Northern Ireland: Game of Thrones
At historic Ballygally Castle Hotel, you can literally dine out on all-things Westeros.
A Stark, a Ghost and a Castle
Continuing my journey through Northern Ireland's Westeros, I arrive at Ballygally Castle Hotel, a location used by the cast and crew of Game of Thrones during filming at nearby locations.
At the hotel I am greeted by Norman, the General Manager. He recalls the hustle and bustle of the hotel during filming when their function room was used to house the costumes. He remembers the moment he met Ned Stark himself in the Foyer of the hotel, describing the actor Sean Bean as "friendly and easy going".
Ballygally Castle was built in 1625 by James Shaw and his wife Isabella Brisbane. The hotel, although modern, blends perfectly with the striking 17th century tower, and is the only building of that age still in use in Northern Ireland today.
A Room with a View - and a Turret
Arriving at reception I am greeted by friendly staff who are armed with enough GOT info for any superfan staying at the hotel. My room is stylish and cosy with stunning views of the sea. My favourite feature is the little turret section off the bedroom, where you will find an original window looking onto the beach below.
Meet the Starks
As I make my way to the dining room, I come face to face with one of the Doors of Thrones (No. 9, to be precise). Here the symbols of House Stark and Bolton are carved in stunning detail. The battle-scarred face of the Stark Direwolf is a reminder of the epic showdown in the Battle of the Bastards.
The Ghost of Ballygally
Over the years countless mysterious sightings and noises have been reported from the hotel. The popular theory is that Shaw's wife Lady Isabella is the ghost. Legend has it that Shaw wanted a male heir and when Isabella gave birth to a baby girl, he snatched it and locked his wife in a room at the top of the castle.
Legend has it that while trying to escape to check on her child, Isabella fell to her death. Many times since she has been seen walking the halls. To commemorate the tragic story of Isabella there is a room dedicated to her.
Afternoon Tea à la Westeros
Throughout the year the hotel hosts a GOT-themed afternoon tea, dinner and popular film location tours around the coast (tours sell out very fast, so book in advance). And if it takes your fancy, you can even book a wedding to be catered Westeros-style!
I was excited to see some of the GOT jewellery at the hotel. Steensons, based in nearby Glenarm, made over 40 pieces of jewellery used in the series, including...
Norman and his staff at the hotel are armed with an infectious energy, knowledge and enthusiasm about GOT and local tourism. I left the hotel well fed and rested and armed with a wealth of information and insights on what to see and do when visiting nearby filming locations such as Carnlough Harbor (the Free City of Braavos), Cairncastle (the lands north of Winterfell) and Sallagh Braes (the Riverlands).
About our guest author Denise Henry:
Irish-born and bred Denise Henry is the founder and content creator of the Ahch-To Way, a web-based resource that provides stories and travel guides for visitors and Star Wars fans coming to Ireland.