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 for the series Game of Thrones.
Not having watched it, 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.
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 tourist.
And I get that. Really, I do.
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.
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. That might be because a long time ago, the kitchen suddenly parted and slid into the sea, so the family and residents abandoned the castle.
The town of Dunluce itself was built around the castle and soon after burned to the ground in the 1600s. Excavation was not initiated until only a few years ago and archaeologists speculate that Dunluce citizens had pioneered indoor plumbing and grid-style road systems, though the Romans took credit for both innovations in the 1800s.
Dunluce has inspired a surprising number of songs and poems, possibly even being the inspiration for parts of Chronicles of Narnia.
I have written a separate entry dedicated to the geological wonder known as the Giant’s Causeway, which was the main purpose of this trip north. You can read more about Geology & Science, or Big-Mouth Giants here.
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.
I sat behind a massive rock wall as waves splashed high above it. Artistically carved ravines usher the water into unique forms and swirls in all directions.
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.
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.
Above, in the distance, we could see the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge through the two cliffs. This bridge connects to a tiny island and was also featured in an episode.
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.
The small retreat town of Cushendun has a memorial statue of a beloved pet goat near the entrance bridge. There is a live goat, Aileen, who lives alongside it.
We were told that Aileen’s predecessor had to be put down after contracting an animal virus, and the townspeople adopted a new goat but quite never got over the former.
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 do.
Known also as “Melisandre’s Cave” in GoT, this is where the boat she climbs out of is docked.
In some parts of Northern Ireland, there is a mild uneasiness still lingering about the political climate regarding Brexit, Unionists, Protestants versus Catholics, and so on, that is mostly confined to signs posted in yards or messages painted on walls. However, these small towns and villages were peaceful and everyone we met was cheery and welcoming. There was no perceived danger and we felt completely safe.
If you find yourself in Ireland or Northern Ireland with a day to spare, step outside the city to visit the rocky beaches and natural wonders of Antrim county.
Follow me to Belfast.
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