Come with me on our breathtakingly-beautiful coast road to the Glens of Antrim, the Causeway Coast…and the Dothraki Grasslands, north of Meereen!
We’ll drive through Dorne, north of Winterfell, and visit some exquisite wood carvings near Stormlands and Runestone.
If you’re like Roamer, and haven’t watched the TV series Game of Thrones® - and we’re an extremely rare species - some of those places probably sound like gobbledygook, or the result of a malfunctioning Sat-Nav, or both!
But many millions of the television series’ fans around the world know and love those curiously-named film locations from the most popular and successful fantasy television series ever made.
Last week Roamer embarked on Tourism Northern Ireland’s “Stones and Thrones territory trip” to the “mesmerising fantasy lands of Westeros” - the name given to our gorgeous countryside and Causeway coastline in the series.
A number of guided and private bus tours visit the 20 film locations around Ulster that are publically accessible.
Last week, in pouring rain, there were coachloads of Thrones’ fans from near and far at each location.
I’m reliably informed that about 80% of the scenes in the series are shot here, and in Belfast’s Titanic Studios.
Also filmed in Croatia, Iceland, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Scotland, and the U.S. - the series premiered on H.B.O (Home Box Office) in America in April 2011 and is now into its sixth season.
In celebration of Northern Ireland’s scenic success,
10 intricately carved doors made from two centuries-old beech trees from Stranocum’s Dark Hedges were recently unveiled.
Gracehill House’s magnificent avenue of beeches, which feature in one of the most iconic scenes - the hauntingly beautiful Kingsroad - lost the pair of trees to Storm Gertrude in January.
The timber was shaped into 10 hefty doors that were engraved with images inspired by the series.
In pubs, restaurants and hotels close to the main film locations, the doors attract huge numbers of visitors.
My “territory trip”, with a busload of Thrones’ fans, all unnervingly fluent with the storyline, began in Frank Owens bar in Limavady.
In the back of the quaint old bar, a Gracehill door features several striking carvings, immortalising the Night’s King.
“It has been here for a month,” Damien Owens told Roamer. “It has done very well.”
I wondered how a door can ‘do well’!
“In the first hour after it was fitted,” Damien explained, “there were over 40,000 hits on the internet!”
His Limavady pub is near Dragonstone, a film location better known to Roamer as Downhill strand!
A series connoisseur on the bus told me that the Night’s King is “a legendary figure from the Seven Kingdoms, notorious with the Free Folk dwelling beyond the Wall.”
Unsure of which kingdom we were in, though there were plenty of dry-stone walls, I watched tour-guide Sharleen Crossin’s portable television screen as we bussed through the undulating green hills above Lough Foyle on the Bishop’s Road to Gortmore.
The spectacular road, named after the flamboyant Earl Bishop Frederick Hervey, was his favourite route from Londonderry to his demesne in Downhill.
There were fierce dragons and armour-clad horsemen on Sharleen’s screen, battling desperately in the heart-achingly beautiful panorama that was unfolding all around us.
We corkscrewed dizzyingly downwards to Downhill, watching another film scene with fearsome, black-robed warriors pulling a sword from a blazing bonfire on the sand.
It was more serene when our bus arrived!
Whilst holidaymakers splashed in the waves Sharleen announced, rather unnervingly “let’s get out and burn some gods” - and photographed Roamer dressed in a black robe, brandishing a sword!
No gods were burned, but some delicious fresh plaice was grilled, with capers and cockles, in Harry’s Shack on Portstewart strand, before we proceeded to Ballintoy.
An English couple alighted from another tour bus.
“The Game of Thrones was here,” said the wife.
“Darling, the Game of Thrones has been everywhere,” said the husband.
This beautifully picturesque coastal nook is where Theon Greyjoy arrived back in the Iron Islands to meet his sister Yara.
Theon’s ship, the Sea Bitch, moored at the little harbour’s stone steps.
Theon was baptised on the sea-washed rocks.
“We’ve visitors coming here constantly, for the door,” said barman Stephen Glass in the nearby Fullerton Arms bar.
His Dark Hedges door “brings ten or twenty folk a day” he enthused, “It’s a big hit!”
So is the road where its beech tree grew!
Gracehill’s magnificent tree lined avenue - minus two felled by Gertrude - was packed with tourists when Roamer donned an obligatory black robe and sword for a photograph.
We dined and relaxed in the four-star Bushmills Inn.
We saw another door, and an exhibition about the series, in the similarly starred Ballygally Castle Hotel where there are special themed teas and banquets, and we were introduced to ‘direwolves’ Thor and Odin by owner/actor Ross Mulhall. The two handsome Northern Inuit dogs, called Summer and Greywind in the series, are each insured for a million pounds.
A fur price, I suppose, if you’re a film star!
Visit www.discovernorthernireland.com/gameofthrones for full information about film locations and tours.