Game of Thrones locations you can actually visit
With Game of Thrones returning after a year-long hiatus, we decided to take a look at locations you can actually visit in reel-life (get it?).
WINTERFELL, OR CASTLE WARD, NORTHERN IRELAND
Winterfell is, in fact, the ruins of a farm on the 330-hectare Castle Ward estate, not far from Belfast in Northern Ireland.
Castle Ward is a 17th-century country house with a classical Palladian entrance and an English Gothic rear, more Downton than medieval fantasy.
But, with the help of a lavish amount of computer-generated imagery, the estate's abandoned towers, moss-covered stone walls and rustic farm houses have been transformed into the ancestral seat of House Stark in the Kingdom of the North.
Winterfell burnt down in the second season finale, but it's back on the map now as Jon Snow and Sansa return to their home and speculation is rife about whether Arya will make it back too.
With a little bit of convincing, HBO allowed local tour operator Clearsky Adventure to borrow actual GOT costumes, and use the cottages and stables of Castle Ward for the archery experience and for cycling tours around the estate, which has nine GOT locations on its grounds.
DARK HEDGES, NORTHERN IRELAND
Further north you'll find the setting for Castle Black - the abandoned Magheramorne quarry which is currently under proposal to be turned into a centre for adventure sports.
Nearby Redhall Estate appeared in both seasons two and three under various guises, including as the inn where Catelyn Tully captured Tyrion Lannister before taking him to her twisted sister in Eyrie. (For bonus fan points, the rock formations that make up Eyrie actually lie in Greece and had the castle grafted onto them).
With eerie in mind, Ballymoney's Dark Hedges provided the backdrop for the iconic Kingsroad. As one of the most photographed sites in Ireland, their dramatic appearance was perfect for the award-winning series.
It seems Ireland's rugged terrain is pretty adaptable as a mythological setting, with Sandy Brae Path at Newry and Mourne used as the site of the twin horse statues marking the entrance to the Dothraki holy ground. There's something especially fantastic about this area, as the Mourne Mountains are said to have inspired C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia.
Our final tip for Northern Ireland is to head to the Caves of Cushendun, County Antrim, where one of the more disturbing scenes from season two was filmed: Melisandre's birthing of the shadow baby. The area itself is quaint and scenic.
Leaving Ireland and heading south to warmer climes, we find ourselves in Malta, a landscape that constituted much of King's Landing in season one. The country's former capital Mdina was used to represent the central city of Westeros to great effect; the many well-preserved, historical buildings fit perfectly with the theme of exotic, medieval grandeur.
Local structures on the Mediterranean island, such as the Mdina Bridge, Pjazza Mesquita, and Verdala Palace are all located close to one another.
SAN ANTON PALACE MALTA
Lord Stark's announcement to Cersei that he knew of her incestuous secret was filmed in the Dominican St Dominic Monastery, after it was transformed into the Gardens of the Red Keep. His subsequent comeuppance took place nearby at Fort Manoel. Many similar structures close by were used, such as Fort St Angelo where Arya chasing the cat beneath the castle was filmed.
As the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, Malta housed the Iron Throne for some time. Fittingly, one of the venues for this was the San Anton Palace, in real life a residence of the island's president.
One of the few drawbacks of Mdina as a set is that it lies inland, unlike its seaside Westeros counterpart, and could therefore only be used to depict interior shots of the city.
The second season saw filming of King's Landing moved to Croatia, specifically Dubrovnik and Lokrum. With Dubrovnik being a seaside walled city, similar to the Westeros capital, the crew were offered additional opportunities to film exterior shots as well as the interior shots they had been limited to in Mdina.
OLD TOWN DUBROVNIK AND LOKRUM ISLAND
The surrounding waters were put to good use, providing the setting for the epic Battle of Blackwater, whilst Fort Lovrijenac became the new Red Keep. Sections of Qarth in the Essos continent were also filmed here, with the Minceta Tower used as the exterior of the House of The Undying.
Many other parts of Qarth were filmed on the nearby island of Lokrum, including the botanical gardens, used for outdoor scenes such as the welcome party thrown by Xaro. Lokrum itself is said to be cursed, so much like the characters in Thrones, you would be wise to visit but not to stay. Back on the mainland, the gates of Qarth were constructed in Dubac quarry, along with King's Landing's waterside garden in Season 3 which was located at the Trsteno Arboretum.
Volcanic but frozen, Iceland truly is the Land of Ice and Fire. Barren, alien, beautiful but brutal, this mysterious landscape is the perfect location for the land Beyond The Wall. Line Producer Chris Newman said they wanted as much of the scenery to be as true to life as possible, and that they weren't "doing anything in post-production to add mountains or snow or anything".
MYVATN LAKE, ICELAND
Filming spots included Hofoabrekkuheioi, the Myrdalsjokull glacier, the Vatnajokull glacier - Europe's largest ice cap- and Lake Myvatn which, although a protected area, is easily accessible for visitors. Annual events hosted here include the Icelandic marathon. The lake is littered with unusual lava formations, aptly known as "black castles". While a majority of scenes were filmed at the Lake, Iceland's Skaftafell National Park was also put to good use.
While the life of an actor may seem glamorous, those who were involved in Icelandic scenes had to brave severely cold conditions. The scene where John Snow fights Qhorin Halfhand near the end of Season Two took place on a cliff with a 500m drop, the snow so deep the actors kept sinking into it during an exhausting two-day shoot.
Although some of the shots here were used to represent King's Landing in the third season, the historic city of Ait Benhaddou, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, was utilized to represent Yunkai, or the Yellow City travelled to by The Mother of Dragons. The beautifully sandy citadel, known widely for its kasbahs, is no stranger to the limelight, having been a backdrop for blockbusters such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, and Gladiator.
Another shooting location is Essaouira, Western Morocco, also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the series it served as the location for the slave-trading city of Astapor, and housed the Plaza of Pride and the Palace of The Good Masters. In real life, this little city is buzzing with culture, its historical beauty and stunning sea views preserved thanks to strict building restrictions.
Heading back to a more comfortable environment, Morocco was used as the primary setting for many of Daenerys' travels in season three. This was actually a revisit for the production team to the area - it was originally used as King's Landing in the unaired pilot.
- REUTERS, TRAVELLER.COM.AU