As the primary home of HBO’s hit show, Northern Ireland is full of fun sights for Game of Thrones fans. Whether you’re spending the majority of your time in Belfast or taking off around the countryside, you can easily plan a DIY Game of Thrones tour of Northern Ireland to spot some iconic landscapes featured on the show and some commemorative Easter eggs.
To do or not to do a group Game of Thrones tour?
Tourism in Northern Ireland has received a considerable boost because of the show, so a ton of Game of Thrones-themed tours have popped up to give tourists a behind-the-scenes look at the show’s filming locations. Here’s the thing though, a lot of the filming locations are for relatively minor scenes and they’re very spread out. So what happens is that tours end up including major sites like Giant’s Causeway, which really has nothing to do with Game of Thrones and telling you some stories along the way.
If you were driving around yourself, it’s unlikely that you would want to go an hour out of your way to see the cave where Melisandre gave birth to a shadow smoke thing. But there’s almost no way to avoid Game of Thrones stuff all over Northern Ireland. You don’t have to work very hard to see really cool show-related goodies, even if you stick around the path most traveled. Here are some of the things you can do in Belfast and just around the Giant’s Causeway area in Northern Ireland to create your own DIY Game of Thrones tour.
Glass of Thrones
A fun way to make your way around Belfast if you’re a Game of Thrones fan is to go hunting for the show’s six stained glass panels that snake their way around the center of town. Each one depicts major characters and pivotal moments from the series’ run, taking you toward Titanic Studios, where the show was filmed during production. Each glass panel is located in some major area of Belfast like City Hall or near the stadium to give you an excuse to see the major parts of the city. If you don’t mind seeing what each of the panels depicts, you can check out the trail map here. But if you rather be surprised at each stop, here are Belfast’s Glass of Thrones locations without the spoilers. I recommend you go in order and finish up at Titanic Studios.
1. On the opposite street from City Hall
2. In front of the ICC Waterfront Hall (the Convention Center)
3. On one end of the Lagan Weir footbridge (across the river from ICC)
4. Next to SSE Arena
5. By the SS Nomadic
6. In front of Titanic Studios (not the Titanic Museum)
The street of curved trees that served as Kingsroad on the show can be found just 20 minutes from Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Aside from the iconic view of the trees that create a natural tunnel, one of the fun things about the site is that it sounds like Game of Thrones because of the crows that fly around the area.
Doors of Thrones
From the hedges came the wooden doors. After a storm knocked down some of the trees that were part of Kingsroad, the wood was turned into ten ornate wooden doors that were then donated to different restaurants and pubs around the country. Each one depicts a season 6 episode. You can find one in Belfast at the The Dark Horse, where the Lannister-themed door leads to the bathroom. Another one serves as the front door of the Fullerton Arms in Northern Ireland, where you can also find a replica throne for photos. If you’re at the Dark Hedges, you’ll also be right next door to the wooden door at the Gracehill House.
Hunting down the wooden doors is a far more daunting undertaking than the Glass of Thrones, but if you have the time, they’ll lead you to a lot of areas around the country that were used as filming locations. Get the full list to create your DIY Game of Thrones tour here.
Larrybane Quarry by the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
One of the best things to do in Northern Ireland, whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not, is to visit the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Though it was not itself depicted in the series, the Larrybane Quarry which is used as the second parking lot of the coastal attraction served as Renley Baratheon’s camp in the Stormlands where we first met Brianne of Tarth.
Aside from the Dark Hedges, one of the most popular filming locations to visit in Northern Ireland is Castle Ward, which was the primary set of Winterfell. It’s about 40 minutes south of Belfast. Aside from visiting the National Trust castle, you can partake in one of the Winterfell tours and nerd out by dressing up and heading for the archery range like all the little Starks in season one. Other tours allow you to meet the real direwolves that played Summer and Grey Wind in the show.
Many of the other Game of Thrones locations were used very briefly and may not even be memorable. Nonetheless, hunting them down will definitely help you to discover some beautiful sights in Northern Ireland. But you don’t need my blog to find those. There’s an app for that.