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Visiting Westeros: A Complete Guide to Game of Thrones Filming Locations

Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler.

visiting-westeros-a-guide-to-game-of-thrones-filming-locations

Westeros

The immense landscape across which the multiple stories of Game of Thrones unfolds is rich in geography and culture. The continent of Westeros that has sprung from the fertile imagination of George RR Martin provides the sumptuous setting that its vast array of characters and creatures inhabit. With the highly successful TV adaptation, the production team has the (un)enviable task of globetrotting and filming the various storylines - from the frozen north of 'Beyond the wall' to the scorching desert landscapes of the free cities of Essos.

The avid traveler and a fan of the stories who wants to combine a great holiday with an opportunity to visit the locations where the TV series has been/is being filmed needs to look no further. This handy guide will give you up to date information, map of locations and pictures of these delirious landscapes. Many of these locations has seen a significant increase in Tourism and have benefited from the Game of Thrones phenomenon.

So come join me as we visit the vast continent of Westeros straight from the imagination of George RR Martin - as visualised by the wonderful creative team behind the TV series.

Westeros and Essos

Westeros and Essos

Map of Westeros and the free cities

Map of Westeros and the free cities

Game of Thrones

The Epic phenomenon that is Game of Thrones is taking over the world. What started as a series of popular fantasy novels with a niche audience has now grown into a global juggernaut.

When author George R R Martin started penning his original series of novels 'A Song of Ice and Fire' ( the first book of the series is called A Game of Thrones) the sf/fantasy readership rejoiced at the richly detailed world creation, the social and political allegory, a vast number of characters that one could relate to, thrilling spectacle, mind boggling plot twists and assured story telling.

What really elevates the novel to higher echelons of literary fantasy is the meticulous world building. Martin based his fantasy grounding it on medieval European - especially British- history. In order to distinguish the Seven Kingdoms within Westeros Martin wanted to create distinctive cultures, habits, politics, personalities and allegiances. He felt strongly that the nature of the land they originate from will temper these traits.

So the land of Westeros has the frozen uncharted territories of rugged north, the exotic land beyond the sea where the free cities of Essos reign, the stark grey landscape of iron islands, the fertile riverlands, the lush Vale of Arryn, the marches and red mountains of Dorne and the uncharted territories of the grassland that is Dothraki Sea.


Political Map of Westeros

Political Map of Westeros

visiting-westeros-a-guide-to-game-of-thrones-filming-locations

Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and other lands

AreaRuling House Landscape

Beyond the Wall

Uncharted north/ Wildlings

Cold, harsh, frozen, inhospitable

North

House Stark of Winterfell

Cold , Harsh, frozen but habitable

Iron Islands

House GreyJoy of Pyke

Infertile, Rich with minerals, mines

The Riverlands

House Tullys of Riverrun

Lush, Fertile,

Vale of Arryn

House Arryn of Eyrie

Surrounded by mountains, Valley

Westerlands

House Lannister of Casterly rock

Rich in Silver and Gold mines

The Crownlands

Iron King

Area surrounding the capital city

The Reach

House Tyrell of Highgarden

Fertile, farming, villages

Stormlands

Baratheons

Harsh, rainy, forests

Dorne

House Martell

Dry, Arid, Red soil

visiting-westeros-a-guide-to-game-of-thrones-filming-locations

Ireland

The Game of Thrones production team has set its base in Northern Ireland There are many reasons for this. The landscape is rich with medieval castles, craggy shores, lush forests and rivers; the Government provides ample support and tax rebates for the crew; majority of the cast hail from UK making it easier on the travel costs; the Irish base also makes it easier to travel across Europe onto further locations. For those who don't know UK - Northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom - Southern Ireland is a separate country- The Republic of Ireland.

Primary filming takes place in sound stages of Painthall Studios in Belfast. Originally a shipyard where parts of the Titanic were built, the vast buildings now form one of the largest film studios in Europe. New extended soundstages have also been built to accomodate the behemoth that is Game of Thrones.

Lets have a look at the various locales in Northern Ireland where the series has been filmed.

Tollymore Forest, County Down

This lush forest is location for key scenes in the pilot episode where Ned Stark and his sons find the Direwolf pups.

Although snowbound in the episode, the forest is renowned for its lush greenery and trickling streams, making this National Park a scenic place to visit in summer.

Magheramorne Quarry, County Antrim

The steep limestone quarry provided a suitable location for filming some aspects fo the 'Wall' for the first series. A set was built complete with the gates of Castle Black and the rickety wooden lift that takes the Nightswatch to the top of the wall.

Using disused timber and stone from the quarry the set was built and filmed. CGI trickery was added was added later to give it the frozen makeover for the mammoth wall built of ice (500 miles long and 700 feet wide according to the stories)

Ballintoy Harbour, County Antrim

The Craggy harbour at Ballintoy in North Antrim served as the seat of Pyke, the Iron islands of House Greyjoy. Shots of Theon Greyjoy arriving by sea and walking down the harbour were filmed here.

Although visual effects were added to remove some of the modern features from the harbour and to cast a medieval look, much of the original stonework of the old harbour and the coastline were used extensively in filming.

Castle Ward, County Down

The exteriors of Winterfell especially scenes in the first episode where King Robert Barratheon arrives to meet the Starks were filmed at Old part of Castle Ward in County Down. Situated in a vast estate this place is full of character. The house itself is a stunning building ( not used for filming) that has a gothic facade and is surrounded by a vast 820 acre landscape with sunken gardens and beautiful vistas.

Sandy Brae, Newry & Mourne

The vast grasslands of Vaes Dothrak ( Dothraki Sea) needed a suitably vast vista adorned by distant mountains. A location was found in Sandy Brae, Newry in N.Ireland that fitted the bill. The two large horse statues rearing up high provide a majestic foreground to the landscape as the Dothraki ride onto their homeland.

Dark Hedges, Ballymoney

This magnificent road adorned by beech trees is over 200 years old. The trees were originally planted to impress the visitors arriving at Grace Hill, the household of Stuart family, two centuries ago. It now impresses as one goes down the road. One of a popular destinations for photographers this amazing natural phenomena serves as the setting for Kings Road in the series.

visiting-westeros-a-guide-to-game-of-thrones-filming-locations

Iceland

Iceland with its glaciers and frozen vistas is an ideal place to represent the icy wastelands of the land 'beyond the wall' where wildlings roam and the undead whitewalkers stalk. As the story moves to the adventures of Jon Snow more the scenery moves to an snow clad landscape. A large portion of his episodic narratives were filmed in Iceland around some well known locations.