The epic television phenomenon Game of Thrones® returned this week for its 8th and final series, with the surviving characters set to battle it out for their seat on the Iron Throne. Based on the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R Martin, HBO’s mega hit is renowned for its stunning filming locations, incredible battle scenes and unexpected twists.
Northern Ireland has provided the spectacular backdrop for a host of influential scenes throughout the series, and alongside visiting the filming locations, there are an abundance of fantastic Game of Thrones® and medieval experiences spread across Britain for visitors to enjoy.
Already eclipsing the length of the famed Bayeux Tapestry, the Game of Thrones® Tapestry at the Ulster Museum details every key moment from the monumental series. Designed and finished by hand but weaved by a state-of-the-art machine, the tapestry reveals the highlights of every episode from Seasons 1-7 on linen sourced from Ferguson’s Irish Linen, one of Northern Ireland’s last surviving linen mills. The Season 8 panel is set to be completed once the show reaches its finale.
When? On display until 28 July 2019
The official exhibition of the HBO show comes to the TEC Belfast in April, providing an in-depth look into the world of Westeros and beyond. From authentic props and sets to weapons and armour, Game of Thrones™: The Touring Exhibition uses an array of immersive environments and interactive displays to transport visitors to the heart of the Seven Kingdoms.
When? 11 April – 1 September (April to May, 10am-7pm; June to September, 9am-8pm)
Visitors to Belfast can now discover a brand new installation, Glass of Thrones. As each episode of Season 8 airs, a beautifully crafted, freestanding stained-glass window will be placed in a location in the city. Illustrated by hand and stained by an artist in Bangor, Wales, each window focuses on a House from the show and depicts the most exciting and talked-about moments from the family’s history. The first window, unveiled on 15 April, focuses on the Starks. By the end of Series 8, the windows will form a new Game of Thrones® trail, leading fans across the city to the final window at the Titanic Studios, where much of the show has been produced.
When? 15 April onwards
Having been hit hard by Storm Gertrude in 2016, felled trees from the Game of Thrones® filming location known as The Dark Hedges were carved into 10 intricately designed pub doors, each telling the story of an episode in Game of Thrones® Season 6. Each door is set near to one of Northern Ireland’s filming locations for the hit show, allowing visitors to embark on a Journey of Doors from Cairncastle and Cushendun Caves to pubs and hotels in Belfast, Ballintoy and Newcastle, among other locations.
When? Year-round (pub and cafe opening times vary)
Used as Winterfell when filming Season 1 of Game of Thrones®, Castle Ward is packed full of exciting themed experiences for fans to enjoy. Home to the Stark family in the hit show, visitors can dress up in full costume and fire arrows at a replica of the Winterfell Archery Range that has been carefully recreated in the courtyard. Cycle around the many filming locations as part of a cycle tour or visit the Winterfell Master-at-Arms for Game of Throws, an axe throwing experience new for 2019. Alternatively, fans can meet the real Direwolves, Odin and Thor, as part of the Direwolves tour, providing unique insight into the dog breed used for filming.
When? Year-round (booking in advance is required)
Explore Northern Ireland’s lesser-known filming locations on a specialist tour with Giant Tours Ireland with Flip, the stand-in for Hodor during Season 6. The private tours take in many of the filming points that larger tour groups do not have the time or space to see, allowing fans to immerse themselves in the mysterious and beautiful backdrops that Game of Thrones® is renowned for.
When? Tours on selected days throughout the year (booking in advance is required)
Venture into Tollymore Forest Park and discover all of the different scenes it features in as part of an exciting guided tour. Be transported to the Haunted Forest north of the wall as part of the immersive experience, set foot on The Kingsroad and explore The Wolfswood near Winterfell while donning Stark coats for added effect.
When? Daily tours at 10am and 3pm (advance booking is required)
Having featured as The Kingsroad on the path to King’s Landing, The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland is one of the country’s most photographed spots. The rows of mature beech trees on either side of Bregagh Road in County Antrim date back to the 18th century and helped form the setting for Arya Stark’s escape, cementing their place in Game of Thrones® folklore.
Find out more about Game of Thrones® filming locations at discovernorthernireland.com/gameofthrones. Alternatively, download the interactive app to discover all 26 incredible filming locations at discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/attractions/game-of-thrones/game-of-thrones-app/
Please note, the aforementioned experiences in Northern Ireland are independently run and are not affiliated with, sponsored or endorsed by HBO, nor anyone associated with Game of Thrones®
Take a unique guided tour of Winterfell at Doune Castle in Scotland, the stunning backdrop used throughout Game of Thrones® and also featured in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Explore one of Scotland’s best preserved castles, its huge Great Hall and exquisite courtyard design.
When? Tours run throughout the year (advance booking is required)
Get hands-on with owls, buzzards, hawks, falcons and eagles as part of tailor-made bird of prey experiences with Falconry Scotland. Operating on an appointment-only basis from two sites, Dalhousie Castle Hotel and Spa and another at Shieldaig Lodge in the West Highlands, expert falconers provide flying demonstrations and handling sessions, as well as archery experiences.
When? Dalhousie Falconry operates year round; Shieldaig Lodge opens from 12 April 2019 (booking in advance is required)
Competitors of all abilities, ages and nationalities can compete at the Axe Throwing Scottish Open 2019, held in the beautiful grounds of Scone Palace. Participants across various categories can camp on site, while the Scottish Knight League is also hosting a Medieval Fighting Championship.
When? 4-5 May
Built by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago, Hadrian’s Wall once marked the border of England’s wild northern frontier. Much like the Wall in Game of Thrones®, the historic landscape and its crumbling forts remains an imposing sight. The best-preserved Roman site in the country at Housesteads Fort, the Temple of Mithras near Brocolitia Fort and the impressive Vindolanda Museum all provide a fascinating look into the region’s turbulent past.
When? Year-round (Housesteads Fort is open 10am-4pm in the winter, extended to 10am-6pm from March - September; the Vindolanda Museum is open daily 10am-5pm in the winter, extended to 10am-6pm from April - September)
Journey back to medieval England with a stay at Warwick Castle’s Knight’s Village, a set of themed tents, lodges and suites where guests can sleep like royalty. Take a trip through 1,000 years of history during the immersive Castle Dungeon experience, featuring carefully created sets and surprising special effects alongside a cast of historic characters. Or venture outside to see the world’s largest siege machine in action – a colossal replica of a Trebuchet that is fired in the shadow of Warwick Castle’s walls.
When? Warwick Castle opens at 10am (closing times vary depending on dates and events)
Dine with knights, acrobats and jesters as part of an immersive banquet-theatre experience in St Katherine Docks, London. Don period dress and enjoy a song and dance while tucking into a Medieval Banquet as part of a fantasy meal out to remember.
When? Wednesday to Saturday at 7.15pm, Sunday at 5.15pm
Be transported back to the heart of a medieval encampment and watch as rival knights battle it out at Bolsover Castle’s Knight’s Tournament in May. Try on armour, discover more about the Middle Ages and get a taste for old-fashioned combat before the winning knight is crowned in the Grand Finale.
When? 25-27 May
Hear the crash of lances and the thunder of hooves as armoured horsemen go head to head in jousting tournaments across Britain. The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds is hosting the International Jousting Tournament, with knights from four nations set to battle it out for the ultimate prize. Watch as jousting lances splinter at Leeds Castle in May, or catch two weekends of medieval mayhem at the Loxwood Joust in August, packed full of workshops, experiences and delicious food to feast on. Kent’s Hever Castle also hosts regular jousting tournaments throughout July and August.
When? 19-22 April (Royal Armouries Museum); 25-27 May (Leeds Castle); 3-4 and 10-11 August (Loxwood Joust); 13-14, 20-21 and 27-28 July, 10-11, 17-18 and 23-26 August (Hever Castle).
Sample delightful food at Arundel’s Knight’s Table Restaurant, with a menu that features classic meals from the bygone era, alongside more contemporary options. Think rotisserie chicken, delicious pies and a hog roast, as well as a carvery on selected days. Just what is needed after a visit to the spectacular Arundel Castle.
When? Wednesday to Sunday (opening times vary on those days)
See history brought to life at medieval festivals across England, while marking famous battles and discovering what life was like in medieval times. England’s Medieval Festival fills the grounds of Herstmonceux Castle, in East Sussex, and features everything from re-enactments and jousting to stage shows, music and dance, camping and medieval banquets. The Bosworth Medieval Festival provides a modern take on the battle, alongside a medieval market, a living history encampment and author talks, while the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival includes a dramatic re-enactment and impressive Sunday parade. Colchester Medieval Festival and Oyster Fayre Market features an array of period stalls and a combat arena where visitors can watch demonstrations of arms and armour. The annual Traquair Medieval Fayre hosts a cannon firing display and demonstrations of ancient crafts, giving visitors the opportunity to try their hand at willow weaving, watch chainmail making in action or trial Longbow archery. A sword and shield making workshop should keep children entertained too.
When? 25 May (Traquair Medieval Fayre), 15-16 June (Colchester Medieval Festival), 13-14 July (Tewkesbury Medieval Festival), 17-18 August (Bosworth Medieval Festival) 24-26 August (England’s Medieval Festival)
The medieval feasts at Ruthin Castle take diners back to when the Earl of Warwick hosted extravagant feasts during the 16th century. Guests are encouraged to dress in traditional clothes and are entertained in the banqueting hall with a mix of Welsh and English song. Expect an evening of dining with daggers while toasting with mead and goblets of wine.
When? Feasts take place on a selected day or two each month
Come face to face with dragons at Caerphilly Castle! The 12th-century fortress is home to the Cadw dragon family, a set of incredible dragon models that form part of an audio-visual display. A set of medieval-inspired siege engines regularly catapult ammunition into the moat of Wales’ largest castle too, demonstrating the incredible engineering and ingenuity that existing in the medieval period.
When? Year-round (opening times vary by season)