Game of Thrones Tour in Northern Ireland

According to more than 20 million viewers, Game of Thrones is the best TV drama ever made. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, THIS BLOG IS FOR YOU! I planned to visit Northern Ireland in the month of April, especially for the Game of Thrones tour. Northern Ireland has the old world charm, with the gigantic castles dating back hundreds of years.

My excitement levels were skyrocketing as I was flying on Monday morning, right after I watched the premiere of the very first episode of the last season. A few other books like Game of Thrones gives me company during the entire flight.

I live and study in Newcastle in UK, so for me it was a 1 hour flight to Belfast. After checking in at a backpackers' hostel, I headed straight to the newly opened Game of Thrones exhibition.

For those who are unaware of this infamous Game of Thrones exhibition, it is located in the TEC (Titanic Exhibition Centre) at Belfast next to the legendary Titanic Studios. It is the perfect location for true GoT fans to experience the mythical lands of Westeros and witness the real props and costumes used during the show. There is an entry fee that you need to pay and that's 15 to 18 pounds depending on the time of your visit.

After ignoring the massive titanic museum, I reached the GOT exhibition. I had pre purchased the tickets and I was all set to dive in the world of Westeros. Upon entrance, I was shown a quick Game of Thrones recap and some additional clips of famous scenes and then the actual tour began!

During the tour you will see and get the opportunity to hold the famous swords used in the show, Ice, Long claw, Needle, Oath keeper etc. Throughout the tour there will be several photo opportunities, so don’t hesitate to strike your best pose.

Moreover, you will witness the actual costumes worn by your favourite characters. FYI, you will find all the different costumes worn by Kit Harrington AKA John Snow during the show. HE IS LITERALLY EVERYWHERE IN THE EXHIBITION. At the end of the tour will find a souvenir shop where you can purchase your favourite GoT merchandise.

QUICK TIP: Do not miss the opportunity to see your face in the House of Black and White! There is a camera that clicks your photo and you can see it amongst other GoT characters in the house of Black and White.

After this I visited the Titanic Museum. To be honest I didn't really like it because the exhibition doesn't really contain any special props/tools/machinery used in the Titanic. The exhibition just displays facts about the famous Titanic which you can find on the internet. However, if you are a massive titanic lover and want to visit the place it was made, the titanic museum is for you!

QUICK TIP: You can get amazing photos outside the TEC. The architecture is fabulous and offers the perfect picturesque view.

Later that evening, I set out to explore the city and get a taste of the famous Irish Beer: Guinness. You can leave without trying Guinness, you will need to develop a taste for it but I am sure you will like it.

1. Tollymore Forest - County Down

Next morning, I woke up at 6 for the official Game of Thrones Winterfell tour. We reached in a black GoT bus, while watching the first episode of the series. The tour guide explained what we were going to visit throughout the day and introduced us to the punishment for late comers.

The tour is strictly time planned and each passenger has to be seated in the bus right on time. Failure to do so will result in a WALK OF SHAME. Your fellow passengers will shout SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! Till the time you are seated in the bus. Exactly what happened to Cersei, interesting right!

Our first stop was Winterfell. Despite the fact that it doesn't look exactly what you see on screen, trust me it feels amazing to enter the magical land of Winterfell. There are many buildings that the tour guide will show you that look exactly like you see on the show but some look like an entire work of high precision CGI.

You will witness the tower where Bran fell from and there will be a wooden board with the iconic dialogue: 'Things I do for love'. A bit further south, there’s Tollymore Forest Park, which is fabulously beautiful and has lots of colour-coded trails to follow. It was used for location shooting for Game of Thrones.

During the day we visited several other GoT shooting locations used to film the first 2-3 seasons. We stopped for lunch and guess what? We met the 'Real Direwolves of GoT: Summer and Ghost' Meeting the Dire wolves, completely depends on your luck and your lunch timings, that's why this activity is not mentioned in your tour itinerary and the tour guide won't even tell you about it.

QUICK TIP: Before you start your tour, ask your tour guide to try to arrange your lunch timings with the show schedule of the Direwolves.

We ended the tour with a visit to one of Robert Stark's camping spots and we were provided with replicas of some famous GoT swords and other amazing props too. Trust me the photos were hell of a kind and the spectacular beauty of the place added extra touch to our pics.

northern Ireland game of thrones

2. Cushendun Caves - County Antrim

Next morning, I went on another guided tour to Melisandre's cave and also the place where a few scenes from Iron Islands were shot. This tour wasn’t an official GoT tour and neither was it affiliated with HBO. Apart from the GOT locations, we also witnessed the Giant's Causeway and few other popular locations in Northern Ireland.

I would suggest you not to take this tour if you are want to visit top GOT shooting locations, the tour guide and tour facilities were way better in the official tour than in the second one.

3. Londonderry

And should you find yourself swept up by the Armada stories, you could even journey as far north as Londonderry, after driving past the range of the Bluestack mountains (also great hiking territory) and past countless drumlins, stopping to lunch along the way in exotic and quaint villages like Letterkenny.

Upon crossing the border reaching Derry you should visit the floor of the Tower Museum dedicated to the Armada wrecks to the north of Ireland, where you'll find all items brought up from the sea including Spanish cannon, shoes, treasure chests, kitchen equipment and chairs, among others.

All of the above should take up at least a week of travel! And if you can find the time to fit it in, you might also want to stop by the mesmeric Giant's Causeway in Antrim, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This drive along with the coastline of Northern Ireland is full of expedition and adventure.

There are only a handful of truly extraordinary landscapes in the world; the places that become parts of the postcards. The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is one of them: Near-perfect hexagon tubes that are stacked next to each other like puzzle pieces. Drive through the Belfast to Derry arriving at the Giant’s Causeway which is always on the bucket-list for those who’s always thrilled to have an adventurous road trip. Enjoy the walk from Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge to Carrick Island. Encounter the breathtaking views of a gushing waterfall in the Glenariff Forest Park.

4. Belfast

Belfast is located on the East coast of Northern Ireland. Belfast has two airports that connect with the rest of Europe, but if you want to visit from neighboring Dublin, the best option is to take one of the buses, which leave O'Connell St every hour, Dublin and in just over two hours they leave you at Glengall Street, Belfast.

Start the day with an authentic Ulster Fry (a traditional fried breakfast). The Titanic, the tragic vessel of dreams, is at the center of Belfast's history and was conceived and created in the city. So do not miss the Titanic Belfast interactive center. Named the world's premier tourist attraction at the World Travel Awards, its gleaming exterior contains nine galleries spanning six floors that reproduce the height of the Titanic.

There are interactive exhibits, an underwater cinema and an exhibition on shipyards. Outside the building, stroll through the bleachers and the Titanic shipyard, discover the Titanic on a tour on foot or by boat, or you can even get on a Segway to see SS Nomadic and HMS Caroline. Get on the Tram tour that circles the Titanic Quarter neighborhood.

An icon of the urban landscape of Belfast, the City Hall is the wonder with a copper vault. Botanical Garden in South Belfast is a masterpiece of horticulture. And you can not come to this part of the city without admiring the impressive red brick architecture and magnolia trees at Queen's University.

Have you ever wanted to meet the only dinosaur in Ireland? Or look closely at an Egyptian mummy? With free admission, the Ulster Museum offers a succession of rare and wonderful snapshots of history. Relax for a while in the restaurant of the museum, and have a freshly baked coffee and scone to prepare for your next stop.

Crumlin Road prison is one of the most haunted places on the island of Ireland. Cave Hill Country Park has views over the city. Its most famous feature is the rugged crenelated shape known as Napoleon's Nose, which was supposedly the inspiration of Jonathan Swift for his sleeping giant in Gulliver's Travels. We hit the gas and make our way back towards Dublin airport.

Visit in May or June when the weather’s usually at its best. September’s usually pretty good too. The Giant’s Ring, a neolithic henge monument on the southern edge of Belfast, is well worth a visit, and even a lot of locals don’t know it’s there. Also on the southern outskirts of Belfast, there’s Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, which is huge and beautifully maintained.

Not far from Belfast to the east, there’s the North Down Coastal path, from Holywood through Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn to Bangor, which is a very pleasant afternoon’s walk when the weather’s good. Just north of Belfast is Cave Hill. A bit more demanding a walk than the previous ones as it’s uphill and quite steep in places, but well worth it. The views are amazing.

My best travel tip for getting the most of Northern Ireland is to pre-book GoT official tours at least 2-3 weeks in advance, these tours cost more or less the same but offer much higher standards as compared to the other ones. I hope you have an amazing time in Northern Ireland, VALAR MORGULIS!
Kalyan Panja