Northern Ireland: A Game of Thrones and Boxty Adventure

This spring we had the opportunity to spend two days (not nearly enough time) in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is amazing and you have to visit the coast if you have the chance.

Because we were limited for time, we mainly stayed in Belfast and then traveled the coast on a Game of Thrones tour. Nerdy, I know, but this tour was awesome in that we were able to see a ton of beautiful sites while also learning more about their significance in filming the HBO show.

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Get ready for ALL the GOT themed gifs. #sorrynotsorry

Where are we?

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We flew into Dublin and took the short (roughly an hour and a half) bus ride to Belfast. Northern Ireland was divided from Southern Ireland (now known as the Republic of Ireland) on May 3rd, 1921 under the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Although the purpose of the act was to create two self-governing bodies in Ireland (while still remaining in the United Kingdom) the War of Independence in 1922 and the Anglo-Irish Treaty resulted in the political division between the North and South. Today, Northern Ireland remains a part of the UK, while Southern Ireland (Irish Free State) is now the sovereign Republic of Ireland and is independent of the United Kingdom.

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Belfast City Hall is located in Donegall Square, Belfast

Belfast (derived from the Irish word Béal Feirsde) is the capital city of Northern Ireland and means “rivermouth of the soundbanks”. Located on the River Lagan, it is also the largest city in Northern Ireland (second largest on the entire island) and played a large role during the industrialization period, mainly producing linens, rope, and ship-building (including the RMS Titanic). During the 1970s, the city suffered some of the worst damages during the civil unrest known as the Troubles, a period of time named for the conflict between the Catholic (“Republican”) and Protestant (“Loyalists”) populations in Ireland. The political violence during this time resulted in bombings and deaths across Belfast.

The Sites: 

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One of the views from Dunluce Castle

With essentially a day and a half to see ALLTHETHINGS, we really struggled with how we could most efficiently spend our time experiencing the coast and if possible, see where some of the GOT scenes were filmed.

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Me. Always? Probably always.

After deciding that we didn’t want to rent a car for a day to drive on the left side of the road (nope) around cliffs (double nope), we determined that a day trip to the coast would be the best option. We booked with Game of Thrones Tours, which I highly recommend. We paid £50/each for all-day transportation and a tour; it was awesome to be able to just sit back and enjoy Northern Ireland. Even if you haven’t seen the show, I would still consider the tour because the sites were great and the commentary was a lot of fun. While I’ve seen all the episodes and am a fan of the show, I only recently got into the story; unlike Chris who single-handedly won the trivia contest in the van on the way back to Belfast (because of course).

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Our tour guide.

Our tour guide was AMAZING and has been an extra on the show multiple times. When I saw him I said, “Wow he looks like Davos!” only to find out he is also Ser Davos’ stand-in. He was also the extra in the famous “How do you plead…. Peter Baelish” scene from Season 7.

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Our tour guide is the guy on the left. He also said he was thinking “WHAAAAAA???” when this happened during filming.

Carnlough Harbour:

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Stopped for a coffee in Carnlough.

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The Carnlough Harbour steps were used for a scene in Season 6, Episode 7.

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My girl Arya trying to escape the Waif. This water was absolutely freezing.

Cushendun Caves:

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The Cushendun Caves are located in the Glens of Antrim. This is also the scene when Davos and Melisandre pull their boat up to the caves.

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The caves were formed from the Devonian puddingstone at Cushendun.

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This is also the location for the filming of the birth of Melisandre’s “shadow assassin” scene.

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The coast of Scotland is visible from the caves.

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The village of Cushendun.

Larrybane Chalk Quarry:

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View from the Larrybane Chalk Quarry.

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Larrybane Quarry is the location where they filmed Catelyn Stark meeting King Renly. It is also where they filmed the fight between Loras “The Knight of Flowers” Tyrell and Brienne “The Badass Bitch” of Tarth. That scene takes place behind us-ish, near the limestone wall.

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This was also the location for Renly Baratheon’s camp in Season 2, Episode 3.

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View from Larrybane Quarry.

Ballintoy Harbor:

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Ballintoy Harbor

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This Harbor is also the location where Gendry escapes Dragonstone in Season 3, Episode 10.

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Gendry: “Shit, I hope I can figure out this boat.”

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Also the location for the scene when Ser Davos asks Salladhor Saan for his help during the Battle of Blackwater Bay (Season 2, Episode 2).

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Chris: “Can I smoke here?”

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The Harbor looks out to Boheeshane Bay, Larry Bane Head, Sheep Island, Rathlin Island, and Scotland.

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The cliff all the way in the distance is the location where Jon Snow pets Drogon for the first time (Season Seven).

Dunluce Castle:

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Dunluce Castle’s ruins date all the way back to the 1500’s. Legend holds that the kitchen of the castle fell straight into the sea, killing seven cooks (although this has been largely debunked by paintings depicting life in the castle during that time).

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The castle is used for the GOT Harrenhal Castle shot.

The Dark Hedges:

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The Dark Hedges are an avenue of Beech trees planted near Gacehill House by James Stuart in 1775.

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It’s really interesting that these haunted trees became so popular because they were only featured for a couple of seconds in the show (when Arya and Gendry escape King’s Landing during Season 2, Episode 8).

The Giant’s Causeway:

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Not featured in the show, the Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO site. It is made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns.

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The Causeway was formed over millions of years from volcanic activity in the Antrim. The heating and cooling of lava created the unique landscape.

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Chris: “Can I smoke here?”

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Irish mythology contends that the columns are the remains of a causeway built by Irish giant Fionn MacCool to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner. Benandonner was outsmarted by Fionn’s wife and out of fright, destroyed the path from Ireland to Scotland on his way home.

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Carpet shoes for scale.

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The rocky coastline has caused a number of shipwrecks, including one in 1588, which killed over 1,000 men.

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Geology or Giants?

Bushmill’s Distillery: 

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Bushmills first obtained their license in 1608 (!!).

Belfast:

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Crescent Church

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Queen’s University

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Belfast Botanic Gardens

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Belfast Botanic Gardens

Ulster Museum, Belfast:

We visited the Game of Thrones Tapestry Exhibit at the Ulster Museum on our last day in Northern Ireland. The museum is amazing and I wish we had more time to view all of the exhibits! The tapestry is really cool to see; it takes up an entire room (80 meters long!) and shows the story from seasons one through seven.

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Restaurants:

Holohan’s Pantry:

Holohan’s Pantry is absolutely amazing and a must-eat restaurant if you have time in Belfast. They were able to fit us in last minute and I am so glad we were able to have an authentic Irish dinner in the short time we were in Belfast. We both had a version of the boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake. They use local ingredients to develop traditional Irish cuisine. Soooo good.

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I had the Fermanagh Boxty Dumplings  also included wild mushrooms and leeks.

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Chris ordered the Boxty of the Day, which was basically a potato pancake stuffed with everything from a chicken pot pie.

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Sticky Guinness Pudding. HUZZAH.

Maggie May’s:

Maggie May’s is a great place for a genuine breakfast in Belfast. A tiny diner (only accepts cash) with a huge menu, they have options for everyone. One of the best brunches ever.

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Northern Ireland is one the most beautiful and interesting places we’ve visited in Europe.

Bonus gif:

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Watching: The Staircase (Netflix)

Reading: The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (Dan Egan)

Ashlyn (2)

One thought on “Northern Ireland: A Game of Thrones and Boxty Adventure

  1. Bamma says:

    What a great trip! I’d love to go on the GOT tour in Spain also. The potato pancakes look fantastic! Travel safe, love , Bamma

    Like

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