Earlier this year, Storm Gertrude ripped up several 200-year-old beech trees from the Dark Hedges, a natural landmark in County Amtrim, Northern Ireland. It’s a landmark that should be familiar to any Game of Thrones fan.
Tourism Ireland saved the fallen trees and will use the wood to make ten doors, one for each episode of Game of Thrones Season 6. On each door, it’ll work with world class illustrators, CGI artists, and CNC engineers who will engrave the doors with artistic depictions of the episode’s storylines. Then each door will be posted at a pub around Northern Ireland, culminating in a country-wide pub crawl of epic proportions.
The first door, for “The Red Woman,” has already been completed and is housed in a pub called The Cuan, near the Castle Ward filming location.. It depicts Westeros itself, and the major powers at play.
Tourism Ireland has more than Game of Thrones-themed doors in mind. Already this week, it’s released its first in a series of limited edition GoT stamps.
These stamps are being created in conjunction with the Royal Mail—they let you send post from Northern Ireland GoT Territory. As with the doors, a new one will be released each week, and each one will be inspired by current themes on the show.
Ireland and Scotland are taking a page from New Zealand’s playbook by showing off the real-life settings for onscreen fantasy worlds. Rather than Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth, the fantasies in question come from the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones” and the STARZ series, “Outlander.”
Tourism Ireland has partnered with HBO to showcase “Game of Thrones” locales for the second year in a row. In addition to cheeky promotions (“dragon’s eggs” at local markets); official signage points the way to filming locations throughout Northern Ireland.
In Scotland, visitors are keen to follow the trail of the time-traveling female protagonist of the “Outlander” series. Visit Scotland has created an interactive map to mark film locations.
Tour operators have introduced specialty itineraries that explore the fictional settings of the shows.
“There is definitely an interest in film tours. People watch these shows and they want to go see the locations, which are often quite beautiful,” said Brenda Staben, a front line agent with Hobson Travel.
“Ireland has so many places of wild beauty. And people are so friendly. I just had a client get into a car accident there. While they were waiting around, the lady they hit took them to lunch,” Staben tells Travel Agent.
Of course, tourists do spend money. And film tourism has become big business. “Game of Thrones” cross-promotions and tours have brought quite a bit of revenue to Ireland, as well as other film locations such as Croatia and Malta.
Visit the village where the jewelry and crowns used in ‘Game of Thrones’ are made. Guests can meet the artisans in their workshops, and maybe even order their own custom piece. The hotels are very much into it as well. At Ballygally Castle, where client can stay, there are jewelry displays from the show. They also have a ‘Game of Thrones’ afternoon tea. But you won’t find any dainty finger sandwiches,” said Reilly.
Guests can also practice some archery and learn how to pick up a sword at Castle Ward, used for the outdoor courtyard of Winterfell.
The Northern Ireland tourism board hopes to attract tourists by billing itself as “The Real Westeros,” thanks to its large number of Game of Thrones filming locations.
Game of Thrones has already brought more than £87 million to Northern Ireland, where many of the show’s scenes filmed, but that hasn’t stopped local officials from looking for new ways to cash in on the hit HBO show. With GOT’s fifth season debuting on April 12, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has put together a map of the series’ filming locations, including a three-day itinerary for the ultimate Game of Thrones road trip. The new, free resources are designed to bring more tourists, and tourism dollars, to the region.
The Discover Westeros tour includes stops at Castle Ward, better known to fans of the show as the Stark’s home, Winterfell; Ballintoy Harbour, which stood in during a pivotal scene for Theon Greyjoy in season two; and The Dark Hedges, which is featured during Arya Stark’s escape from King’s Landing with Yoren, of the Night’s Watch.
You can download the full itinerary, maps, and details about where Game of Thrones will be filming next at www.discovernorthernireland.com/gameofthrones.
Northern Ireland has long been an inspiration for local writers and playwrights such as C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia) and Colin Bateman (Divorcing Jack).
More recently, it has also been the go-to location for film and TV executives looking for the ideal location for the new productions.
Northern Ireland offers an unrivalled variety of landscape and setting, all within a compact and easily accessible area – hence its popularity with film-makers and crews.
Game of Thrones (2011 – Present) – An epic fantasy television series created for HBO. This production is an adaptation of George R R Martin’s series of fantasy novels, and is filmed at the Paint Hall Film Studios in Belfast as well as a number of locations around Northern Ireland including Ballintoy Harbour, Tollymore Forest Park and Castle Ward Estate.
Keith Lemon – The Film (2012) – Comedy starring Celebrity Juice host and comedian Keith Lemon and Kelly Brook, Keith Lemon The Film is filmed in various Belfast locations including Linenhall Street, Titanic Drawing Offices, House of Fraser (Victoria Square), The Waterfront Hall, W5 at Odyssey, The Merchant Hotel, Bedford Street, Linen House Hostel, Old Northern Bank on Waring Street, Café Vaudeville, Donegall Square North.
The Fall (2013 – Present) – A BBC2 thriller currently in production in Belfast, stars former ‘X Files’ actress Gillian Anderson, as well as Irish actors Jamie Dornan, who will feature as Christian Grey in the upcoming movie and Gerard McCarthy of Hollyoaks fame. The psychological thriller follows a serial killer who stalks his victims in and around the city of Belfast. The second series is due to air in November 2014.
Dani’s Castle (2013 – 2014) – This CBBC television production was filmed on location at historic Killyleagh Castle in County Down. Series 3 has been commissioned to be filmed in County Down in 2015.
Good Vibrations (2012) – This film is based on the story of Terri Hooley, who owned record store Good Vibrations, and championed the emerging Belfast punk scene in the 1970’s. Terri started a small record label, and is famous for discovering and launching famous Derry band The Undertones.
The Shore – Short Film (2012) – This Oscar winning film (best live action short) is the story of friendship and reconciliation starring Ciarán Hinds and Conleth Hill as childhood friends Joe and Paddy. The film has won Best Live Action Short Film at the 2012 Oscars. Written and directed by Belfast local Terry George, and produced by his daughter Oorlagh, the film was shot entirely in Killough, Co. Down.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (2012) – The BBC’s drama department’s modern-day take on the 1839 novel was filmed at various locations across Northern Ireland including Belfast City Hall, and Brownlow House. The production, supported by Northern Ireland Screen, features local names such as Adrian Dunbar, Bronagh Gallagher, Jayne Wisener and Andrew Simpson among its cast.
Blandings (2013 – 2014) – The series is based on author PG Wodehouse’s hilarious accounts of the life and times of Lord Emsworth of Blanding Castle. It was filmed at Crom Castle, Co. Fermanagh and stars well-known actors such as Timothy Spall, Jennifer Saunders, David Walliams and Mark Williams, just to name a few.
Privates (2012) – This BBC1 drama is the story of the last intake of conscripts for National Service in 1960; eight young men undertake basic training at a windswept camp in Yorkshire, as the end of the era of deference meets the world of rock n’ roll. The cast which includes Patrick Baladi (The Office; Mistresses) as Captain Gulliver: Marc Silcock (Hollyoaks, Emmerdale) as Corporal Jimmy Hobbs: and Jack Fox (Fresh Meat) as Private White-Bowne filmed on location in Northern Ireland at Ballykinler Army Base, Tyrella Beach and South Promenade, Newcastle.
The Wipers Times (2013) – Filmed on location at Ballywalter Park Estate, Co Down, Belfast City Hall and the Co. Down Railway Museum. Starring Ben Chaplin, Michael Pain and Emilia Fox amongst its cast members, the film tells the true story of how one man turned the horrors of war into a black comedy.
Miss Julie (2014) – Set on Midsummer’s Eve in 1890 in Crom Castle in County Fermanagh, Miss Julie details a battle of both sexes and classes, staring well-known actors Colin Farrell and Jessica Chastain.
Dracula Untold (2014) – Vampire mythology combined with the true history of Prince Vlad tell the origin of Dracula starring Luke Evans. Filmed at many locations across Northern Ireland including: Tollymore Forest Park, Roe Valley Country Park, Mount Stewart House and Gardens, Giant’s Causeway, Divis Mountain and Scrabo Country Park. Find out more about Dracula Untold.
Shooting for Socrates (2014) – Starring local actors Conleth Hill, Bronagh Gallagher and Ciarán McMenamin, Shooting for Socrates depicts the story of Mexico 1986 when Northern Ireland met the mighty Brazil in the World Cup finals, filmed at Windsor Park, Belfast and around Belfast City.
Line of Duty (2014) – Series two was filmed entirely in Belfast, telling the story of police corruption.
City of Ember (2007) – A science fiction fantasy film filmed at the Paint Hall Film Studios in Belfast and Cavehill, starring Holywood actors Bill Murray and Tim Robbins.
Your Highness (2011) – A Universal Studios Picture comedy that was filmed on location in Northern Ireland. Starring Natalie Portman, the production was filmed in the Paint Hall Film Studios in Belfast and utilised many of Northern Ireland’s stunning locations to create their very own ‘Kingdom of Mourne’ including; Tollymore Forest Park, Castle Ward, Cairncastle, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway.
Robert Overlords (2013) – Starring Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, Robert Overlords is a science fiction film where Earth has been conquered by Robots from a distant Galaxy. Survivors are confined to their houses and must wear electronic implants, risking incineration by Robot Sentries if they venture outside. Filming locations include: Belfast Met, Donaghadee, Greencastle Beach, Tollymore Forest Park and Carrickfergus Castle.
Philomena (2012) – Philomena is the true story of one mother’s search for her lost son. Starring Judy Dench and Steve Coogan with filming in various County Down locations including Bryansford, Killyleagh, Rostrevor and featuring the Mourne Mountains.