Northern Ireland was the primary filming location of the Game of Thrones series. Large portions of all eight seasons were filmed in this country known for its castles and rugged terrain. It was a match made in heaven. Since Game of Thrones’ most iconic settings is either natural formations or preserved historical landmarks, they still exist and will continue to exist across Northern Island. Better still, they’re only a flight – and a road trip – away.
If you choose Belfast as the headquarters for your Game of Thrones road trip, Shane’s Castle is only 28 minutes away. This castle was the site of the Tourney of the Hand, which celebrated Eddard Stark being named the Hand of the King. The tournament was held over episodes four and five of the show’s first season and featured a joust where the Mountain famously decapitated his own horse. Shane’s Castle was built in 1345 by a member of a prominent Northern Ireland dynasty. Today it is in ruins, but it retains enough of its original architecture to be an excellent first stop on your trip. The M2 route will take you most of the way before Castle Road drops you at the destination.
The Dark Hedges
Forty-three minutes north of Shane’s Castle is the Dark Hedges: 150 beech trees that cover a stretch of Bregagh Road near the village of Armoy. Game of Thrones fans knows this location by another name: Kingsroad. Yes, the Kingsroad, the route that so many characters traveled along. The Dark Hedges were planted in the 1770s by the owner of the estate to which the road belonged. The menacing feeling that the trees evoke was intentional. The Dark Hedges is in the boonies, so ensuring your car is up to the job and is professionally-rated for inclement road conditions is recommended for your GoT road trip.
An additional 37 minutes is all you need to drive from the Dark Hedges to Downhill Strand, which Game of Thrones fans will recognize as Dragonstone, the House of Targaryen that temporarily became the House of Baratheon. Downhill Strand is home to the beach where Melisandre burned the gods’ effigies and Mussenden Temple, where Melisandre and Stannis forged a plan to take the Iron Throne.
This Game of Thrones road trip will bring you to some of the most iconic filming locations in the show’s legendary run, and it can be completed in an afternoon. If you have additional time to spend, make sure to check out other Northern Ireland/Game of Thrones staples like Castle Ward, Tollymore Forest Park, and Shillanavogy Valley.