In search of Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland
My mom has to be one of the most unlikely Game of Thrones fans in all the seven kingdoms. She's in her early 70s, doesn't like fantasy genre stories and lacks the patience for intricate, finely woven plot lines.
Still, she's watched the show from its first episode, a fact I didn't learn until two years after Thrones made its debut. She doesn't always get the plot or the characters right. I've explained the Three Eyed Raven concept more times than I can count. And she sometimes refers to characters not by their real name, but how she feels about them. Cersei has a name I can't repeat here, for example. And other characters are often simply called "that weirdo."
But she loves the show, and in particular Kit Harrington AKA Jon Snow who in her words is "such a cutie."
That's why I wasn't surprised to get a text from her now long before our recent trip to Northern Ireland. She wanted to know what if any GOT filming sites we would be visiting. It felt like less of a request and more of a demand, but the truth is, as a fan myself, I was giddy at the prospect of seeing some of the locations.
There are plenty. So ingrained in the Antrim Coast is the show plaques can be found at the sites and the various entities tasked with promoting tourism in Northern Ireland have built entire advertising campaigns around the show.
And it seems like just about every local has a GOT story or encounter of some kind. The owner of the bed and breakfast we stayed in outside Portrush told us one about her father who owned a patch of land the producers wanted to use to film a scene.
Her father had never heard of the show, and what's more, doesn't like foul language, violence or sex scenes on television. Game of Thrones is awash in all of that. Along with her husband, they searched for an episode to show him that might get him over the hump and let the show film on his land. In the end, it worked. That scene turned out to be the first time Bran Stark encountered the Children of the Forest.
That location isn't open to the public, but there are plenty of others to be explored all within a relatively easy drive of Portrush, the hub city of the Antrim Coast. What's amazing is how some don't look like you would think they would. The location below is an example.
Surprise! It's actually an abandoned rock quarry turned parking lot for the nearby rope bridge attraction.
Some sites require a hike to get to, but others are easy to reach by car or on foot. The Dark Hedges is among the most popular and by 10 a.m. is usually crawling with tourists. If you want that perfect shot suitable for framing come early, and be prepared to get out of the car. Traffic is discouraged on the road because so many people were parking their cars on the sides it was damaging the tree roots. A nearby hotel offers free parking which is a short walk to the hedges.
There are about a dozen or so sites fans can visit. The rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede is one you can actually cross. But buy your tickets early or be prepared to wait in the summertime. It was totally overrun with White Walkers, er, tourists, on the very rainy day we visited.
There are plenty more that we didn't have time to get to and by this point, we decided to give my wife, who has never watched the show but was a good sport anyway, a break. But for those wishing to visit, here are a few resources: