12 Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland

by Jan

Do you know that Northern Ireland was one of the most popular filming locations for Game of Thrones?

In fact, they filmed the popular HBO fantasy series at more than 20 different sites in Northern Ireland.  It’s the perfect destination for Game of Thrones fans.

It’s not surprising when you consider the breathtaking coastline, unique geology, and abundance of atmospheric locations in Northern Ireland.  In fact, together with its collection of old castles and stunning beaches, Northern Ireland is the perfect backdrop for the dramatic scenery of Game of Thrones.

It holds its own against some of the better-known Game of Thrones shooting locations in Europe, such as Dubrovnik, Seville, and Split.

In this guide, we’ll take you to 12 of the top Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland and where they appeared in the show.  We’ll also include a map and information on how to get there.

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The Dark Hedges (Kingsroad)

Tree lined avenue of the Dark hedges, Northern Ireland
The Dark hedges, Northern Ireland

The first of our Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland is the Dark Hedges, a photogenic avenue of trees near Ballymoney in County Antrim.

The landowner, James Stuart, planted the trees in the 18th century to enhance the entrance to his mansion, Gracehill House.  Little did he know how famous his trees would later become!

The Dark Hedges shot to stardom as the road from King’s Landing in Game of Thrones.  It now attracts thousands of visitors and can get quite busy at peak times. Luckily, visitors can no longer park on the road, so you have a better chance of getting a good photo.

Kingsroad appears in Game of Thrones when Arya Stark escapes from the King’s Landing dressed as a boy.

Find out more in our full guide on visiting the Dark Hedges.

Ballintoy Harbour (The Iron Islands)

Blue skies, coastal views as seen Game of Thrones filming location, Ballintoy Harbour, Northern Ireland
Game of Thrones filming location, Ballintoy Harbour, Northern Ireland

Another prime filming location for the Game of Thrones is at Ballintoy Harbour (Lordsport Harbour).  The picturesque fishing village is at the end of a very steep road on the Causeway Coastal Route.  It was once an important maritime location.

Ballintoy Harbour appears in Game of Thrones as the film set for the Iron Islands.  It makes an appearance in season 2, when Theon first arrives at his boyhood home of Pyke.  They later baptise Theon in the harbour.

Subsequently, in season 8, you’ll see the beautiful Ballintoy Beach, when Euaun Greyjoy (presumed dead) returns to the Iron Islands and kills his brother, Balon.

Click here for our full guide on things to do in Ballintoy Harbour

The Glens of Antrim (Runestone)

Path leading through the Woods at Glenariff Forest, Northern Ireland

The beautiful Glenariff Forest Park (know as Queen of the Glens) is the largest of the Glens of Antrim.  The serene location with its lush landscape, ancient woodland, and waterfalls made it ideal for Game of Thrones.

You can see it in Season 5, as the settlement of Runestone.

We made a day trip to Glenariff Forest Park.  It offers a choice of walks, which lead down the valley to the waterfalls.

Tollymore Forest Park (the Haunted Forest)

Another of Northern Ireland’s impressive forest parks used as a location for an episode of Game of Thrones is Tollymore.

This beautiful Forest Park is in the Mourne Mountains.  It appeared in the very first episode of Game of Thrones, as one of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.  Tollymore Forest Park is the setting for the Haunted Forest surrounding Winterfell when Ned Stark discovers the orphaned direwolves.

Cushendun Caves (Shadow Creature's birthplace)

Cushendun Caves, Northern Ireland, UK

The 400-million-year-old Cushendun Caves are on the beach at the far end of the village.

Designed by William Clough Ellis to look like a Cornish village, Cushendun first attracted visitors to admire its architectural heritage.  The picturesque village later rose in popularity as the birthplace of the Shadow Creature in Game of Thrones.

The Cushendun Caves are easy to find, and visitors can explore inside for free.  Many people just turn up for the caves and leave.  However, if you wanted to spend longer, Cushendun has a pristine sandy beach and a village trail.

Mussenden Temple and Downhill Strand (Dragonstone)

Mussendun Temple, Northern Ireland, UK

Perched on a cliff top overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Mussenden Temple is one of Northern Ireland’s most stunning landmarks.  The Roman-styled round temple was designed as a library for the Downhill Demesne estate.  It’s an incredible building and has stunning views over Downhill Strand (beach).

This beautiful beach was the filming location for Dragonstone.  GOT fans can watch the memorable scene with Melisandre and Stannis on the beach.  It was here she rejected the Seven Gods of Westeros.  Mussenden Temple provided an excellent vantage point for the Game of Thrones film crew looking down on the action.

Whilst you’re here, take time to explore the rest of the Downhill Demesne Estate and Gardens.

Murlough Bay (Slaver's Bay)

Murlough Bay is a beautiful cove in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.  It was used a backdrop for the filming of Slaver’s Bay in the Seven Kingdoms.

Dunluce Castle (House of Pyke)

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland, UK

As well as making best use of the dramatic coastline in Northern Ireland, the film directors took full advantage of the enchanting castles in the area.

One of the most impressive castles in County Antrim, Dunluce Castle, provides the perfect location for a Game of Thrones set. The medieval castle is perched on a basalt crag overlooking the sea.  Established by the MacDonnell Clan, the 16th century fortress is now in ruins.  However, there’s still plenty to see.

The castle was the set location for House of Greyjoy, Pyke Castle.  It houses the tower where they tortured Leon Greyjoy.

Whilst we were visiting Dunluce Castle, the fog came rolling in from the sea, which further enhanced the atmospheric setting for this GOT shooting location.

Inch Abbey (Riverrun)

This ruined Cistercian monastery in Downpatrick, County Down provides a romantic setting for Game of Thrones.  GOT fans may recognise it at the location for Robb Stark’s Camp, Riverrun, in season one.

Castle Ward (Winterfell)

Castle Ward in County Down appeared as the iconic Winterfell, family home to the House of Stark.  Although they shot earlier episodes of Winterfell at Doune Castle in Scotland, they later filmed the scenes in Castle Ward.

The 18th century gothic mansion is now owned by the National Trust and open daily to the public.

GOT fans can join an immersive visit to Winterfell, complete with cloaks swords, shields and a Game of Thrones extra.

Click here to book the Winterfell Locations Trek.

Larrybane Quarry (Renly Baratheon's Camp)

View of Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Larrybane Quarry is a disused quarry at the far end of the Carrick-a-Rede car park in Ballintoy.  The film crew used it as the set for Renly Baratheon’s camp (with a lot of CGI too).

There’s not a great deal to see here.  However, it is worth visiting Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, one of the most popular attractions in Northern Ireland.  Originally built in 1755, the suspension bridge connects with Carrick-a-Rede island.  The salmon fishermen rebuilt the bridge each year so they could use it to access the island.

Click here for our full guide on visiting Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

The Game of Thrones Studio in Belfast

If you’re a GOT megafan, you’ll love the Game of Thrones Studio Tour in Belfast.

The Game of Thrones Studio Tour is home to many of the film sets used in the series.  You can take an immersive behind-the scenes tour of Westeros to see props, weapons, and costumes used by the stars.  Plus you can take a look at some of the amazing special effects from the show.

The Titanic Experience is also worth visiting whilst in Belfast.  It’s an interactive museum, which tells the full story of the Titanic, from conception to its demise.

How to visit the Game of Thrones filming locations

It’s extremely easy to visit the Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland, as the places are so close together.  If you are a visitor to Ireland, you have two choices – hire a car or take a coach tour.

By car

We did a 6-day road trip on the Causeway Coastal Route, which included stops at many of the most popular shooting locations, such as Ballintoy, Cushendun, and Dunluce Castle.  We took a slight detour to see the Dark Hedges.

Plus, of course, we got to visit the amazing Giant’s Causeway too!

To be honest, we hadn’t intended to visit so many Game of Thrones places.  However, most of them are amazing destinations in their own right (hence why they were chosen for the series).

A coach tour

If you don’t have a car, the easiest way to visit the Game of Thrones filming locations is with a day trip from Belfast or Dublin.  The 1-day trip includes four popular Game of Thrones filming locations, plus a visit to the dramatic Giant’s Causeway.

The full day trip from Belfast includes Cushendun Caves, Ballintoy Harbour, Dunluce Castle, the Dark Hedges, and the Giant’s Causeway.  The tour lasts 9.5 hours and provides you with your own tour guide.

Click here for more information on the full day trip from Belfast.

A map of the Game of Thrones filming locations

Other places to visit in Northern Ireland

Once you’ve had your fill of Game of Thrones Northern Ireland, there’s plenty of other places to visit. You could spend a morning at the Giant’s Causeway, the famous UNESCO site.  Another popular attraction is the Gobbins Cliff Path, a dramatic walk on the Causeway Coastal Route.

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