Ulster’s own Game of Thrones story to be told on historic heritage trail

Tourists thrilled by the medieval fantasy world of Game of Thrones are to be introduced to the intrigue and power struggles of the real-life history of Ulster.

A new project aims to capitalise on the global interest in George R R Martin’s fictional world of Westeros by creating a new heritage trail to tell the stories of the wars, alliances, machinations and manouevres of the various powerful clans who ruled Ulster in and around the year 1500.

The Journeying Beyond Westeros team at Dundrum Castle in Co Down, one of the monuments to be included on the planned heritage trail

The Journeying Beyond Westeros team at Dundrum Castle in Co Down, one of the monuments to be included on the planned heritage trail

Northern Ireland has enjoyed an influx of tourists from across the world to see the iconic landscapes and monuments of Ulster used in the filming of the hit drama series, which is very loosely based on the power struggles of medieval Britain.

The new project, titled ‘Journeying Beyond Westeros’, will be led by archaeologists from Queen’s University, Belfast and the plan is to focus on around a dozen real-life historical monuments.

Queen’s academic Dr Colm Donnelly explained: “Using historic sources such as the Annals of the Four Masters, the object is to work towards the development of a heritage trail across Northern Ireland where visitors will learn the stories of our powerful past rulers and their families – their wars and rivalries, their alliances and marriages, and their betrayals and assassinations – in and around the year AD 1500.”

Professor Eileen Murphy added: “The background research on the monuments across Northern Ireland and the people who built them will be undertaken at Queen’s. We will set out the matrix of lordships; place the monuments into that matrix; organise the lineages who ruled each lordship, including origins, notable leaders and notable events; and set out how this all played out on the monuments.

“Westeros has its Seven Kingdoms, but we have our Twelve Lordships.”

Caroline Nolan, a member of the team leading the project, said: “We have our own events and tales that can be told about our medieval lordships and this project will allow us to present them to the tourists who come to Northern Ireland because of their Game of Thrones interest.”

The first episode of the eighth and final series of Game of Thrones is due to broadcast on Sunday.

The ‘Journeying Beyond Westeros’ project will tell the stories of the O’Neills of Tyrone, the Maguire clan of Fermanagh and the Highland Scots McDonnells’ involvement in the Glens of Antrim.

The team hopes to include the following monuments:

• Carrickfergus Castle

• Tullaghoge Fort

• Dundrum Castle

• Bonamargy Friary

• Dungannon Castle (Hill of the O’Neill)

• Enniskillen Castle