From the Mountains to the Sea

Northern Ireland: Game of Thrones

A fan's journey through Northern Ireland's Westeros - starting in the mountains beyond Winterfell.

From the Mountains to the Sea

By Denise Henry

In the early autumn of 2019, I embarked on my very own Game of Thrones adventure - a journey through Northern Ireland's Westeros.

With so many film locations to choose from, it was really hard to know where to begin my trip. In the end, I decided to start along the beautiful Causeway Coastal Route, with a little detour into the surrounding mountains.

Making my way to Cairncastle, I ascended into a hilly landscape. Following my trusty Game of Thrones app I arrived at a car park that overlooks one of the most dramatic film locations:

Cairncastle - The Lands North of Winterfell

This rugged countryside acts as the backdrop to the dramatic scene in Season 1, Episode 1: Winter Is Coming, when Ned Stark reluctantly beheads a deserter of the Knight´s Watch.

View of Cairncastle and the film location.

View of Cairncastle and the film location.

Ned doing his duty as Warden of the North.

Ned doing his duty as Warden of the North.

Unsurprisingly these mountains are a popular destination for walking and hiking. Located nearby (22 mins by car), you will find another stunning vista at Shillanavoghy Valley which was used as the Dothraki Grasslands.

Shillanavoghy Valley - Dothraki Grasslands

The Shillanavoghy Valley lies under the impressive Slemish Mountain, an extinct volcano that rises to a whopping 1500 feet. In Season 2, Episode 1: The North Remembers, the valley represented the Dothraki Grasslands where Daenerys Targaryen rides towards Pentos.

There are two other GOT locations nearby that we didn’t get to squeeze into our adventure: the hidden village of Galboly which featured as Runstone in Season 5, Episode 1: The Wars to Come. And Sallagh Braes that acted as the backdrop for the Riverlands in Season 6, Episode 7: The Broken Man.

Carnlough Harbour - The Free City of Braavos

A short while later, we hit the ocean at Carnlough Harbour. Situated at the foothills of Glencoy, the harbour was originally built by a local landowner Phil Gibbons and extended by the Marchioness of Londonderry in the middle of the last century.

Carnlough Harbour

Carnlough Harbour

We see glimpses of Carnlough disguised as the Free City of Braavos in Season 6, Episode 7: The Broken Man. After Arya is stabbed by the Waif, she crawls out of the water, painfully climbing the stone steps to safety.

Braavos: Arya climbing out of the water. 

Braavos: Arya climbing out of the water. 

Carnlough Harbour: Spot the difference?

Carnlough Harbour: Spot the difference?

What I love about this country is the fact that you are never far from the hills or the sea. No wonder, the filmmakers decided to film Westeros in Northern Ireland.

Next on my journey was a visit to Ballygally Castle, host to the cast and crew of GOT - and a friendly ghost. More about that in a follow-up story!

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.

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