Game of Travel: Visit the Game of Thrones locations
Winter is coming. Well, it’s kind of already here. Our cooler climate may not have quite the same bite as the Land of Always Winter, but a slight breeze rolls in through our bedroom window and suddenly our dreams turn to adventures abroad to stave off hibernation.
Game of Thrones may have wrapped up for the season, but the trials and tribulations of the Lannister family et al are never far from thought.
The thrones territory is pretty sizeable – we’ve all watched the never-ending story that is the opening credits – so it makes sense that the film locations are also vast. Let’s get one thing straight: no, you cannot actually visit Westeros or Essos. They are fictitious places from the brilliantly twisted mind of George R. R. Martin. But you can travel to the locations lending their looks to the small screen, some of which may leave you more taken aback than the Red Wedding did. Just kidding. We’re never getting over that.
King’s Landing aka Croatia
Malta was the original set of King’s Landing in season one, but was cast aside like Sansa Stark in favour of a dishier beauty: Dubrovnik. The Heritage Listed, orange-roofed city has always been a champion of the Adriatic coast’s holiday scene, but Game of Thrones has sent local tourism operators into a frenzy, putting together Thrones-inspired tours for those who enjoy the series as much as the Kingslayer liked his sword hand. You might recognise the city walls from the infamous Battle of Blackwater (think back to season two, stop when you see ships doused in Wildfire) and the gorgeous 15th century Trsteno Arboretum where the sharp-tongued silver fox Olenna Redwyne likes to hang out and give wise old-lady advice.
Winterfell aka Northern Ireland
Everyone else go home, Northern Ireland wins Game of Thrones. From Belfast to Ballycastle, Northern Ireland’s counties are smattered with locations that were blessed with backgrounds perfectly suited to the dynastic struggles for the iron throne. The sleepy fishing village of Ballintoy Harbour in County Antrim is where you will catch a glimpse of the Iron Islands’ Pyke (ergh, poor Theon Greyjoy), while Castle Ward estate served as the setting for House Stark’s goings on, back in the day when Ned wasn’t a lordsicle on a stick. While the Causeway Coast makes a notable appearance, it’s the Shillanavogy Valley that served as an early Dothraki camp, where Daenerys first learned what it means to be Khalessi. Oh, Dany.
Beyond the Wall aka Iceland
So, apparently The Wall was created by the wizardry of CGI. This must be what it’s like when kids learn Santa isn’t real. Curse the digital Gods! But there is a frosty silver lining here, my friends, because Iceland’s got the goods when it comes to Jon Snow-type journeys (who, I’m told, knows nothing so don’t tell him The Wall isn’t legit). The Vatnajokull glacier in Skaftafell featured heavily in the dashing Crow’s trek beyond The Wall, and puts the “ice” in A Song of Ice and Fire if you catch my drift. You can take a self-drive trip along the south coast where the cliffs of Vik along with glacial lagoons and geothermal pools will leave you as speechless as Joffrey that time Tyrion slapped him right upside the chops. Remember that? That was just grand.