As I mentioned in my recent Film Friday Dance Movie Marathon post, my friend Jen is visiting from Australia. Now if there is one thing that Jen and I love even more than dance movies, it’s Game of Thrones. Throughout season 4 we had a regular date to watch it together and I can honestly say the only way I got through the red wedding was with her beside me, even though she was howling like an injured direwolf throughout the whole episode. Anyway, when I found out there was a Game of Thrones tour you could take to check out some of the Northern Ireland filming locations I couldn’t resist booking it as an outing for us.
There are two options for the tour, one leaving from Belfast and the other from Dublin. Tours from Dublin cost €55 and tours from Belfast cost €50. We opted for the Dublin option because it was a lot cheaper to fly to Dublin from London than Belfast, arriving the night before and staying in the North Wall Quay Jury’s Inn, which is where the tour departs from in the morning. We are creatures of convenience the two of us.
We were met at 830 by the shiny black tour bus, although our departure was slightly delayed by some American tourists who were at the wrong Jury’s Inn. Clearly the Irish are more patient than I am because I would have left them behind.
On our way to our first stop our tour guide Dorothy told us more about how Game of Thrones came to be filmed predominantly in Northern Ireland and showed us some behind the scenes videos showing how the filming locations were digitally enhanced to create the what we see onscreen. We were also entertained with a quiz that tested our knowledge of the show. We managed to came first and third which meant that we both given the privilege of wearing appropriate gear during the first leg of the tour. Jen got a full Stark uniform where I got a cape with a badger on it… a real badger,
Those who were not lucky enough to win their outfit for the day were given the opportunity to hire full or partial outfits if they so wished. Out first stop was at Castle Ward, which forms the basis for Winterfell, the Stark family stronghold. A lot of Winterfell is digitally added but one of its main towers is part of Castle Ward and if you look carefully on the right is Tyrion’s brothel of choice.
There are several other filming sites at Castle Ward, which are explored through a guided walk or if you don’t fancy that you can practise your archery at the very site where Jon Snow attempted to help Bran improve his skills before he was bested by Arya.
We chose to go on the walk, as it seemed the best way to show off our outfits. The location is absolutely stunning and we were unsurprised when Dorothy told us that lots of people come on the tour without knowing anything about the show just to enjoy the scenery. At each stop Dorothy showed us stills or video so we could compare the scenes from the show with the location and explained in detail how each location was used.
After we finished our walk we had lunch in the stately home on the Castle Ward grounds, which was included in the tour. The meal comprised of delicious home made soup, sandwiches and cakes, which were most welcome because we’d worked up such an appetite from the walking.
Our next stop was the amazing ruin of Inch Abbey where Robb was declared King in the North. It is also the spot where the tree that Robb hacks at when he finds out his father is dead, but this has been cordoned off by a farmer. Guess he wasn’t enjoying the fan reenactments.
Our final stop for the day was at Tollymore National Park, which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It definitely conjures up the concept of a magical storybook forest, which is why it was used to film several forest scenes around Jon Snow’s journey to the Wall. It’s also the place where the discovery of the direwolf pups was filmed. We weren’t the only people enjoying the park though as it’s a popular camping, walking and picnic spot.
Our journey back to Dublin went by swiftly as we got to rewatch episode one and two of season one and see many of the spots we had visited onscreen, which added to the awesomeness of the tour. Whether you are a Game of Thrones mega fan, an occasional watcher or have barely heard of the show I would highly recommend the tour not just because it’s an excellent way to see some of the beauty of Northern Ireland in just one day but because everything is well-organised and fun and the information that is shared during the tour will definitely enhance your enjoyment of the show. Book it now!