The Real Places Behind Game of Thrones
With the return of HBO’s award-winning series, Game of Thrones, we have put together four filming locations in Northern Ireland, steeped in history, that all GOT fans should visit.
1. Inch Abbey, County Down
Set up camp with Robb Stark’s army within the ruins of Inch Abbey! Game of Thrones fans will recognise this as the place where the War of the Five Kings began.
Inch Abbey itself was built as a Cistercian house by the Anglo-Norman knight John de Courcey after his conquest of Ulster, a conquest which he just so happened to lead without King Henry II’s permission!
His story is an interesting one, that comes to a penniless end after being released from prison to partake in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Downpatrick Cathedral can be seen in the distance and is the burial place of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick.
Above: Inch Abbey, County Down, Northern Ireland
2. Castle Ward, County Down
Visit Winterfell, the stronghold of the Starks. Built as a home for the Ward family around 1710 on the site of an earlier castle, Castle Ward has a unique story and style. It is thought that Bernard Ward wanted the family home to be built in Georgian style, whilst his wife Lady Anne preferred the fashionable Gothic style. Perhaps the word compromise was taken a little too literally in this case, as the property now stands with a Georgian front and a Gothic rear!
Above: Castle Ward, County Down, Northern Ireland
3. Shanes Castle, County Antrim
Remember the episode The Wolf and the Lion, where a horse was beheaded during a jousting tournament? Well now you can visit the very same place!
Replacing an earlier stronghold, Edenduffcarrick was built in the 16th century. Shane’s Castle gets its unusual name from Shane McBrian O’Neill who acquired the castle in 1607. The castle remained in the family and in around 1808 the famous architect Nash (who designed Buckingham Palace, Regent’s Street etc) was enlisted to design further expansion. By 1816, only parts of the expansion had been completed when the main block of the castle was destroyed by a fire. It was rumoured that the fire was started by an annoyed Banshee that found herself pushed out by a large house party!
4. Dunluce Castle, County Antrim
The imposing House of Greyjoy was actually built by a Scottish family, the McQuillans, in around 1500. Dunluce Castle has a fascinating history and is home to a tragic love story. The only daughter of Lord McQuillan was imprisoned by her father for refusing to marry a man she didn’t love. On a stormy night, she and her true love escaped the castle and fled to the Mermaids Cave beneath, where they set off by rowing boat hoping to escape and marry. But it wasn’t to be, as the rowing boat was smashed against the cliffs and both were killed. On a lighter note, the castle was once owned by Winston Churchill!
Above: Dunluce Castle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland