It’s common knowledge that the HBO smash-hit fantasy drama, "Game of Thrones," is filmed in Northern Ireland but have you ever thought of combining your love of TV and getting away from it all on vacation? This complete cyclist’s guide to visiting the on-site locations, including the crumbling castles and ancient landscapes of the Seven Kingdoms.
Whether you’re a just a beginner who wants to go for a spin or someone wants to follow the three-eyed raven for a 20-mile bike ride this detailed guide has something for all levels and Northern Ireland’s countryside will surely not disappoint.
The Haunted Forest Route
- Start your journey at the foot of Slieve Donard in the seaside town of Newcastle.
Feel free to grab an ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s on the main promenade or go for a paddle in the Irish sea before hopping on your bike.
- Take Castlewellan Road and turn left on Ballyhafry Road
- Continue on this route to Hillton Road
- On your left, you will find Tollymore Forest Park, or as you may know it, The Haunted Forest. Tinged with magic of its own, you may recognize the forest from when we were first introduced to the White Walkers, and also where the Stark family found the direwolf pups in episode one. Feel free to get lost here – who knows what, or who, you may find?
When you have seen enough of the Haunted Forest, ride your bike back to Hillton Road and back on the road you just came from.
- Turn right onto Bryansford Road and take this road right back to Newcastle, and remember to check out the scenery all around you. The Mourne Mountains have been a key filming location for the "Game of Thrones" team, the dramatic, rugged landscape inspiring the film crew as it once did CS Lewis’s vision of Narnia.
- When you are back in Newcastle stop at Percy French (in the grounds of the Slieve Donard) for something to eat. This restaurant is named for the composer of the famous song "The Mountains of Mourne” and contains more than just good food.
In January 2016, Storm Gertrude hit Northern Ireland and brought down three of the iconic Dark Hedges trees. Though an unfortunate loss to the scenic spot, the fallen trees did not go to waste. From them, ten fantastically intricate doors were carved, each illustrating moments from the sixth season – one of which you can find right here in Percy French.
- Still looking for more adventure? Hop on your bike again and make the short journey to Donard Park car park. From here, you can explore more of the Mourne Mountains, and namely, the tallest of them all, Slieve Donard.
You may not be up to hiking the entirety of this 2,800ft high mountain, but the woodland surrounding it is picturesque and you get good views from part of the way up.
Total cycle time: 30mins (exl. time in Tollymore)
Total distance: 5.4 miles (excl. distance within Tollymore)
The Winterfell Route
- Start in the town of Downpatrick and head northwest on Church Street towards Scotch Street
- Continue onto New Bridge Street and at the roundabout, take 2nd exit onto New Bridge Street
- Take slight right onto Quoile Road
- Turn right onto Mearne Road
- Turn left onto St Patrick’s Road
- Slight left onto Strangford Road
- Slight left again onto Audleystown Road (there will be brown signs for Castle Ward telling you to go right; take the left)
- Along this road there will be a fork in the road just past a white house on your left. Again, brown signs will tell you to go left for Audley’s Castle. Take a right here to cycle through Castle Ward Forest Park.
- Exit park on Park Road and stay on this road
- In roughly half a mile you will see Old Castle Ward. You are now standing in the presence of Winterfell, the home of the ruler of the North and the location where the series pilot and much of season one were filmed. You may have to use your imagination to fill in the CGI but this old farmyard has a history of its own to discover.
- Nearby, you’ll also find the Whispering Wood, where Robb Stark planned his ambush against Ser Jaime Lannister. Go for a visit and recollect the lives lost, the violence swept away by nature (or just the pretty views).
- For the rest of your journey, continue on Park Road
- In half a mile Audley Castle will be on your right. This other key filming location is where we see King Robert Baratheon and his retinue arrive at Winterfell, and you might also recognize it as Robb’s Camp, where he first meets Talisa.
If you’re feeling peckish now is a good time to stop for your picnic before you make your journey back to Downpatrick.
- To return, go southwest on Audleystown Road, continuing onto Strangford Road and making a slight left onto St Patrick’s Road
- Turn right onto Mearne Road and then left onto Saul Road
- Stay on this road until roundabout
- At roundabout take 2nd exit onto Ardfen and continue into Downpatrick
Total distance: 14.5 miles
Total time: 1.5 hrs
If you’ve got time or would maybe prefer to eat out rather than have a picnic, you can see another "Game of Thrones" door at The Cuan in Strangford.
After leaving Castle Ward National Park and just before Old Castle Ward on left, go right where a sign says Shore car park.
Stay on Park Road for half a mile and then turn left onto Downpatrick Road.
You’ll come into the town of Strangford and on the right of The Square, you’ll find The Cuan.
Once you’ve had your fill, follow the route back to Castle Ward National Park, where the above directions will take you to Audley Castle.
Additional distance: 4 miles
Additional time: 30 mins
Fancy a longer route and a chance to check out Robb Stark’s camp from season one, the same spot where he became the King of the North?
At the roundabout on Bridge Street, take the first exit onto Belfast Road;
Turn left onto Inch Abbey Road and this atmospheric ruin will be situated on your left.
To make it home, simply take the same route you used to get here.
Additional distance: 3.6 miles
Additional time: 20 mins
Harbour and Dark Hedges Route
- Your journey begins at Ballintoy Harbour.
- Take some time to explore this scenic seaside location, as it is the filming spot for the Iron Islands and also exterior Pykeshots. You may also remember this is the same spot where Theon Greyjoy meets his sister, Yara, for the first time and where returns to the Iron Islands.
- From here, take Harbour Road and turn left onto Whitepark Road;
- Turn left onto Rope Bridge and follow this to Larrybane Quarry.
Though it is now used as an overflow car park for tourists visiting Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, the "Game of Thrones" film crew transformed it for the screen. This is where Renly Baratheon‘s war camp in the Stormlands was based and where, you may recall, Brienne of Tarth was crowned the winner of Baratheon’s tournament and granted permission to join his Kingsguard.
While you’re here, Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge is worth a visit. So if you’re not terrified of heights and have some time, park the bike and brave the crossing to the island.
- To continue with your journey, Rope Bridge Road and at end of road, head right
In about half a mile, the Fullerton Arms will be on your right – another "Game of Thrones" door location. This one features Daenerys and her dragons, so do stop in to check it out and grab a bite to eat.
- From Fullerton Arms, head west towards Main Street;
- Continue onto Whitepark Road;
- Turn left onto Ballinlea Road;
- Turn right onto Straid Road;
- Turn left onto Ballinlea Road.
- Turn left onto Bregagh Road, or as you may know it, the King’s Road. Yes, you are now cycling along the Dark Hedges, where Arya Stark has escaped from King’s Landing disguised as a boy.
- Our next stop is another "Game of Thrones" door, so once you’re done walking dramatically up and down this atmospheric road, pay a visit to Gracehill House. This door’s most striking feature is its three-eyed ravens.
- When you’re done here, take Ballinlea Road again but in the opposite direction.
- When on this road, take a left at Carrowcroey Road and then a right onto Carnlelis Road
- At the end of this road, take a quick right and left onto Craigalappan Road.
- At end of this road, take a right onto Whitepark Road.
- Follow it before taking a left at Harbour Road, and return to Ballintoy Harbour.
Total distance: 20.9 miles
Total time: 2.5hrs
* Laura Fulton wrote this piece in association with DavidMurphyTowing.com.