Julie Ireland, Northern Ireland 13 Comments

Northern Ireland is a hot destination for Game of Thrones fans. With numerous sites to visit, like the ruins of old castles, scenic coastlines, and dark hedges of trees, Northern Ireland is perfect for filming scenes in Westeros.

The movie sets in the Game of Thrones are amazing. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see them in real life?!

We added one day onto our Ireland itinerary to tour some of the more popular filming locations. And our day turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. Keep reading to find out why (especially if you are considering touring these same sites!!).

What’s It Really Like?

We arrived in Belfast on a Sunday morning, flying in from Glasgow, Scotland. It was the beginning of August, peak season for tourism in Northern Ireland. Once in our rental car, our self-guided tour began in Belfast.

Titanic Studios

Belfast is the location of Titanic Studios, where many scenes for the Game of Thrones are filmed. We drove by the studio, not expecting to see anything, but it would have been awesome to spot Kit Harrington or Lena Headey. Well, we were not that lucky.

What is more interesting about the area is that the Titanic was built here in 1909. For those interested, visit the museum within walking distance of Titanic Studios.

Titanic Studios

Shillanavogy Valley

Forty-five minutes north of Belfast is Shillanavogy Valley, land of the Dothraki. This green valley was transformed into Vaes Dothrak. In real life, it’s not that impressive. A lot of computer generated effects turned this view into the much more impressive scenes we see in the Game of Thrones.

Shillanavogy Valley

Cushenden Caves

Our drive continued northeast to the coastline. The Cushenden Caves are where Melisandre gives birth to the shadowy creature that becomes King Renly’s undoing.

This was a little more interesting that Shillanavogy Valley and there were not many people here. That was about to change!!


Cushenden Caves

Cushenden Caves Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Filming Location

Murlough Bay

Murlough Bay was our next stop. This is where Davos was rescued after the Battle of Blackwater and also where Theon road on horseback with his sister Yara. Murlough Bay looks gorgeous in photos.

But we never made it here. A local parade was going on, so we were turned around a several miles from the coastline. It was disappointing, but we still had lots of great places to see.

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

This is not a Game of Thrones filming location, but it is one of the most popular places to visit in Northern Ireland. Since we were nearby, we wanted to check it out.

By now, it was 2:30 pm. There were so many cars just trying to enter the parking lot that the road was backed up in both directions. We sat and waited for a few minutes, barely moving, and then gave up. I couldn’t imagine waiting a half hour or more just to park our car in order to walk on a rope bridge. So, we skipped Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.

The Dark Hedges

This just may be the most popular Game of Thrones filming location in Northern Ireland. The Dark Hedges is a short road lined with twisted, mature beech trees. This is the Kingsroad.


We were shocked when we saw the Dark Hedges. The road was lined with cars and there were so many people here! Just then a giant, bright white tour bus pulled up and parked smack in the middle of the road.

It had just rained, so cars driving on the road were splashing muddy water on people nearby. It was impossible to get a decent photo.

Kingsroad in August

By now, we were so frustrated with our Game of Thrones tour and this was the final straw. It was so frustrating it actually became quite comical.

By now, we learned our lesson: the real life filming locations bear little resemble to the Game of Thrones shows, and these places are so crowded in the summer months that going to these places is hardly enjoyable.

Please note: If you are visiting The Dark Hedges, do not be one of those lazy people that parks right on the road, ruining everyone’s experience. There is a car park across the street. Please park here!

Kingsroad View

By the way, this is the view from the Kingsroad

Dunluce Castle

After dinner in the beautiful little town of Portrush, we visited Dunluce Castle. This is the filming site of Pyke of House Greyjoy.

By now it was 7 pm. The sun was getting low on the horizon and most people were finished with their tours for the day. We shared Dunluce Castle with a few other people, making this one of our better experiences of the day. Dunluce Castle is worth the visit, but there is a lot of CGI (computer-generated imagery) that goes into transforming these ruins into the pillars of Pyke.

Dunluce Castle

Giant’s Causeway

Again, this is not a Game of Thrones filming spot. But if you go to one place in Northern Ireland, it should be here. This coastline is spectacular in its uniqueness. Come here at sunset; it just may be the highlight of your day.

Giants Causeway

Giants Causeway August

Ireland Travel Guide

Binevenagh Mountain and Forest

We made a quick visit to Binevenagh Mountain on our second day in Northern Ireland as we drove into Ireland.

The area around Binevenagh Mountain was used as the Dothraki Sea in Season 5. This is where Daenerys finds wounded Drogon and is later taken prisoner by Dothraki riders. The view from the top of the mountain is spectacular and absolutely worth visiting (albeit a little out of the way from the normal tourist route). You can drive to the top and walk one minute on a dirt path to get this amazing view. It is worth it to come here, just for the view, even if it looks nothing like we know from Game of Thrones.

Binevenagh Mountain

Dothraki Sea

There is a scenic drive along the bottom of the mountain. Again, it is a lovely drive, but a lot of CGI goes into transforming Northern Ireland into Westoros.

Our Experience

Honestly, we were disappointed. Before traveling here, we were not expecting these landscapes to look exactly like what we see in the Game of Thrones. But we were shocked that some places barely resembled what we see on TV. It takes a lot of imagination to really enjoy touring some of these places. There is a lot of CGI that goes into transforming these landscapes into what we see on TV.

Also, these sites can be extremely crowded during the peak travel months. Not only will there be people doing their own self-guided tour, but there are numerous tour companies that take people on Game of Thrones tours through Northern Ireland. Don’t be surprised to see tour buses on the Kingsroad and mobs of people at Dunluce Castle.

We have toured other filming locations in the world and had a wonderful experience. I cannot say the same thing about the Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland.

We visited Northern Ireland and Ireland in August 2016.

Here’s what you should do in Northern Ireland

If you have one day in Northern Ireland, here are our recommended places to visit.

Giant’s Causeway. Do not miss this! If you do one thing in Northern Ireland, it should be this. Actually, it is worth traveling to Northern Ireland just to see this.

Portrush. This quaint coastal town is a great place to have dinner or even spend the night. We stayed at the Albany Lodge and had dinner at Ramore Restaurant and we recommend both!

Dunluce Castle. Medieval ruins of an old castle. Very cool to see. It is a Game of Thrones filming location.

The Dark Hedges. This is the Kingsroad in Game of Thrones. Go early or go late in the day for the best experience. Expect to have lots of people and cars on the road. It is still worth seeing, whether or not you are a Game of Thrones fan.

Other recommendations for movie filming sites

If you are a fan of touring movie filming locations, check out this list. These are places where we had a great experience. These are not Game of Thrones filming locations, but they are great places to visit.

Star Wars: Skellig Michael: One of Ireland’s Most Unique Destinations

Cast Away: Beautiful Modriki Island, Fiji, the Filming Location for the movie “Cast Away”

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings: Photo Tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set

Avatar: Photo Tour of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Do you have plans to visit the Game of Throne sites in Northern Ireland? If you have any questions, let us know in the comment section below. 

More Information about Northern Ireland & Ireland

IRELAND ITINERARY: In 10 days, you can go on a road trip through Ireland and Northern Ireland, visiting the highlights. Get the full details in our 10 Day Ireland Itinerary.

BEST OF IRELAND: For a list of top experiences in Ireland, read our post Best Things to Do in Ireland. Walk the Cliffs of Moher, drive the Ring of Kerry, visit Dublin, and explore the Dingle Peninsula.

DRIVING IN EUROPE: If you have plans to rent a car in Europe, read our article Things to Know Before Renting a Car in Europe for lots of helpful tips.

TRAVEL INSPIRATION: Here are 15 fairytale destinations to visit around the world. For more great travel destinations, check out our article 10 Cool Travel Spots to Put on Your Wish List.

Game of Thrones Filming Sites in Northern Ireland


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Comments 13

  1. Avatar for Sara

    We spent 8 nights in Northern Ireland in 2018 and the Dark Hedges was the only GOT filming location we intentionally visited. Luckily by then the road had been closed to vehicular traffic to protect the trees, which happily eliminated the tour buses parking in the middle of the road nightmare, though it was still very busy. We accidentally stumbled into a few other GOT sites, like Ballintoy Harbor, and could always tell before we’d see the signs because those sites were more crowded than anywhere else.

    If you ever go back to Northern Ireland, plan on spending a few days in the Mourne Mountains. These are the highest peaks in Northern Ireland and a UNESCO Global Geopark. It is just incredible hiking, with huge old dry stone wall criss-crossing the hills. The are few trees, except some conifer plantations in the valleys, so there are stunning views in every direction. Stay in Newcastle, a cute little coastal town — you can swim in the sea after a long hike or on a rest day and have gorgeous mountains rising above. There seemed to be very few international tourists in the area — but the hiking is just so wonderful. I really think you all would enjoy it!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Sara. Thank you for taking the time to write in! I would love to revisit Ireland and Northern Ireland and these suggestions are perfect. Thanks again! Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Martin Cole
    Martin Cole

    Do you have a recommended place to stay and things to see or do in Belfast for the last couple of days before the return trip home?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Unfortunately I don’t. We only visited the Titanic Museum and then drove north to Portrush, sleeping in Portrush (we did this itinerary in the opposite direction). Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for liz

    hi all, as a person from northern ireland and one who has seen them filming on numerous occasions i can tell you that county down is by far the best place to see the best parts – inch abbey, quoile river, castle ward estate and the the mourne mountains and tollymore forest park which is well worth a visit, i would also recommend the giants causeway hiking trials and ballintoy harbour. I would also advise to do your research first and take one week to drive around and hike you will not be disappointed. doing a one day tour is not the way to experience the atmosphere of GOT . take your time, call into nearby restaurants and ask the locals you will not be disappointed

  4. Avatar for Vaughan

    Great advice guys. I arrived at the Dark Hedges, aka Bregagh Road at around 8am on a trip in September 2016 and there were maybe 3 cars on the whole stretch. Giant’s Causeway was packed with cars and tour buses by 10am, same trip but different day. Just have to be prepared to get up early and/or split visits up over multiple days.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  5. Avatar for Liana

    Is the main photo in your article from Skellig Michael? My husband and I are visiting Ireland mid September and I’ve been trying to get in touch with one of the boat ferry business but cannot get anyone to respond. Have you ever been? If so how did you contact them?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, we visited Skellig Michael last summer. We have a full post about it that you can read – Skellig Michael: One of Ireland’s Most Unique Destinations. In the post we give links to how you can contact the boat operator, including the one we used. We called them directly. They are not always so responsive by email and online. It’s good that you are looking into making your reservations now…Skellig Michael is very popular and books up in advance. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Donna

    Thanks for your honest opinion. I’m planning our October trip to Ireland and the Giants Causeway is a must see for me. When I realised GOT sites were nearby I was very excited. However as I’ve continued my research I began to suspect they had become very commercial and our time will be better spent elsewhere. You’ve confirmed that. We will still drive the dark hedges but hopefully by mid October the crowds will have decreased.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Go early or go late to the Dark Hedges, that may help beat the crowds. We were in Northern Ireland in early August, the busiest season of the year, so crowds were unavoidable. I hope you have better luck! Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Stephenie
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

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