Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland

Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland is a beautiful city with a balanced blend of ancient and modern architecture. We know how the famous H&W, the linen industry, The Troubles is associated with Belfast but do we know the Game of Thrones (GOT) association? GOT was produced and filmed in Belfast and surrounding. Today I will take you through the Game of Thrones tour of Northern Ireland.

Game of Thrones is an immensely popular fantasy drama television series. It is based on ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ fantasy novel by George R. R. Martin. This is not only popular in western countries, but it is also equally popular in India. I used to hear a lot of discussion on the ongoing series among friends and family where I used to fall out of place.

Dark Hedges
Dark Hedges

Spare me, pardon me, GOT fans for not watching a single episode of the series. It may sound like a crime to the die-hard fans and this is the reason I concealed it in my introductory paragraph. 🙂

I was in Belfast and had seen the city and wanted to go around and beyond the city and look at its countryside and see Ireland the way I imagined it. I was thinking of various options to do it as I had no special places in my mind.

This is when some impressive pictures of some incredible locations caught my attention. Each location was better than the previous and I made up my mind that I want to see them all.

I booked the tickets for the Game of Thrones and the Giant’s causeway one day trip from Belfast and jumped into the bus to explore the beauty of the countryside of Ireland to be more specific – Northern Ireland.

After all the general introduction and the rules and regulations, our tour guide started with the Game of Thrones part and every single thing, the name of the characters, the incidents the scenes seemed so alien to me while all the co-travellers were highly engaged in his narration.

He had a tab where he was showing the clipping from different scenes to keep his passengers engaged. I at once thought that I might have chosen a wrong tour and was going to repent my decision when the surrounding scene did the trick.

Hay bales covered in black plastic
Hay bales covered in black plastic

The surrounding changed from cityscape to grasslands and the tint of greenery got me hooked. I chose to ignore the narration and concentrate on the scenes outside.

We were approaching the sea, the topography and the landscape gave the clue and my senses were absolutely correct. It was some small port, where some so-called scene from GOT was filmed. I again chose to ignore and kept waiting impatiently to get out from the last seat of the bus to see the beautiful place.

Our guide was an overenthusiastic garrulous person who loved to keep saying every single bit of everything and at last, he stopped and after the other passengers deboarded I got my chance and it was worth. It was a postcard-perfect place, I cannot find any other adjective in praise for it.

I apologise to my readers as I cannot mention the name of the places as I did not pay attention to our guide and was immersed in my imaginary world looking out through the wide glass of my window.

European Robin
European Robin

Our guide did not stop for a moment and kept on with his babble and the bus moved on through the prettiest of grasslands. We arrived at the next stop it was again another incredible place with a cave at its far end again related to some shooting spot of GOT.

Road to Giant's Causeway
Road to Giant’s Causeway

I could not wait to reach the dark hedges in County Antrim, I had seen them multiple times on Instagram, on various other social media and obviously the cover page of the magazine in the visa centre. It is the most photographed location in Northern Ireland and I was finally there.

The road near Gracehill House
The road near Gracehill House

The Dark Hedges also had the GOT link but forget about that let me tell you the history of the place. This is the avenue through the series of beech trees planted on either side creating a tunnel leading to the Gracehill House. The interesting part is the legend of the ghost that comes along.

The Dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges

The Gracehill House was built by James Stuart after the name of his wife Grace Lynd in 1755. He belonged to the family with the ancestral association to the British Reserve Army and he himself was a fighting man of the Yeomanry Corp. It is said that the spirit of James’s daughter Margaret known as ‘Cross Peggy’ from the Gracehill House haunts the place. Her ghost is often known as the ‘Grey Lady’.

Gracehill house
Gracehill house

It must be a harmless ghost and seems to have a narcissist approach in her afterlife. It is said that the spirit moves through the road rapidly and swiftly from tree to tree. This place is a primary tourist attraction, also the most photographed location so she has to be in the pictures of many of the visitors here. (I need to go through my pictures properly to have a closer look for the Grey Lady among the other crowd 😉 in case you get to see her in my pictures do let me know).

Sharing one more picture for the lookout of the Grey Lady
Sharing one more picture for the lookout of the Grey Lady

Our next destination was a place of geographical wonder. It was the first time our tour came out of GOT as this place had no such association. The site has been enlisted under the UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Nature Reserve in the UK. These are the formation of Basalt columns by the sea which are mostly hexagonal in shape (though some differ from four to eight-sided) rising from the sea to the foot of the cliff. A majority of the structure remains under the sea exposed during tidal activities.

This strange geographical formation was the outcome of some volcanic activity during the Paleocene Epoch. This is the Giant’s Causeway located in Antrim which was the part of the great volcanic plateau called Thulean Plateau in the Paleocene Epoch. The strange topography was formed when the molten Basalt lava erupted through the limestone and carbonaceous bed to be rapidly cooled and compressed by the outside temperature.

The cliff in the Giant's Causeway area
The cliff in the Giant’s Causeway area

Such beautiful Basalt columns are also found in many other parts of the world but this was the first of the kind seen by me and was truly unique. There is also a legend that gives it the name of the ‘Giant’s causeway’. In my childhood, I was a big fan of fairytales and folklores and now when I get the opportunity to hear some I do enjoy it to the fullest and would love to share it with my readers, just in case some of them has a similar interest.

So, as per the legend goes the columns here are the remains of the causeway built by a giant. Giants are nothing to be feared but are supernatural beings of superhero status in Gaelic Irish mythology. The Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) had a foe in Scotland across the North Channel named Benandonner. They challenged each other for dwell and thus Fionn built the causeway across the channel so that the two can meet.

The vertical basalt columns
The vertical basalt columns

In one version of the tale, it is said that Fionn defeated Benendonner while the other version has an interesting twist. It says that when Fionn realised that Benendonner is almost double his size he hides to safety than to fight him. Fionn’s clever wife Oonagh gets a proper disguise for him as a child tucking him in a cradle. When Benendonner comes for the dwell he is said that Fionn is not there at present.

Watch out for 'the Chimney Stacks' resembling basalt column in the centre of the frame
Watch out for ‘the Chimney Stacks’ resembling basalt column in the centre of the frame

Benendonner thinks that Fionn must be hiding somewhere in the palace and goes in search of him to find the baby (Fionn in disguise) in the cradle. Seeing the size of the baby Benendonner calculates the size of his father who must be the giant of the giants.

The interesting geometrical shaped biscuits of basalt
The interesting geometrical shaped biscuits of basalt

Thus afraid, he fled back to Scotland destroying the causeway behind so that the two can never meet. This connection of Scotland to Northern Ireland with the causeway is supported by some identical Basalt columns at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish Isle of Staffa. This was probably the outcome of the same lava flow thousands of years ago.

The hexagonal Basalt Column near Giant's Causeway
The hexagonal Basalt Columns near Giant’s Causeway

Whatever be it, a location or no location or just a drive through the vast grasslands, our guide had a lot to say which may be related or may not be but it was not his headache (but was obviously ours), he went on in his microphone and it was like all so beautiful around but no peace inside.

The tiny beach with a beautiful house near the port area
The tiny beach with a beautiful house near the port area

Our second last destination was again some port and a tiny beach associated with the GOT. The vast grassland was being harvested and there were patches of brown and green on either side of the road while a small cemetery stood over the corner of the cliff overlooking the small harbour. The road to the harbour winds down beside the cemetery building. Departed souls laid peacefully within the marked graves under the bright green blanket of soft grass.

Some beautiful houses lined the road down to the harbour. It seemed that they lived in the most peaceful place on earth with such breathtaking vistas all around. I chose my favourite of all the destinations I travelled the day although there was yet another one to be explored. I thought this was what I came to Ireland. I wanted to stay there for some more time but our time was fixed and we had to return back to the bus within the scheduled time.

The small harbour area
The small harbour area

And then we went to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, again a beautiful destination with some stunning landscapes. ‘Carrick-a-Rede’ means the rock in the road or an obstacle in the way of the migrating Salmons as they search for their way back to the river they were born. This place has a history relating to salmon fishing in the past.

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The Atlantic Salmon during its annual migration come to spawn in the River Bann and River Bush near the island here. It’s been ages since the fishermen took this opportunity to do some serious salmon fishing in the season. The main attraction here is the rope bridge that was built by the fishermen to connect the mainland to the tiny island so as to minimise the dependency on boats during the fishing season.

The first rope bridge was built in 1755 and since then the bridge was modified and renovated multiple times with the latest repairs in the year 2017. Salmon fishing was a flourishing industry in yesteryears but today it is facing the consequences of overfishing, river and sea pollution and the increase in the water temperature. Thus the fishing in this area has dwindled in the last few years to ultimately a complete stop.

The grassland with sheep and the brown harvested field
The grassland with sheep and the brown harvested field

The rope bridge has turned from a utility to a tourist attraction today and is open throughout the year for the tourist definitely with a dependency on the weather. People are allowed to cross it for a certain fee to reach the tiny island. It was a windy day and the rope bridge was closed. Although it was the primary attraction of Carrick-a-Rede I was not at all disappointed as the views were so pleasing that I could not ask for anything more. I have seen very little of Ireland but it seemed I saw all of what I have come to Ireland.

I hope my readers like and recognised the GOT filming locations. Did someone find the Grey Lady in the pictures of the Dark Hedges? If you did do let me know in the comment section :). As it is the beginning of a bright new year, I end my post with good wishes for the new year. May all have peace, prosperity, happiness, empathy, love, well being and success this New Year.

Northern Ireland at a glance, with travel information.

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