Where to find the most iconic Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland!
Nerd alert friends – I’m a HUGE Game of Thrones fan! I lost several weekends smashing through the first three seasons after discovering it and becoming absolutely hooked. So when I booked a weekend in Belfast, I knew I had to go on a Games of Thrones Tour! But you don’t have to take a tour to find the Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland. All you need is this guide and a sense of adventure – so let’s go!
Other Northern Ireland posts you might like…
- Top 10 things to do in Belfast (as recommended by a local!)
- How to get from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway (by car, train, bus and tour!)
Option one: travelling by tour
One of the great things about going on a tour is that you don’t have to drive or navigate. As an inexperienced driver I personally find it a lot less stressful to book a guided tour!
It’s also a lot cheaper. A day trip on a guided tour may cost you around £30 on average? However, renting a car for the day, plus petrol (especially in this economy!) would set you back a lot more.
I also enjoy asking the guides lots of extra questions and meeting new people!
There are several tour companies that cover the Games of Thrones filming locations. But I went with McCombs Coach Travel after some thorough research.
They were one of the first companies to start doing Game of Thrones Tours from Belfast and are amazing!
Oh, and this post is unsponsored. I just really loved this tour company and highly recommend them!
Our guide knew a lot of people who had worked on the set and had met many of the actors. So he had a real insight into the making of the show.
But even better, he had a lot of behind-the-scenes gossip that never went public – which was proper juicy!
I also loved the fact that he was as big a Game of Thrones fan as us! His enthusiasm for the topic really shone through. He was happy to answer questions and chat to you all day about Games of Thrones, which was awesome.
Option two: travelling by car
The downside of going with a tour though is that you are on a set schedule. I don’t personally mind this as I’m usually the organiser! So I love that this element of planning is taken out off my to-do list.
However, it is also a lot of fun to go exploring by yourself! That way you can spend as much time at each location as you like or skip locations that you’re not interested in.
It’s just a matter of getting a car sorted and downloading the routes.
But whether you go searching for the Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland by tour or by yourself, it’ll be an unforgettable day either way!
First stop: Carnlough Harbour
On the Game of Thrones Tour, you travel along a large portion of the beautiful causeway coastal route through Ballycastle, stopping first at Carnlough.
This is one of the filming locations for Braavos and where Carnlough Harbour featured in season 6, episode 7.
Arya goes to Braavos to find Jaqen H’ghar and learns how to become a faceless assassin. However, the Waif comes out of the shadows and stabs her. Leading Arya to jump into Braavos Harbour (or Carnlough Harbour!) to escape.
But interestingly, this scene was actually shot in two different countries. Once Arya starts crawling up the harbour steps from the water, the film location switches to Croatia.
Surely it would have made more sense to shoot this scene in the warmer waters of Croatia? But as film makers, there will be a method to their madness I’m sure!
I highly recommend stopping at Carnlough as it is such a picturesque place. It’s also an opportunity to take a break, get something to eat and load up on snacks!
Second stop: Caves of Cushendun
The Caves of Cushendun can be found tucked away in the National Trust village of Cushendun. Just half an hour drive from Carnlough.
They were formed over a period of 400 million years and were the product of some rather extreme weather conditions!
It’s a really interesting place and seems so remote you do wonder how anybody found it in the first place!
But in season 2 of Game of Thrones, these caves were where the Red Woman famously gave birth to the shadow assassin. Much to the horror of Davos Seaworthy (Stannis’s right hand man).
Third stop: Larrybane Quarry
Next up is the 19th century Limestone Quarry, Larrybane.
This is where in season 2, Renly Baratheon swears to Lady Stark that he will avenge Ned’s death. But he ultimately meets his end at the hands of the shadow assassin that was conjured up in the Cushendun Caves!
Over 100 men worked at Larrybane Quarry before it finally closed in 1888. However, what is left is a great open space for filming and spectacular views!
Fourth stop: Ballintoy Harbour
The fourth stop on the Games of Thrones Tour is Ballintoy Harbour. Which was used to film scenes for the Iron Islands as well as some of Stannis Barathian’s story arch.
In the 19th century the harbour’s primary use was for the shipping of sett stones. The original lime kiln still stands today, which is pretty cool!
Ballintoy harbour first features in season 2, episode 2, when Theon Greyjoy arrives back in the Iron Islands.
Unlike some of the smaller locations, Ballintoy Harbour is instantly recognisable!
Another critical scene that the harbour features in is season 2, episode 3. Theon gets ‘baptised’ into the religion of the Drowned God to reaffirm his loyalty to his family, the Greyjoys.
The harbour also doubled up for scenes at the end of season 4 in episode 10, when Arya jumps on a boat bound for Braavos to seek ‘the faceless man’.
Just to the side of Ballintoy Harbour you’ll also spot beaches that were used in scenes for Stannis Barathian’s storyline. But otherwise it’s just a great photo stop!
The beaches and neighbouring cliffs are so lovely – even on the miserable February day I visited!
Fifth stop: The Giant’s Causeway
Although the Giant’s Causeway didn’t appear in Game of Thrones, it would be a shame to come this far and not visit the breathtaking causeway! It’s one of my favourite places to visit in Northern Ireland.
This incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by the wild North Atlantic Ocean and a landscape of dramatic cliffs which has inspired artists and stirred scientific debate of how it was formed for centuries now.
The honey-comb pattern of basalt columns was formed during a volcano eruption over 60 million years ago.
Scientists believe that the thick lava ran down the cliff face so quickly that is dried and shrank, forming the unique stone columns you see today.
However, according to local mythology, the Giant’s Causeway was created by a giant named, Finn McCool.
The story goes that Finn had an issue with a Scottish giant who lived 25 miles across the sea. But as he wasn’t a good swimmer, he decided to use the materials that the volcanoes had left behind to build a causeway to Scotland. He called it, “The Giant’s Causeway”.
It’s an unmissable stop if you’re visiting Northern Ireland!
Final stop: The Dark Hedges
For the final stop, you must visit everyone’s favourite Games of Thrones location in Northern Ireland – the Dark Hedges!
Possibly the most recognisable of all the filming locations for Game of Thrones, the Dark Hedges only actually featured in a short scene in season 2, episode 1 as the King’s Road.
This is when Arya Stark has to escape King’s Landing when the Lannisters kill her father. She manages to flee in the back of a cart heading to the Night’s Watch Wall.
This beautiful avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century. It was intended as a stunning landscape feature to impress visitors to their home, Gracehill House.
200 years later, the Stuart family have moved out but the trees remain a magnificent sight.
Thanks to Game of Thrones they have become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland!
At Gracehill House you’ll even get the opportunity to ‘break the wheel’ and sit on the Iron Throne yourself!
They also have the original hand carved door from the Stark’s bell tower. It has all the Stark family symbols on it, including their family emblem and the three-eyed raven. Very cool!
I have to say, the McCombs Coach Travel Games of Thrones Tour was one of the best I’ve been on!
Not only did we get to peek behind the curtain of the Game of Thrones series but we visited such beautiful areas around Belfast.
Locations we most definitely wouldn’t have had chance to visit without needing to rent a car!
At only £30 per person it’s such a fun day out! But honestly, even if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan – you’ll still LOVE this tour!
Now it’s off to Croatia to check out the other filming locations!
Have you visited any Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland yet? 😊
Quick FYI guys – this post contains affiliate links to a tour I recommend. I will receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!