HBO’s award winning television series Game of Thrones has extensively used the stunning scenery within the Causeway Coast and Glens to represent everything from Winterfell to the King’s Road, the Iron Islands to Stormlands. Now you too can stand on the spot where Lannisters schemed, stroll in the footsteps of Starks and gaze on grasslands crossed by the Dothraki horde.
The Causeway Coast and Glens Game of Thrones itinerary is a three-day voyage of discovery that lets you experience the fantasy world of author George R.R Martin for yourself. Plotting a path through the scenic splendour of the Seven Kingdoms, it takes you to where many of the pivotal scenes were shot.
- 3 Nights Accommodation
- Daily breakfast
- Heritage Island Touring Guide and discount card
DAY 1, Belfast to Glenarm (61km)
A sound night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast are the order of the day before setting out from Northern Ireland’s capital city of Belfast along the M2 (branching onto the A2) and on to the famed Causeway Coastal route. Celebrated as one of The World’s Great Road Journeys, this twisting trail of tarmacadam is about to test your stamina for small screen scripts, sights and sound bites as it takes you to seven mythical kingdoms in one day. Seven is indeed the magic number for it is only seven miles past Larne, known as the gateway to the Glens (of Antrim), that you will come across Cairncastle (near the village of Ballygally), It was here that it all began, so to speak, and where you encounter your first dimma. It was here on the windswept Antrim Plateau that Game of Thrones kicked off in dramatic fashion with Ned Stark beheading the Night’s Watch deserter, witnessed by Jon Snow, Theon Greyjoy and the Stark brothers Robb and Bran, and where Catelyn captures Tyrion Lannister whom she suspects of trying to kill her son. When Bran, Rickon, Osha and Hodor head north the The Wall it is also from the land above Cairncastle that they take a last look back at Winterfell.
However, even the most imaginative scriptwriter would have trouble topping Cairncastle’s own tale of the nobleman supposedly drowned along the coastline in 1588 as part of the ill-fated Spanish Armada. He was laid to rest in St Patrick’s Church graveyard and on the spot where he was buried stands the gnarled and twisted branches of a Spanish chestnut tree. Samples taken from the tree reveal it does indeed date from the 16th Century.
From Cairncastle it’s only a few short miles to picturesque Glenarm. With pitched battles between would-be rulers of Westeros a frequesnt subject matter for Game of Thrones it’s fitting that day one should end in a village whose name is taken from the Irish for Gleann Arma, meaning Valley of the Army. For those with sufficient resedrves of energy you can explore Glenarm Castle (seat of the Earls of Antrim for 400 years), the beautiful Glenarm Forest Park, and a workshop that Game of Thrones fans will want to visit. Steensons Jewellery Economusee is where many of the stunning pieces for the series were crafted such as Joffrey’s crown, Lannister lion pendants, stag pins, and silver fish brooches. What’s more you’ll be welcome to watch the craftsmen at their work and perhapspurchase something special for yourself.
Day 2, Glenarm to Ballycastle (95km)
Leaving Glenarm you travel inland once more for just under 10 miles until you reach the Sillanavogy Road in the show of Slemish Mountain. St Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, tended sheep on Slemish after being brought to the area by pirates who slaightered his family. It’s the sort of barbarism that would no doubt have found favour with the warlike Dothraki horde and an appropriate setting for the Game of Thrones scenes where Daenerys Targaryen, Ser Jorah Mormont, and the Dothraki horsemen ride through the grasslands en route to Vaes Dothrak. From the splendid isolation of Slemish through the village of Broughstone, famed for its vibrant floral displays, it’s time to head back towards the coast and the beautiful villages of Cushendall and Cushendun. It was in the caves at Cushendun, easily accessible on foot, that the Game of Thrones crew filmed the dramatic scene from Season Two in which Davos Seaworth, on the orders of Lord Stannis, takes the sorceress Melisandre ashore where she gives birth to a shadowy baby.
From Cushendun it’s on to the magnificent Murlough Bay with its views of Rathlin Island, Mull of Kintyre, and the Scottish Islands. Used as the road to Pyke on which Theon Greyjoy and his sister Asha ride on horseback, it was a location close to the heart of Michelle Fairley (Lady Stark). “I was particularly pleased when I heard Game of Thrones was going to be filming at Murlough Bay. I used to go swimming there as a child.” Ballycastle, birthplace of Game of Thrones star Conlyn Hill (Varys), will be the last port of call on day two, but frirst you must pass through the coastal town for one more location of jaw-dropping natural beauty.
Larrybane, meaning ‘the ancient white site’, is classic Storms End with its panoramic views of the limestone cliffs and ocean. It hosted several key scenes, including where Brienne beats Ser Loras in a tourney and is given a place in Renly’s Kingsguard as a reward. At Larrybane Renly also swears to Lady Stark that he will avenge Ned’s death, but meets his end at the hands of Melisandre’s shadowy baby; Margaery confides to Littlefinger (following Renly’s death and with Stannis’ fleet off-ashore) that she wants to be Queen; and Davos tries to tell Stannis what he witnessed in the cave with Melisandre. Stand on Larrybane Head with the wind in your hair, look out to sea, and you will also truly understand why Game of Thrones came here, and why the programme makers chose this view for their generic panning shots of the coast. However, if you really want to test your head for heights why not take taime out and visit nearby Carrick-a-Rede Rop Bridge. One of Northern Ireland’s most famous landmarks, the bridge is suspended across a 20-metre chasm between the mainland and the tiny Carrick Island, with a 23-metre drip to the water below. Cross Carrick-a-Rede and you will have earned a hearty meal and a glass of Dornish wine when you return for the night to Ballycastle.
Day 3, Ballycastle to Derry/Londonderry (142km)
With the winding road hugging the coastline and the Atlantic Ocean your constant companion the first stop on day three is the hidden gem that is Ballintoy Harbour. Still a working harbour for local fishermen, Ballintoy doubled as Lordsport Harbour (The Iron Island) and the homecoming of Theon Greyjoy after ten years in Winterfell. The beach at Ballintoy is where Theon was baptised into the faith of the ‘Drowned Go’, cementing his return to the House of Greyjoy. Contine along Whitepark Road for just under four miles and you will see signs for Dunseverick, antoher of the myriad wonderful little harbours and inlets that populate the area. There was little sign of brotherly love but a huge helping of sibling rivalry when Renly and Stannis met here to discuss their claims to the Iron Throne. It was also Renly’s first encouter with the ‘fire priestess’. Filming may not have taken place at the Giant’s Causeway (although the sea beyond featured in several sweeping shots) but no vist to the Causeway Coast and Glens would be without calling in at the UNESCO World Heritage Site with it’s unique six-sided basalt coloums and the wonderful local legend that is Finn McCool.
As you reach the village of Bushmills (site for one of Ireland’s oldest whiskey distilleries) you will be lured inland to one of the most photographed natural phenomenon in the region, the haunting (and we mean heauting) avenue of trees near Armoy known as ‘The Dark Hedges’. This is where Arya Stark, dressed as a boy, escaped from King’s Landing. Don’t longer too long, through, as the Grey Lady (a lost spirit from a long abandoned graveyard) is said to appear at dusk among the trees.
Your journey through the Seven Kingdoms is nearly complete, but one last treat lies in store. Travelling through Coleraine on the banks of the River Bann, it’s time to follow the Causeway Coastal Route signs past Castlerock and on to Downhill Strand. Standing proudly on a rocky outcrop is the iconic Mussendun Temple, built in 1785 as a summer library and modelled on the Temple of Vista in Italy. The beach below is Dragonstone, where the Seven Idols of Westeros were burned and Melisandre, flames dancing in to the night sky, proclaimed: “For the night is dark and full of terrors.”
The visual feast will continue as you wave goodbye to Benone and head for journey’s end in the famous walled city of Derry/Londonderry. Binevenagh, and Area of Outstanding Beauty, provides yet another brilliant backdrop as you bring the curtain down on the Causeway Coast and Glens Game of Thrones itinerary.
B&B Accommodation from $224pp twin share
4 Star Accommodation from $435pp twin share
Terms & Conditions: For sale until further notice and for travel until 31 December 2014. Prices shown are for land only and do not include flights, car hire, travel insurance, entrance fees, meals not otherwise specified or gratuities. Subject to availability and seasonal supplements. Prices correct as at 3 April 2014 and can change without notice. Subject to credit card and booking fees.