Game of Thrones Northern Ireland Tours: Winterfell and Iron Islands.

OK, OK so there’s a few Game of Thrones tour companies up north so this is the one I went with, the official one. My friend Nina and I had wanted to go for a while so we said fuck it one weekend and booked it. We went in October so knew there was a good chance it would be freezing and raining sideways. If that happened sure we’d just look even more Northerly! Lucky for us it was gorgeous and sunny. 

We drove up for the 7.15am pickup, a nice early 5am start heading straight up the M1. There’s a multi storey car park right beside the pickup point called Value Park around the corner. It’s something like £21 for the whole day, but you will arrive at like 7.30am and not collect the car for 12 hours, but so you know. Save you standing there shook repeating twenty one pound, TWENTY ONE POUND in horror. It’s super convenient though and you get dropped back in the same spot you were picked up. Me and Nina tried to go to Asda afterwards but alas it was a Sunday and they were closed. Heartbreak.

 First stop, as far as I can remember, was Inch Abbey. When I say the cloaks were cool, they were so cool I legit did not want to give it back. The comfort. I have no idea how these wonderful contraptions have gone out of fashion. Bring back cloaks, please! This is one of those things where we were all like this is super cool but playing it cool. Skip ahead 20 minutes and we’re getting into fake battles with each other. I asked my friend to pretend to behead me whilst I popped my head onto a rock on the ground. I was giving Catelyn Stark vibes, posing as if this was going on my acting portfolio (which doesn’t exist btw). This was the best craic and I left feeling there needs to be more role play type holidays coz I could do this every weekend. 

Next stop was Old castle Ward which is where Winterfell was filmed for season 1. The guide has a photo book to show you which scenes you’re looking at to help you gauge where in ‘Winterfell’ you’re standing. What I will say is manage your expectations, it does not look like Winterfell in GOT as you know it because surprise surprise, the show uses a lot of CGI. The guides know how to get all the good photos, the good angles and took photos of most people in the group except those who were there with a friend. There were people there on their own too and we all sort of chatted as we walked about which was nice. After this we left and went on a walk to the wooded shores of Strangford Lough. This was one of my favourite parts of the day and we got to see some very recognisable spots. You’ve never seen a woman so excited to recognise a tree! The guide will play scenes on an iPad to refresh our memory which was great as it really set the mood. After this we go on a boat which was really pretty ( as well as being a shortcut) and the views were lovely, have your camera ready. 

Tollymore Forest stole my heart and I swore I’d be back ( I later went back solo camping). Needless to say lots of GOT scenes were filmed here and there were several recognisable spots, including the bit where they find the dead deer in episode 1 season 1. Again the guide knew all the best spots for photos and was very good. One of the best things about this company is that each guide was an extra on the show, most of them for many years and this means they have just the best stories. If you’re into tall hairy blokes, you’ll enjoy this even more!  They tell you tidbits like the main actors’ nicknames and what they were like from any brief interactions they had with them. There’s lunch in the middle somewhere in a nice pub, if you’re on your own this is a great time to get to chat to others on your tour as seats are gone on a first come first served basis. If you can, stay overnight in Belfast, I was dying for a pint at lunchtime when everyone else was having one. 

Iron Island Tour

I have to admit, this was my second tour and I didn’t think I could possibly enjoy it as much as my first. I was still getting over there not being cloaks not being in the world anymore. I wanted to mark it off the bucket list though so I posted in a women’s group I’m in (Girl Gone International) . Did anyone want to come with me? Low and behold people did, a WhatsApp group was formed and a BnB booked. I knew I’d want that lunchtime pint. So one August morning I found myself picking up 3 women I didn’t know and had never met before and heading on up the road to Belfast. Lucky for me these three women were lovely and were later invited to my Book Club. Same pickup location and same time by the way. 

The Dark Hedges man. I mean wow they’re beautiful. Shame humans and whatever have damaged them and there aren’t as many as there used to be. The road and the walkway are still stunningly beautiful and it’s the kinda place you wish you were alone so you could enjoy the view properly, alas it’s full of stupid tourists (like yourself!). 

Next stop was Ballintoy Harbour, which was simply stunning. We were then shown where certain scenes had been filmed. At this point I found my eyes wandering from the iPad just trying to take it in. Since my last tour I had invested in a proper grown up camera and was being one of those fancy twats trying to catch the light just right. I have no regrets. Right beside this harbour is ‘Dragonstone’ beach, sorry I can’t remember its real name. This is where the dress up happened. I was not expecting it to be as fun the second time, but it was. And now we have cool rocks to stand on! Thanks again to my friend’s friend who photoshopped these dragons  for me 🙂 Lunch after was at the Fullerton Arms, check out the front door !

Now if you’ve never been to the Giants Causeway this is a great way to visit it. Get the wee bus down to the bottom so you can walk back up. It’ll save you on time (you are on a time limit as with all bus tours), it’s £1 and they only take cash. The views here were gorgeous and with me stopping every 5 minutes to take pictures I didn’t get far before having to turn back around again. The Caves, ‘those caves’, the birthing a smoke demon caves are next. I was kind of hoping someone would get down on the ground and pretend to birth a smoke demon. No such luck. There’s a couple more stops along the way too with more scenes and will give you a whole lot more respect for Maisie Williams. So yeah 10/10, 5 stars, you need to do at least one of these tours if you’re in Ireland. What I loved was most of these places I had never heard of before and never would have seen had I not done this tour.

If you are staying over in Belfast check out the beautiful glass art work too and see how many scenes you can spot in each! The Titanic Museum was pretty cool too.

Pro tips: 

  • Pack for all weather, it is Northern Ireland after all. You will wanna get off the bus for a look, even if the heavens have opened. A poncho and brolly are a must, maybe spare socks. 
  • Bring water and snacks with you but no hot drinks on the bus. Get an espresso if you need a coffee, there’s not very long to stop on comfort breaks before we’re whisked away to the next spot.
  • Bring cash so you can tip the guide and driver at the end so you don’t feel a right wally. You’ll want to be his friend by the end of the day.
  • .Lean into it.  It’s so much fun and you’ll want to do it all again by the end, but you probably won’t, so get the photos you went there for. 

Have you been? How did you find it? Lemme know!

Also, the Game of Thrones route images are from the Game of Thrones Tour website and consent was sought and granted before I posted them here.

One response to “Game of Thrones Northern Ireland Tours: Winterfell and Iron Islands.”

  1. Lovely blog! Definitely interested in going to the Winterfell set so all advice is welcome!

    Liked by 1 person

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