Our places in Game of Thrones
Based on the best-selling novels by George R.R. Martin, the TV show ‘Game of Thrones’ charts the brutal power struggle between seven fictional kingdoms. In reality much of the action took place in Northern Ireland, where our places provided a perfect backdrop to the drama.
During the first series the Georgian farmyard at Castle Ward, County Down stood in for Winterfell, the home of the Stark family. Although the fictional castle was burned down in series two, Castle Ward has been feeling the Game of Thrones effect ever since.
‘When we were first approached as a location for the show, we didn’t realise how big it was going to be,’ said Jacqui Bird, Visitor Experience Manager at Castle Ward. ‘Now, the number of visitors coming to see the real-life Winterfell has peaked at more than 2,500 per month.’
A long relationship
As well as Castle Ward, several of our other sites gained starring roles in the series. Supervising Location Manager Robbie Boake first started scouting in Northern Ireland in 2008, and soon discovered the draw of these special places: ‘As I was exploring the countryside, it soon became apparent that some of the most beautiful areas here are owned by the National Trust,’ he said.
‘Eight years have now passed, and we’re continuing to film at your places as they lend themselves to the geography of the fictional locations.'
Game of Thrones fan or not, the range of our places in Northern Ireland, from unspoilt beaches to historic buildings, make a visit well worthwhile. ‘I try to make a note when I find these places that I should be spending more leisure time at them’ said Robbie. ‘They’re interesting, beautiful, and I always look forward to returning.’
Starring roles helps conservation work
There are several benefits to the places used as locations in Game of Thrones – not least that the money raised from location fees goes back into caring for the properties and helping to continue their conservation work.
Portstewart Strand in County Londonderry, a dune-covered stretch of coast used for filming in series five, is another place benefiting from this income. ‘The filming days were very long but we all enjoyed it’ says seasonal Ranger Gill McIlmoyle. ‘There was a really feel-good atmosphere, with people gathering on the nearby hillside to get a peek of the stars.
‘Being able to show off the beautiful scenery we have here helps more people understand the work we do to look after it.’