Northern Ireland: Fantasy Castles Or Real Life Travel Hotspots

While there are many factors that affect an area’s tourism drive, several news sources like the Toronto Sun mentioned that Ireland’s recent visitor boost was aided by the popularity of HBO series Game of Thrones.

Many of the country’s castles, as well as other tourist spots, were used in the filming of the TV series. Below are three of the most popular ones. As a word of warning, there may be Game of Thrones spoilers in the description of the below places.

1. Castle Ward in Strangford, Northern Ireland – AKA Winterfell

Highlight Hollywood
Highlight Hollywood

Castle Ward is located in County Down and dates back to the 18th century. It is open to the public, and includes over 330 hectares of garden, a tower house, restaurants, shops, and even a working saw mill.

The creators of Game of Thrones clearly saw the castle’s potential and used it as one of the main backdrops to depict the famous stronghold of Winterfell. The most recognizable part of the show that the castle was featured in is the archery scene from the show’s first episode. Visitors to Castle Ward can practice their archery skills in the exact same location that Bran Stark did!

For fans who want to visit House Stark’s hometown, Winterfell Tours provide daily site visits to Castle Ward.

2. Dunluce Castle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland — AKA Castle Pyke

Belfast Live
Belfast Live

Dunluce Castle is a medieval castle ruin that is surrounded by steep drops. It is considered a historically important site, and is under the care of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

It is situated at the edge of basalt rock in Country Antrim, and is accessible via a bridge that connects to the mainland. Dunluce Castle dates back to 1513, and its earliest features include two drum towers that stand at around nine meters (nearly 30 feet). The drum towers were both remnants of a stronghold built by the McQuillans—the first lords of Dunluce Castle.

Dunluce Castle served as a seat for noble families until the Battle of the Boyne. Since then, it had deteriorated and parts were scavenged to serve as replacement parts for nearby buildings.

In Game of Thrones, Dunluce Castle doubles as the ancestral home of Theon Greyjoy. The castle can be most prominently seen in the show’s second season. Fans of the show can walk around the ruins and imagine they are on the Iron Islands.

Like Castle Ward, Dunluce Caste has day tours. Viator has a list of touring companies that visit this Game of Thrones filming spot.

3. Mussenden Temple in Seacoast Rd, North Ireland – AKA a partition of Dragonstone

Mussenden Temple is a small, circular building that is located near the cliffs of Castlerock in County Londonderry. It was built in 1785 and forms part of the Downhill Demesne, which is under the National Trust that makes up Downhill Castle and its estate. The 4th Earl of Bristol, who served as the Lord Bishop of the Church of Ireland from 1768 until 1803, owned the estate.

Before the cliff where it stands eroded, and brought the Mussenden Temple close to the edge, it was constructed as a library that was modeled after the Temple of Vesta from Rome.

While the Mussenden Temple didn’t play a role in the hit show, the seven-mile long beach, known as the Downhill Strand, that it overlooks has been used several times. In the TV series the beach is located on Dragonstone Island and is most notably seen at the beginning of season two, when Melisandre and Stannis Baratheon burn statues to the old gods.

The Future of Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones will return next year and until then, fans can either visit the aforementioned sites to relive the most intense scenes from the show or enjoy the different entertainment genres created in the show’s honor.

There is plenty of Game of Thrones merchandise to keep fans occupied while waiting for the show to resume. For one, there’s the Game of Thrones Monopoly edition where players battle to purchase valuable lands in Westeros to gain dominion over the others.

There’s also a more subtle Game of Thrones title where instead of battling over territory, players win real-life treasures. Game of Thrones 243 Ways to Win by Slingo provide fans with an easy-to-play mobile-friendly title that showcases some of the house’s familiar artwork, which targets the more mature GoT demographic. And lastly, there’s a video game published by Telltale, which is a role playing title for the hardcore gamers out there.

Season eight will most likely feature some more scenic places in Northern Ireland. After all, it is where much of the show’s filming takes place.

Article written by ISAAC DICKINSON.

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