GOT fans guide to Northern Ireland
While we’re into the throes of summer, Game of Thrones fans are more concerned that winter is here! 17 July sees the return of the multi-award winning drama to our screens.
It could be argued there’s more intrigue than usual as, like the sixth season, Season 7 is based on an outline of the two final, presently-unpublished novels in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. Meaning we are all in the dark about the fate of the seven kingdoms.
As you would expect from a production that has filmed in over 30 locations spread across 10 countries, there are plenty of travel opportunities for Thronies to take in with its fantastic filming locations such as Croatia, Iceland and Spain, but the hub of activity is at its studios in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
If you’re tempted by a visit, the Flexicover team offers a selection of just some of the activities that are turning fans into pilgrims.
Visit the filming locations
While part of the filming takes place inside Titanic Studios, which are mostly closed to the public, the rugged beauty of Northern Ireland provides an outdoor set for constant use. The creepy caves where Melisandre gave birth to her shadowy offspring? That’s Cushendun. The bay where Ser Davos Seaworth becomes stranded? In real life it’s the beautiful Murlough Bay. Even more fascinating are Castle Ward, which we’d recognise as Winterfell, and Tollymore Forest Park: the forest in which the White Walkers roam. Not in real life, we hope.
Take a tour
Belfast isn’t short of a Game of Thrones tour or two so the good news is there’s a broad range to choose from. Some involve a big tour bus, others cycle around locations – there’s even the opportunity to take a Game of Thrones-themed campervan holiday. If possible, take a tour that swings past the Giant’s Causeway, the spectacular UNESCO world heritage site is a must see and will easily take at least 1½ hours to explore.
Spot the stars
The well-oiled production runs three filming schedules at the same time, so even if some are busy in hotter or colder climes, at least some of the cast will be milling about in Belfast. You’ll often spot a group of Daenerys’s clan on a night out or a Stark enjoying a bite to eat – try Boojum for tasty burritos and a slim but significant chance of seeing a cast member. Whether it’s appropriate to approach them is another matter – for many fans, hanging out in the same place is enough of a win.
Practice ye archery
A trip to Belfast is useful to see where the series comes into existence, but the rustic nature and open spaces mean it’s possible to absorb the surrounds and get into character yourself. That’s evident with an archery lesson at the aforementioned Castle Ward, the real-life location of Winterfell. At the 800-year-old castle, where Bran got his archery lessons, participants get dressed up in costume and learn how to fire an arrow using a medieval-style long bow. By the time they leave, they’ll be fit to join the Night’s Watch.
Visit the hometowns of its stars
Who knows whether it’s by accident or design, but a large proportion of the cast are from Ireland too. No Game of Thrones-themed visit is complete without a quick trip to see where these actors began learning their craft in the hope of receiving the impressive break they eventually did. Ciaran Hinds (Mance Rayder) is from Belfast itself, but for a fun road trip, stop off at the pretty town of Coleraine where Michelle Fairley (Lady Stark) comes from, and nearby Ballycastle: the home of Conleth Hill (Lord Varys). Then head down to Dublin, where both Aidan Gillen (Littlefinger) and Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) reside.
Wherever you plan to head to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of cover to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.