Dream holidays: the most iconic Game of Thrones locations
It is hard to find someone who isn't a fan of or haven’t at least heard about Game of Thrones. An abundance of series’ geeks make this blood-and-betrayal drama, an ideal Europe’s main heritage sites PR company. There are numerous tours and even a whole company offering special trips from Belfast, Derry, Dublin and Tollymore.
If you are one of the fans, here are the most beautiful locations to visit during your next holidays.
Overviewing all the 7 seasons of the drama, it is easy to outline three main countries which mostly served as a setting: Croatia, Nothern Ireland and Iceland.
Several tours entirely dedicated to Game of Thrones locations are proposed in each of these countries.
Croatia started to be used as a major stand-in for outdoor scenes set in King’s Landing. And even the new Season 8 recently began filming in Dubrovnik. This scenic old city still has medieval walls right on the coast, which were well-suited to depict King’s Landing. Several other locations in Croatia nearby Dubrovnik were also used, not just for King’s Landing but for scenes set in Qarth and Slaver's Bay. Meanwhile, for the Night’s Watch expedition in the frozen lands beyond the Wall, location shooting moved to national parks in Iceland, to film on actual glaciers. Filming continued in Croatia and Iceland through Season 5.
Roofs with orange terracotta tiles of the ancient Croatian port city Dubrovnik, impressive stone and wild seas seemed to the line producer for scenes a perfect posing with its stunning ancient city wall overlooking the Adriatic sea.
Duncan Muggoch, who shot in Spain and Croatia, says it is sometimes hard to film around tourists in Dubrovnik. Sherpas were used to help the production crew haul equipment through the narrow and often steep streets to specific locations throughout the city. Fans will see Croatia in the first few episodes of the fifth season. A soup kitchen scene with Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) visiting High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) was filmed in Dubrovnik.
The most prominent part of Dubrovnik's walls and their highest point is the rounded Min?eta Tower having served to protect Dubrovnik from attacks by land. The tower Min?eta offers an unforgettable view on the old town of Dubrovnik. But for fans of the series, this is the House of the Undying, or at least the outside. You will totally fall in love with the views, especially if you prefer not go up on the cable car.
Fort Lovrijenac (Fort of St. Lawrence) is located at the western side of the Old Town, outside the city walls on a 37 meters high cliff. It's also known as "Dubrovnik's Gibraltar".
Fort Lovrijenac has a triangular shape with three levels and was defended with 10 large cannons, being the largest and most famous called "Lizard".
This is the place where Sansa and Littlefinger discuss escape plans. Also the sea battle at Blackwater where Stannis Baratheon tries to attack King’s Landing is filmed here and this is also where the massacre of Robert’s bastards took place.
Above the door leading to the fortress there is a famous inscription carved in stone: “Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro” (“Freedom cannot be sold for all the gold of the world”).
Six hundred metres off Croatia’s mainland, tourists will find the city of Qarth, ruled by the ‘pureborn’. Otherwise known as Lokrum Island, this is where Daenerys Targaryen gets a frosty welcome from the Spice King. Even without any special effects, the landscape is just awesome. This mysterious place dates back to 1023 and according to legend, Richard the Lionheart was hiding here, after his ship was wrecked when he was returning from the Crusades.
The home base for the production team working on the Game of Thrones TV adaptation is in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This is why most of propose to begin the journey by this county.
Because the production team's home base is in Belfast, the majority of the on-location shooting for the drama takes place in the surrounding areas of Northern Ireland.
Many of the large interior sets are located at their studios in Belfast, including the massive Paint Hall studio, which makes it the first destination. No tour firm can bypass the city. Originally part of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, the Paint Hall is where parts of the RMS Titanic were built, it is now the largest film studio in Europe. The largest interior sets in the TV series are assembled in the Paint Hall, and then disassembled and put into storage when not in use so other sets can use the space. Locations whose interior sets are filmed at the Paint Hall in Belfast include Winterfell, Castle Black, the High Hall of the Eyrie, the Sky Cells in the Eyrie, the Great Sept of Baelor, Daenerys's throne room in the Great Pyramid of Meereen, and several others. These active studios are not open to the public.
Magheramorne Quarry, County Antrim
Magheramorne Quarry, located on the shores of Loch Larne, is a short drive away from the main studio in Belfast. This is the site of the fully realized Castle Black set, several city walls of King's Landing used for the Battle of the Blackwater, and the fully realized Hardhome set.
This small town of 75 residents was transformed into a fishing village called Hardhome in Season 5.
The famous scene at the beginning of the first episode of Season 1 in which Eddard Stark personally executes a deserter from the Night's Watch was filmed amidst landscape of moors and hills of Cairncastle. In Seasons 4 and 5 it was used as a location for the exterior of Moat Cailin.
Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains provided the scenery for Dany’s entrance into the Dothraki holy land. And if the Dothraki fighting horse statues are missing, you will at least find oute that the Mother of Mountains visible in the background of the city is actually the real-life Mourne Mountains.
County Antrim road
The tunnel of beech trees on the Bregagh Road, near Armoy, known as the Dark Hedges has become a major international tourist attraction serving as the setting for the Kingsroad
After appearing in the closing scene of one episode of Game of Thrones, although very briefly, the Dark Hedges became a huge draw for tourists and TV fans. The cycling blog NI Greenways described the Dark Hedges as a "national treasure" and claimed it was being slowly killed by crowds of the series’ fans.
The Dark Hedges were planted more than 200 years ago by the Stuart family, who created a tree-lined avenue along the entrance to their Gracehill House mansion.
Downhill Beach and Mussenden Temple
Moving into Antrim’s Cushendun Caves, which formed over a period of 400 million years, don’t forget that this is the same spot where Melisandre birthed the shadow assassin. She also burned the old gods on Dragonstone, otherwise known as Downhill Strand in County Londonderry, a scenic beach dominated by the elegant 18th century ruins of Mussenden Temple.
If you happen to be rooting for Stannis Baratheon, Downhill Beach and Mussenden Temple in Northern Ireland are your spots. Serving as the backdrop for Dragonstone Castle and Blackwater Bay, Downhill Beach was where Melisandre burned the old gods, issuing a new religion for Stannis’ followers.