Searching for Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland


I confess that I have not read any of the Game of Throne books or watched any of the episodes of the television adaptation, but my son has and as we were traveling together, I did a fair bit of research to include it in our plan.

We arrived in Dublin at 5 in the morning and we planned a big day of driving from Dublin to Belfast via Derry, Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills. There were a number of places where Game of Thrones filming features the town or landscape, including Ballintoy 12.5 miles east of the Giant’s Causeway. Described in a guidebook as a “picture-postcard harbour”, it is featured as Iron Islands’ Lordsport Harbour. I found mentions like this throughout the guidebooks I consulted. None of these places is quick and easy to get to and on a winter’s day when the sun sets just before 5, we had to prune them from our plan.


I also found a smart phone app that promised a kind of scavenger hunt for Game of Thrones sites. On closer examination it turns out that there are a series of carved doors inspired by Game of Thrones that make up the destinations on this app.  If you had lots of time and you are using Game of Thrones as your organizing principle then you may be interested.


We settled on Castle Ward Estate, a National Trust property, that doubles as Winterfell in Game of Thrones. This was a great choice because it was interesting in its own right and yet Tevis got the bonus association with Game of Thrones. We were able to fit in as a small detour as we drove from Belfast to Dublin. The cafe offers a delicious selection of sandwiches if your visit coincides with lunchtime. The entrance fee is 8 pounds.

P.S. You may have heard the term “overtourism” or the idea that so many people are flocking to places made popular by social media that they are destroying what the very thing they love. Such are the Dark Hedges that double as Kingsroad on Game of Thrones.



National Trust Membership Mystery

My son and I visited the National Trust property Castle Ward in Northern Ireland. It is the property used to film Game of Thrones “Winterfell.”  When we entered the property the person in the guard house asked if we are members of the National Trust. We are not because we live in the USA and do not come to the United Kingdom (includes NI) very often. She gave us a brochure for the Royal Oak Foundation, urging us to consider membership and implying that there are places we could use it in the USA, yet neither of us had ever heard of it. “Royal” in the title is suspicious too!


Essentially, it is a National Trust membership for Americans. It gives the same membership privileges when you are in the UK, but there are no properties in the USA that the membership will gain entrance or that has reciprocal privileges.  It still might be a good action to take if you are going to visit a lot of National Trust sites. In Northern Ireland we came across two: Giants Causeway and Castle Ward, so it only makes sense if you are a historical preservation enthusiast.

Post script: We stopped at the Tea Room at Castle Ward and shared a turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberry. It was Friday, the day after Thanksgiving so it was lovely to partake in “leftovers.”