Northern Ireland and the Real Westeros

A short trip through Northern Ireland from Belfast up to the Giant’s Causeway has many attractions along the way, many that were used as filming locations in Game of Thrones.

Not being a fan, I was still just as thrilled as the next  person to visit these beautiful landmarks. I know the series’ music and filmography is pretty epic and this song could easily fit on the soundtrack.

 

The Dark Hedges
We passed through Ballymena and saw the Lissanoure Castle before reaching Ballymoney. Known as the King’s Road (Season 2),  the Dark Hedges are a massive cluster of beech trees lining both sides of a  lengthy segment of road amid the farmland of Ballymoney.

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A character named Arya runs away through this path at the beginning of Season 2. We were told the locals HATE Game of Thrones because of the wear, tear, and traffic it brings to this small farming village. I am convinced they shovel their foul-smelling animal waste along the sides of the street to seek revenge against tourists, and I get it.

Thankfully we were able to visit this landmark when we did. In the two weeks since we were there, a ban has now been enforced that prevents thru traffic down the lane due to rapid damage on the environment.

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It is unbelievably difficult to take a long shot photo of the path without some guy flipping the camera off or making stupid face in the background, so I opted for a short video looking up.

 

Dunluce Castle
Known in GoT as the Seat House of Greyjoy/Castle Pyke, Dunluce is located in Bushmills at the very top of Northern Ireland. Built in the 1200s, it ended up in the hands of a family who renovated it in classical Scottish style. Dunluce is no longer occupied and is not open to be visited by the public. As legend has it, the kitchen suddenly parted and slid into the sea long ago, and the residents fled.

The town of Dunluce itself was built around the castle and soonafter burned to the ground in the 1600s. Excavation was not initiated until only a few years ago, and archaeologists speculate that Dunluce town had pioneered indoor plumbing and grid-style road systems. Dunluce has inspired a surprising number of songs and poems, possibly even being the inspiration for parts of Chronicles of Narnia.

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Giant’s Causeway
I have written a separate entry dedicated to Giant’s Causeway , the main purpose of this trip. You can read more about that here: Science, Giants, and Geology.

 

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Ballintoy
The small village of  Ballintoy is just outside of Bushmills and has fewer than 170 residents. We walked down a very long and winding hill past a quaint church and cemetery, and just left of the harbor saw a spooky cave.

 

 

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I sat behind a massive rock wall as waves splashed in and sprayed all around. Some artistic carved ravines usher the water into unique forms in various places, and there is a cafe nearby to get coffee.

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Ballintoy Harbor is known as Pyke Harbor in GoT seasons two and six. I was not able to get the full story on this episode, but one of the Greyjoy guys comes back from Pyke after a long time and the scene takes place here. He docks his boat and climbs out of it and someone challenges him to do something.  It also may or may not be known as the Iron Islands in another episode.

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Larrybane and the Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge 
Larrybane is a large rock quarry by the sea that was used in many scenes throughout the series. Unfortunately it was full of tour buses and charters, but there were some great views of the sea. In the distance, through an opening in between two cliffs, we could see the Carrick A Rede rope bridge that was also featured in an episode.

 

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Ballycastle, Ballyvoy, Ballypatrick Forest
After several hours on foot, we were happy to take a trip through Ballycastle, Ballyvoy, and through the dreamy Ballypatrick Forest.  We passed a dapper hunting party on horseback, as well as a massive bicycle marathon. These towns were nearer to the coast and the stretch of road was primarily oceanside.

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Cushendun 
The small retreat town of Cushendun has a memorial statue of a beloved pet goat near the entrance bridge, and there is a live goat, Aileen, who lives alongside it.

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We were told that the deceased pet had to be put down after contracting an animal virus, and the townspeople adopted a new pet but quite never got over the former.

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Cushendon Caves 
In Game of Thrones, the Cushendun Caves are where a lady in a red cape births a shadow baby and it kills people. If that is a spoiler, you know far more than I.

 

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Known also as “Melisandre’s Cave” in GoT, this is where the boat she climbs out of is docked.

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In some parts of the North, there is a mild uneasiness still lingering about the political climate regarding Brexit, Unionists, Protestants versus Catholics, and so on. However, these small towns and villages were peaceful and everyone we met was cheery and welcoming.

I learned quite a bit about the logistics of filming in Ireland, and seeing so many people geek out about their favourite show was an unexpected bonus.

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