast - for 10 years. Some of the filming was done at Titanic Studios in Belfast, while many other scenes were filmed on-site in the locations mentioned above.
The world of Westeros is vast, mystical, and jaw-droppingly beautiful - befitting of the action-packed story. Northern Ireland’s rugged coast lines, historic castles and breathtaking, atmospheric scenery therefore makes for the perfect setting for the epic story.
As noted in this itinerary, many of the Game of Thrones locations are easy to visit via car and on foot, and there are often guided walking tours at some of the more major filming locations too. Whilst filming was undertaken across Northern Ireland, the majority of the show’s scenes were filmed at Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge. You can visit the studios (less than an hour’s drive from Belfast airport) to discover the world behind the screen, including how key scenes, characters and props were brought to life.
Game of Thrones is well known for it’s incredible filming locations, and it’s not just Northern Ireland where you can get a taste for it. Other locations include the breathtaking Iceland for scenes set in the north, and sunny Spain and Croatia for scenes in the south.