Thrones tour the stuff of fan­tasy...

Irish Sunday Mirror - - NEWS - BY KEELEY RYAN

MIR­ROR GIRL KEELEY VIS­ITS IR­ISH SITES FOR TV BLOCK­BUSTER

FROM the shores of River­run to the snowy grounds of Win­ter­fell, the film­ing lo­ca­tions for HBO’S Game Of Thrones have left view­ers awestruck.

Some of the North’s most amaz­ing lo­ca­tions have been front and cen­tre of the hit fan­tasy se­ries – and they’re a lot closer than you might think.

More than thrilled at hav­ing a chance to wan­der my way through Wes­teros, I jumped at the chance to ex­plore the grounds of Win­ter­fell.

We were up bright and early for the bus jour­ney from Dublin to Co Down’s Cas­tle Ward, also known to GOT fans as the home of the Stark fam­ily.

Just two hours from the cap­i­tal, the grounds fea­ture 20 of the iconic lo­ca­tions from the se­ries – from the tower where Bran fell to the site of the now in­fa­mous Red Wed­ding.

There’s the op­tion to do a num­ber of tours around the 820-acre es­tate with Clearsky Ac­tiv­ity Cen­tre, in­clud­ing a self-guided cy­cle where you can wan­der through Win­ter­fell to your heart’s con­tent, or a pri­vate trip led by ex­pert guides who share some set se­crets snip­pets.

There’s also plenty of add-ons to

Smoke bil­lowed as we stepped in­side tent with ta­bles groan­ing un­der a feast MIR­ROR GIRL KEELEY RYAN ON GAME OF THRONES TOUR BAN­QUET

per­son­alise the ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing archery lessons and the op­por­tu­nity to meet some of the Dire­wolves.

Fans hop­ing for the ul­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence can even spend the night in one of the pods on site.

We started off in the Win­ter­fell court­yard, lin­ing up in the same spot the Stark fam­ily did when the Baratheon’s ar­rived from King’s Land­ing.

Af­ter a brief his­tory of our sur­round­ings, we went to meet Thor and Odin, who played Robb and Bran Stark’s dire­wolves Sum­mer and Grey­wind in the first sea­son.

The North­ern Inuit dogs fea­tured as cud­dly pups from the very first scene in sea­son one when Jon Snow finds them in Tol­ly­more For­est.

We then be­gan a trek through the grounds of Cas­tle Ward, which has dou­bled as any­where from Win­ter­fell to the river­lands, where Ty­win’s camp once set up their bat­tle­grounds.

Our guide Jamie made sure ev­ery­one was decked out in their Wes­terosi finest – with an op­tion to wear the black cloaks of the Night’s Watch or the light grey cloaks of the Northen­ers.

And, of course, no Song of Ice and Fire out­fit would re­ally be com­plete with­out a sword.

De­spite plenty of CGI be­ing used to trans­form the sets and build the in­tri­cate cas­tle de­signs, there’s no mis­tak­ing the sight of Win­ter­fell – or even The Twins, the site of the Red Wed­ding. We even had an im­promptu

sword-fight­ing les­son out­side Aud­ley’s Cas­tle, which dou­bles as one of Walder Frey’s haunts.

BAN­QUET

Back at the court­yard, we stopped for a medieval ban­quet – which I won’t be for­get­ting any­time soon.

Smoke bil­lowed through the air as we stepped into the teepee tent, filled with large wooden ta­bles groan­ing un­der a feast of fruit, bread, meats, veg­gie soup and jugs of wine.

We headed back to the court­yard af­ter lunch for a shot at the out­door archery range, but not be­fore chang­ing into leather cos­tumes.

De­spite the lash­ing rain that day, it was one of the most in­cred­i­ble ac­tiv­i­ties – and a lot harder than it looks. Win­ter­fell Tours had one more treat in store be­fore we headed off – a chance to sit on the Iron Throne.

The mas­sive chair lies tucked away in the clock­tower, where stills from the se­ries lo­ca­tions adorn the walls.

Ev­ery­one has the chance to prac­tise their most re­gal (or fierce) look­ing pose as they perch on the throne – ready to rule the Seven King­doms. We

spent the night at the Slieve Donard Ho­tel in New­cas­tle, nes­tled at the foot of the Mourne Moun­tains and just a short drive from Cas­tle Ward.

The award-win­ning re­sort strikes just the right bal­ance of mod­ern lux­ury, with plush rooms, a pool with breath­tak­ing views and some truly ex­cel­lent food.

There was even one of the Door Of Thrones at the nearby restau­rant Percy French, a short walk from the ho­tel. The doors, com­mis­sioned by Tourism NI, were cre­ated out of three felled trees from the Dark Hedges in late 2015.

DE­SIGNS

Each piece is carved with in­tri­cate de­signs to cel­e­brate in­di­vid­ual episodes from Sea­son 6 of the HBO fan­tasy hit.

We be­gan the next day with a cy­cling tour of the 630-hectare Tol­ly­more For­est, where some scenes from the first episode were filmed. Pedalling past panoramic views, the for­est boasts the spot where the Stark fam­ily first found the Di­re­wolf pups at Al­tavaddy Bridge.

It is also the lo­ca­tion of the Wildling Pit at the Step­ping Stones where The Night’s Watch found dis­mem­bered bod­ies. All in all, the ex­pe­ri­ence is a def­i­nite

must for any GOT fan. The chance to re­live some of the show’s mem­o­rable mo­ments and see some be­hind-thescenes magic is some­thing that will de­light any Song of Ice and Fire devo­tee.

In­cor­po­rat­ing some of the North’s most amaz­ing lo­ca­tions, the stun­ning views make it all the more worth­while.

news@irish­mir­ror.ie

FLAM­ING SUC­CESS Game Of Thrones was filmed across the North

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