Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland

One of the things we had promised each other to do before leaving Belfast was one of the tours of Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland. Missing the filming locations here around Belfast was not an option, especially as the tours generally include two of the most iconic places in Northern Ireland: Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and the Giant’s Causeway. There are a few tours you can take, but we strongly recommend BritMovieTours, who hosted us for this review, because it was such a great experience and we saw so much more than we were expecting!

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Going on our tour of the Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland

We were both pretty excited to go on the tour, because we both knew we would see amazing places in Northern Ireland, and spend a good day before leaving what had been our home for five months. The only reserves we had about going was that first, we had to wake up early as the tour starts at 9 am (with Simone’s work, we are NOT morning people), secondly we thought it might be pretty exhausting, and third we’d heard that some places are packed with tourists and you barely have the time to see locations because you have to hurry back up on the bus.
Let us spoil our own review right here: none of that was a problem and we’ve seen more than expected! The only location that was advertised that we didn’t reach was Dunluce Castle, but we’ll get back to that at the end of the review.
So at 8:45am we were in front of the VisitBelfast office, in the city center, waiting for our guide to arrive. We left a bit after 9am, in a mini-bus. First good surprise, we wouldn’t be in a huge coach! That was great because it meant we could go to places where other bigger coaches couldn’t go to! On the road, our guide started to explain what would happen, asked who wanted to cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (you have to pay an addition 6£/person if you do, which is cheaper than the 7£ you would pay if you went without the tour) and gave us the menu from the pub we would stop at so we could order in advance for everything to be ready on arrival (you don’t have to eat there if you don’t want to, you can bring your own food or get a sandwich at the first stop, but you won’t have more opportunities until Giant’s Causeway and you will be starving by then!).

Driving along the coast for our tour of Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland

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What we really enjoyed is that our guide – between anecdotes on the filming of Game of Thrones as she had been an extra for a few years – described everything we had to know about what we were seeing from the windows of the bus. Know that the scenery is really amazing, and that you won’t have to bring a book or anything to pass the time. Your guide will feed you with info about filming Game of Thrones, and the rest of the time you can just admire the beauty of Northern Ireland. Honestly, who doesn’t like a nice coastal drive?
After some time driving out of Belfast, we passed by Carrickfergus Castle, which goes along a tragic love story we won’t spoil you guys!
Then we drove along Magheramorne Quarry, which is used as part of the Wall at Castle Black. At the moment you can’t even slow down and much less stop, otherwise you might get a pricey fine. But your imagination will be needed anyway, as there isn’t a lot to see. It was pretty cool anyway, especially because it was the first GoT filming location spotted on the tour and everybody started to get really excited!
Next was Cairncastle, the Gateway to the Glens, the area were Ned Stark beheaded a deserted of the Night’s Watch at the very beginning of the first season. In 2010, it had snowed so much in the area they didn’t even need to use CGI! When filming there, the cast stayed at Ballygally castle – supposedly haunted!
We also saw Glenarm Castle, built by Randl MacDonnell, from the Irish branch (the MacDonnells of the Glens) of the (Scottish) McDonald family to whom happened a tragic incident that has been…. inspiration for the Red Wedding.
At that point, from the window of the bus, riding along the coast, you can see Scotland!

Carnlough Harbour : where Arya plunges in the water – BRAAVOS (season 6)

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If Carlough is first a very cute village home to the heroic messenger pigeon who played a key role in WW2, it’s also the first Game of Thrones filming location where we stopped and got off the bus. It’s also where we had this feeling that Ireland really reveals its beauty in grey weather. We’re always complaining that we miss and need the sun, but a slightly dark sky was just perfect to enjoy all the colours of Carnlough. The stones, the water, the boats, the bridge… It was beautiful in its own right, fan of Game of Thrones or not.

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We felt like this would be the perfect place to take a good holiday disconnected from everything else and write a book (or read a hundred of them). You will be able to go to the bathroom and buy stuff at the shop, which might be your only chance, so don’t miss it!

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From there we went through Glenariffthe Queen of the Glens, and passed some caves that had been lived in until pretty recently. You’ll see a lot of those during the whole trip.

Cushendun Caves : where Melisandre gave birth to the Shadow baby – STORM’S END (season 2)

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Once again the chance of being in a small coach (so you don’t have to wait for 50 people to come back in before you can go to the next stop): we arrived before all the other tour companies at the Cushendun Caves. It gave us plenty of time to admire the beautiful nature that was surrounding us and take some pictures. This place really feels magical…

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On our road to the next stop, we passed by Loughareema, the « Vanishing Lake » of Northern Ireland. If you want to see water in this lake, you have to be there at the right time. Which isn’t the case when we went, so it was pretty impressive to imagine it with water! Legend has it, it’s haunted at full moon when the water is high, and it’s also a place where leprechauns like to sunbathe!
We also saw Ballypatrick Forest, which is haunted by the Grey Lady (who also haunts the Dark Hedges… who knew it was such a full-time job to be dead?!!)

From Ballycastle, you will be able to see [SPOILER – maybe? If you don’t care or on the contrary want to know about it, just select the white space – which is only us writing in white on white) to read what’s next] {the place where Jon and Daenerys will meet. It’s called the Fair Head, and it’s so windy that the crew (not the cast) had to be harnessed while filming!!}
You’ll also be able to catch a look at Rathlin Island, where only a handful of people live, connected to Ballycastle by a ferry.

Ballintoy Harbour: where Theon Greyjoy arrives when he first comes back to the Iron Islands – LORDSPORT, PORT OF PYKE (season 2)

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While on the bus, you will also see Murlough Bay. This is the road that leads to Pyke, the capital of the Iron Islands, where Theon rides on a horse with his sister Yara. This is the place from a pretty memorable scene of Game of Thrones! At Ballintoy Harbour, you will see the place where Theon arrives at the port of Pyke. It’s a pretty cute place too, a nice stop on the way to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. There are also toilets there if you need.

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Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge : This is not a GoT filming location, but an amazing place nevertheless

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Suspended almost 100 ft (30 m) above sea level, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was first erected by salmon fishermen over 200 years ago. Tt’s part of a 1.6 km hike surrounded by the Atlantic ocean and some of the most breathtaking landscapes that « Norn Iron«  (as « Northern Ireland » sounds in the mouth of the locals) has to offer.

Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland (20) After being in a bus for quite a while, stretching your legs around this site will be more than appreciated! Be prepared to walk a bit to get to the bridge, but nothing too tiring, and it’s definitely worth it. A funny part of this is that lately Simone has developed a bit of vertigo when it comes to high places, so he was not sure of what would have happened once on the bridge. We took the risk and it went more than fine but if you are taking pictures, remember to hold on tight to your camera and to the ropes, ‘cause the walk can get bouncy! We were pretty lucky both times to be the first to cross the bridge (which, yes, you’ll have to cross twice, silly!) and if you can be too, it’d be great to really feel the sensations of that suspended crossing. Don’t worry, only a certain amount of people are allowed at once, and only on one way (you have to wait for everybody to cross your way before you can go back).

Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland (21) Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland (22) Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland (23) Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland (23) Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland (24)Once it was time to go back, we thought we could’ve definitely stayed there for hours flirting with the panoramic view. But we didn’t want to be the last to get in the bus which would’ve meant (this is a little game that the tour guide wanted to play) singing in front of all the other participants!

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After the bridge, we stopped for lunch. It was a nice break as we started to be pretty hungry. Discovery, excitement, walking by the windy coast, crossing a bridge suspended in the air… it definitely did whet our appetite!

Giant’s Causeway: Not a GoT filming location either, but a UNESCO World Heritage

Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland (30)Important Tip: It is free, even though you might think the contrary, you do not have to pay to go see the Giant’s Causeway by feet (meaning, if you don’t need a parking, which you don’t if you’re coming with the tour). But if you want to use any other facilities (like the parking) or if you want an audioguide, etc., you’ll have to pay. You can read more about this here.
So if you decide to have the full visitor experience, you can rent an audio book guide and take a shuttle (1£) to get to the main site.
We would suggest to walk and get literally swallowed by what mother Nature shaped within 60 million years of volcanic eruption, lava layers, sun, rain, sea and a little bit of magic to create this one and only Northern Ireland Unesco world heritage site.

If you are a photo lover, selfie maniac, Instagram addicted, this is the place for you. If you want to feel like you’re in a magical place, a beautiful accident of Nature, another dimension, this is your place too.

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You might wonder, is it full of people? Yes it is, but it will probably not have any effect on this great experience. It didn’t for us!

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When you are ready to go and if you need to get some energy back, you’ll find restaurants and bars (and a cool telephone booth!) to fulfill your journey.

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After the Giant’s Causeway, our tour was getting close to its end. The guide didn’t mention it so we don’t know why exactly we didn’t get to stop at Dunluce Castle, but we suspect it was cutting it a little short on time. We would have loved to see it, as we skipped it on our trip to the coast a few days before, expecting to go during the tour. But honestly, after all we had seen – including all we weren’t even supposed to see ! – it didn’t feel like it was such a great loss. Instead, we stopped at what used to be Dunseverick castle.

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Yep, that’s what’s left of the castle!

 

Then it was time for our last Game of Thrones filming location stop:

The Dark Hedges: where Arya rides on a cart to join the Night’s Watch – on the KINGSROAD (season 2)

Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland (34)Pretty incredible natural phenomena, these creepy but magical beech trees were planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century. In Game of Thrones, they give a dark atmosphere to the ride Arya is taking with boys and to join the Night’s Watch.
Once again, we were pretty much by ourselves there, which we appreciated a lot. It might be even better to see the Dark Hedges on a misty autumn or winter night, but the atmosphere was from another world!

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After that, we rode all the way back to Belfast city center (we arrived around 6pm), spent and ready to go to bed but extremely happy and satisfied with our tour. The tour in itself received a perfect score from us, with a great guide, amazing locations and perfect timing. It also made us fall in love even more with the beauty of the magnificent landscapes Northern Ireland has to offer, and the magic hidden in every nook and cranny.
We recommend to anyone who would go to Belfast to do this tour of Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland, it’s definitely worth it to spend a whole day doing this tour. You will be amazed, whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not.

If you want to check it out on their website, this is the tour we did with BritMovieTours
They also have a second Game of Thrones tour, which we would have booked too if had enough time!!

We’ve been guests of BritMovieTours for this tour of Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland including Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giant’s Causeway, but as always, all opinions are our own.

 


Did you like our review of this tour of Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland? Tell us in the comments if you’ve done one or if you too are dying to go!! 

5 Commentaires

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  1. 1
    Kate

    What a fun experience! I’m a huge GOT fan and named my two pit bulls after characters in the show. I would absolutely love to do a tour like this, so this is absolutely going on my list. The beech trees are so amazing that they hardly seem real.

  2. 2
    Eniko

    My boyfriend is the biggest Game of Thrones fan and would love this. I also watch the show, but I’m not quite as into it as him. However I would love to go on this tour. I will definately book it if we are in Ireland. I love nature and the outdoors and these locations are gorgeous!

  3. 4
    Eva

    I am headed to Northern Ireland in September and I can’t wait. Although I will not take part in a GoT tour like you did, I want to hop by some of the filming locations. It’s great to see that the Dark Hedges are looking quite beautiful. I had read somewhere that high flows of unruly tourists is ruining them fast and they’re far from what they used to be. Apparently people climb the trees and so on. I don’t know how majestic they once were, but those trees still look pretty impressive to me. Can’t wait to see for myself!

  4. 5
    Cavaforlunch

    Great photos! I went to Belfast last summer, but we ended up doing a standard tour along the beautiful shores as one of my friends doesn’t really care for Game of Thrones (how is that even possible…). But we still managed to see the rope bridge and the caves where Melisandre gives birth to that shadow-demon thingy. Great tour though 🙂 I think I might try your recommendations next time I head to Belfast, because this tour looks epic!

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