Written by Sarah Murphy aka The Geocaching Junkie
Fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones will be familiar with the fictional setting of Westeros, but did you know that many of the filming locations used for the cold and icy north are in Northern Ireland? We’re warned that ‘winter is coming’ and that’s certainly true on the Emerald Isle when a warm, sunny day is often followed by a stormy, wintery one. However the changeable weather is probably not what attracted Game of Thrones producers to Northern Ireland; the breathtaking landscapes and magical ruins were a much more likely draw.
There are lots of great geocaches placed near filming locations so you can do your own Game of Thrones caching tour. Here are some of the highlights:
Winterfell / Castle Ward
The historic farmyard at Castle Ward on the edges of Strangford Lough was chosen as the location of Winterfell for the pilot series of Game of Thrones. Set on 820 acres of landscaped gardens and leafy woodland, the farmyard is just a tiny part of a massive estate which is home to lots of great geocaches.
Closest cache to Winterfell: Castle Ward Clocktower (GC3307G)
Robb’s Camp / Audley’s Field and Castle
On the edge of the Castle Ward estate, perched on the banks of Strangford Lough, sits Audley’s Field and Castle, where many scenes were filmed in the first two seasons. The castle is an impressive 15th century tower house, and its slightly elevated position affords it great views over the lake. The location scouts really struck gold when they discovered Castle Ward!
Closest cache to Robb’s Camp: Audleys Casle (GC59BXE)
The Iron Islands / Ballintoy Harbour
On the North Antrim Coast sits the secluded Ballintoy Harbour, hidden away at the end of a narrow and winding road. The tiny fishing harbour was chosen as the location for the Iron Islands and is where Theon Greyjoy first meets his sister Yara. There is both a traditional and an EarthCache located at this quaint port.
Closest cache to the Iron Islands: The Fault Lies Here: Ballintoy Harbour (GC6H6KX)
Where Robb Stark was proclaimed ‘King in the North’ / Inch Abbey
The Emerald Isle boasts many magnificent ruins but one of my favourites is the haunting Inch Abbey in Downpatrick. The abbey is a ruined monastic site and features an imposing Gothic window. It was at night in the middle of these ruins, where Robb Stark was proclaimed to be King in the North and the impressive east window is easily identifiable in the scene.
Closest cache to where Robb Stark was proclaimed King in the North: Within an Inch (GC16AGQ)
House Tully / Gosford Castle
Another castle, this time in County Armagh, was chosen as the location for House Tully of Riverrun. Gosford Castle, set in 27 acres of gorgeous woodland, dates from the 19th century but has been completely restored in recent years and is now home to private apartments, as well as the fictional Tully family! The leafy surrounds of Gosford Park is a veritable treasure trove of great geocaches.
Closest cache to House of Tully: Game of Thrones# The Brothel (GC481TE)
Dragonstone / Downhill Strand
Northern Ireland is not short on beautiful beaches and while the water temperature could be described as bracing at best, the scenery more than makes up for it. Downhill Strand affords the visitor golden sands, a fresh Atlantic breeze and a view of Mussenden Temple in its commanding position on a clifftop. If you go for a daytime stroll on the beach, it might be hard to imagine this as the location of Dragonstone, where the witch Melisandre leads King Baratheon to betray his gods, amidst dancing flames and shadows chanting about the night and its terrors.
Closest cache to Dragonstone: Little Bridges #849 – “The Night is Dark…” (GC6FVD0)
The King’s Road / The Dark Hedges
Bregagh Road is a stunning avenue of beech trees planted in the eighteenth century by the Stuart family to impress visitors as they approached their mansion, Gracehill House. The gnarled branches are still impressing visitors to this day, not least of all Game of Thrones fans, who come to see the King’s Road from season two. The avenue is a popular stop for tour buses so you need to get there early to get the best shot of the mangled branches.
Closest cache to the King’s Road: The Dark Hedges (GC38KY0)
The above is just a sample of the many Game of Thrones filming locations you can find by geocaching your way around. There are many hidden gems that the location scouts managed to uncover, which leads one to wonder if they are in fact geocachers themselves?!