Ever since my trip to Ibiza with Enterprise, I’ve discovered the world of travel with a car and all the new possibilities it brings. When my friend asked me if I wanted to head to Northern Ireland to help dog sit an adorable cockapoo named Paddington Bear, I of course said yes and we hired a car to explore the country which is currently best known for being a filming location for Game of Thrones.
I’m a huge fan of both the Game of Thrones books and TV show, so I wanted to visit some of the filming spots in Northern Ireland. We stayed in Warrenpoint, on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but wove our way along the border of Northern Ireland in our car to explore the real Westeros.
A road trip is quickly becoming one of my favourite ways to explore new countries. As long as you've got plenty of car snacks, a good Spotify playlist and a car fit for a long journey (which kwikfit.com can help you out with), you're good to go. Northern Ireland is a great place to drive for the first time if you aren't used to hiring a car and driving somewhere new.
We visited Belfast on a separate day but it’s easily visited as part of your road trip or as a place to stay, as opposed to the quieter Warrenpoint. I actually preferred it to Dublin; it was smaller, less expensive and had a great vibe. There were beautiful buildings, with a huge range of architecture, and lots of cool street art to explore. We grabbed a pub lunch at a local pub but if you want a quick bite to eat, head to Boojum. For a drink, we headed to the dog friendly The Spaniard for unusual ales and delicious cocktails as well as a beautiful galaxy exterior.
For our first Game of Thrones filming location, we headed to the Dark Hedges which are best known as the King’s Road. The road was scattered with more tourists than I expected, but there is still a slightly eerie and foreboding atmosphere. The 200 year old trees which line the road were a place of wonder before they were chosen as a Game of Thrones location; they were planted during the reign of James Stuart 150 years ago and are allegedly haunted by the Grey Lady. I’d recommend visiting at sunset if you can for the best experience.
A short trip down the road led us to Ballintoy. For lunch, we stopped at a Game of Thrones themed pub, the Fullerton Arms. The door of this pub is one of 10 doors gifted to pubs throughout Northern Ireland, carved our of trees from the Dark Hedges inspired by Game of Thrones. This door was Targaryen and included three intricate dragons and a horde of Dothraki. Although it was a pub which has embraced the Game of Thrones hype, the food was still genuinely good and my Steak and Guinness pie with chunky chips was hearty, affordable and delicious – the best meal of the trip. The pub is also dog friendly and Paddington was made a complete fuss of by the staff, before we headed next door to their “Game of Thrones room.” Of course, I had to sit in the Iron Throne and encourage Paddington to join me!
Next, we headed down the road to the Ballintoy harbour, a stunning National Trust location which was also a filming location for the Iron Islands. The harbour was simply beautiful; sandy shores, rich seaweed and dark, volcanic-style rocks which disappeared out to sea. It’s an underrated place which was much quieter than I expected but well worth a visit, especially if you are a Game of Thrones fan.
Finally, we visited the Giant’s Causeway, which has been on my bucketlist as one of the natural wonders of the world. It was as impressive as I had hoped; giant hexagonal columns loomed out of the sea and formed the fascinating causeway, which according to legend was built by a giant. It’s free to visit and looked after by the National Trust – you can also pay to visit the museum and find out more about the place but we walked straight down to the sea to see it for ourselves. It’s a truly incredible structure and like nothing else I’ve ever seen; one you really must visit if you are heading to Northern Ireland and an amazing end to our road trip.
This trip can easily be completed in a day in a car, which allows you visit parts of Northern Ireland which wouldn’t be accessible via public transport. There’s no need to pay for a Game of Thrones tour when you can do it yourself, at your own pace and enjoyment – especially if you can bring a dog along too!
Have you visited Northern Ireland? Are you inspired to take a Game of Thrones themed trip?
This post is in collaboration with Kwik Fit