Our places in Game of Thrones

An image from a scene from Game of Thrones which was filmed at Castle Ward

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.

Re-creating Winterfell

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.’ 

This article first appeared in the National Trust Magazine - Spring 2016 issue. Credit - Helen Beer, Assistant Editor.
Robbie Boake’s top 5 Trust filming locations
 Rocky and windswept coastline at Murlough Bay, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland

Murlough Bay, County Antrim 

‘Remote Murlough Bay became the Iron Islands in series three, and was where Davos was stranded after the Battle of Blackwater. The light playing on the cliff and the sea stretching to Scotland took my breath away.’

Mussenden Temple at Downhill Demesne

Downhill Demesne, County Londonderry

‘Mussenden Temple, perched dramatically on the cliff edge at Downhill Demesne, gave the Game of Thrones camera crew a perfect view of Downhill Beach (not NT owned) which became Dragonstone in series two.’

View of Larrybane Quarry looking east towards Fairhead

Larrybane Quarry, County Antrim

‘A chalk quarry until the 1970s, Larrybane now marks the start of a coast walk to Carrick-a-Rede and was the setting for Renly Baratheon’s camp in series two. Gale force winds forced us to cancel our first filming attempt!’

Game of Thrones filming at Portstewart Strand

Portstewart Strand, County Londonderry

‘I can see why so many people love to visit this beach. It stretches on for two miles and some of the dunes are 30 metres tall. They were used for scenes in series five featuring Jamie and Bronn on the way to Dorne.’

Game of Thrones Filming

Castle Ward, County Down

‘Creating Winterfell Castle in the old farmyard for series one will always be my one of fondest Game of Thrones memories because it was right at the start of filming and nobody had any idea the series would become so popular.’