Choose your allegiances and grab a goblet of wine, Game Of Thrones Season 7 is about to begin. If, like me, you didn’t realise quite how much you missed it (and Jon Snow’s cheeky little face) then read on.. did you know you can visit Westeros? For realsies.
A massive 80% of Game of Thrones is filmed in Northern Ireland and considering that (especially for us in Liverpool) it’s literally half an hour away (honest to god, as soon as your plane takes off you’re preparing for landing again), it really would be rude not to try your hand at being a Westerosian for a few days.
Here’s what’s in store if you decide to take the trip across the narrow sea…
Day 1 of my Game Of Thrones trip to Ireland and I got to visit Castle Ward AKA Winterfell (if you google it, a Scottish castle claims to be winterfell but I’m assured it’s fake news – they only used it for a teeny tiny part of the exterior shots, Castle Ward is where it’s at).
Our tour guide (as well as everyone else we seemed to meet) has actually been in Game Of Thrones so if you can’t get enough of the show, they’ll be able to give you all of the behnd the scenes goss you can handle – no spoilers though of course! By the way, the budget for fake snow just in the ‘Battle of the bastards’ episode alone was an absolutely massive $1.5 million AND it’s all made of paper. Yep, and my fella thinks I waste a lot of money on stationery.
There’s some amazing things you can do at Winterfell, including plenty of cos-play sword fighting and archery; and it turns out I’m a natural at archery – I always knew I was medieval at heart – so if there’s any gobshites out there breaking hearts and giving you girls the runaround, just give me a shout.
We got to meet a couple of the killed off cast: Greywind and Summer (Bran and Robb Stark’s direwolves) and have a proper medieval lunch (complete with flagons of wine).
Below I’m outside Walder Frey’s castle here – it’s just a couple of minutes walk from Castle Ward (as are loads of locations from the Robb Stark King Of The North storyline). If you watch the red wedding again by the way, be prepared, even though you know what’s coming, I guarantee it’s just as shocking!
This is SO cool! This is the real helmet belonging to Sandor Clegane ‘The Hound’ from the filming – it’s mostly kept locked away because a journalist dropped it and cracked it but… they made a special exception because I promised to be the carefulest girl there ever was.
To book the Winterfell tour at the real Winterfell actual location (it’s boss!) visit www.gameofthrones-winterfelltours.com
Of course, it isn’t just Winterfell that sits only an hour from Belfast – there’s so much more. Pyke, Dragonstone, Melisandre and Stanis’s haunts, Renly’s camp – even the harbour in Braavos. It’s all here and you can see them all.
Right behind me was where Ned Stark beheaded the Night’s Watch deserter in Season 1 AND where Littlefinger took Sansa when he was marrying her off to that gobshite Ramsey Boulton. (Pearl sleeve jumper from River Island btw)
Remember when Arya got attacked by that jealous manhead face changer in Braavos and she had to jump in the harbour? The steps where she crawled from bleeding is in Carnlough and if you go to the nearby Londonderry Arms, they have a chair used by Maisie Williams during filming and the owner is super proud of this – like honestly, you’ve never seen a man more proud of a chair in your entire life. Just down the round (still in Carnlough) is the Steensons jewellery workshop – Steensons made pretty much all the jewellery you see in the show and they even have their own range to buy. The coolest thing is that they have the actual crown made for Cersei and you can try it on.
Feeling like a bit of a daredevil? I wasn’t sure about crossing this rope bridge at first (they close it down if the wind is over 20mph but it was 24mph the day we crossed) but Carrick-a-Rede actually turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the Ireland trip. The rope bridge on the Iron Islands that Euron threw Balon from was based on this bridge but the scene was actually filmed on a stage indoors. (Photo taken by the amazing @kim.ou 😍)
There’s so much more involved on this tour, honestly, these posts are just scratching the surface. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan it’s a MUST. You can book here.
If your wondering what else Northern Ireland has to offer, Belfast is a fab place to start.
Here’s a dead interesting story for you. In the first series of Game Of Thrones this road with these amazing trees was used as the kings road when Arya was escaping Kings Landing after that winnet Joffrey chopped Ned’s head off. There was a bad storm in Ireland that tore down some of the trees and they were made into 10 game of thrones themed doors which are installed in pubs, hotels and cafe’s all round NI. You can get a little passport from any of the venues and collect a stamp every time you see one. I managed to get to see 5… and of course there’s no way I could resist “holding the door” 😈 (Swipe scross for more pictures).
And if you’re still not all Game of Thronesed out – they have this amazing tapestry telling the entire story of Game of Thrones. AY-MAY-ZING.
If you want to see me waffling on even more about this amazing trip to Ireland then you can see my video blog here. I hope you’re in the mood now for some sex, swords and savagery (because that’s basically Game Of Thrones in a nutshell). Valar morghulis.