Magheramorne Quarry Known World
Fans of Game of Thrones might recognize the Magheramorne quarry – it was one of the principal locations where scenes involving Castle Black were filmed. To the uninitiated, Castle Black is the headquarters of the Night's Watch – a sacred brotherhood sworn to protect the Seven Kingdoms from the supernatural evils beyond the Wall.
Castle Black is also where iconic characters like Jon Snow and Samwell Tarley were molded into men through training and more than a few brushes with death. Indeed, Castle Black is a relic meant to evoke a sense of nostalgia and foreboding — and where better to find such a place than the Magheramorne Quarry of Northern Ireland?
Magheramorne Quarry Real World
The Magheramorne Quarry has seen a lot of activity in recent years. Decades after limestone extraction for use in the Magheramorne cement plant ceased, talks and discussions surfaced over just what to do with the location. In September of 2009, Lafarge – a French industrial company – obtained outline planning permission for redevelopment of the area.
As it stands now, however, the Magheramorne Quarry is still a sight to behold with its scenic views off the coast. Its beauty is only contrasted by a gloomy façade that lends a quiet and haunting vista to anyone interested in taking a closer look.
Mdina Known World
Parts of Mdina were used to convey the opulence and splendor of King's Landing – a wretched hive of scum and villainy beneath all the art and beauty. It is within the very walls of this fortified kingdom where treacherous deals are signed with the blood of the innocent and unaware.
King's Landing was where Jon Arryn, the previous Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon, was murdered. His murder kicked into motion a series of events that would bring Robert to Winterfell with the Lannisters in tow, push Lord Eddard Stark into the role of Hand, and thrust the Stark family into a violent world of palace intrigue and political deception.
Mdina Real World
Contrary to the politically charged atmosphere of King's Landing, the real Mdina is oft referred to as the "Silent City" by residents and visitors alike. Only a limited number of residents are allowed to drive in the city, and the narrow streets and alleyways make relaxing backdrops for anyone looking to just walk around and soak up the sights.
Mdina was first inhabited around 700 BC by the Phoenicians, but it was the Normans who ultimately contributed the thick, defensive fortifications the city is known for. Only around 250 people actually live within the city walls, a far cry from the multitudes that inhabit the fictional King's Landing.
Castle Ward Known World
Winterfell is the kingdom to the North and seat of the great and honorable House Stark. It is, indeed, a harsh land that breeds harsh people – harsh but loyal. It is an interesting dichotomy and one further strengthened in the chillingly beautiful backdrop of Castle Ward of Northern Ireland.
It was in Winterfell that the Stark family was visited first by news of Jon Arryn's passing and then the coming of King Robert Baratheon and the treacherous Lannisters. And it was in Winterfell that an attempt on Bran Stark's life was made not once but twice, further pitting the Starks and the Lannisters into a savage war.
Castle Ward Real World
The real Winterfell, known as Castle Ward in the real world, is a quaint and beautiful National Trust property near the village of Strangeford. While many of the big-name filming locations of Game of Thrones include Morocco and Iceland, few really compare to the rugged beauty of this Northern Ireland backdrop.
In addition to showcasing Castle Ward to homes across the planet, Game of Thrones has also helped support operational projects geared toward conservation of the property through location fees.
Shane's Castle Known World
This castle ruin near Randalstown was used as the location for the Tourney of the Hand. It was during this great social event that Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, toppled the Mountain, Ser Gregor Clegane, in a momentous jousting match.
Other scenes have been shot in and around the 2,600-acre estate including when King Robert Baratheon and his royal entourage first arrived in Winterfell. It was also used for the Winterfell crypt where the statues and remains of past Starks now rest.
Shane's Castle Real World
Shane's Castle was built in 1345 by a member of the O'Neill dynasty and was originally called Eden-duff-carric before the name was changed to Shane's Castle in 1722. One of the more chilling filming locations in Ireland, Shane's Castle lends itself to a certain haunting quality due, no doubt, to the legend of the banshee.
The source of the O'Neill banshee seems to stem from an unintentional sleight dealt to the fairies by one of the O'Neill dynasty. As the legend goes, a cow's horns were tangled in a hawthorn tree – thought sacred to the fairies at the time – and, by freeing the cow, he insulted the fairies. They took his daughter and would only allow her to return as an omen of bad things to come.
Sandy Brae Known World
At the foot of the Mourne Mountains is Sandy Brae, a peaceful vista used to usher in a far more savage element of A Song of Ice and Fire. It was this very locale that served as the entrance to Vaes Dothrak, the capital city where brutish Dothraki khalasars meet to trade goods.
Despite the savage tendencies of the Dothraki outside of this sacred city, Vaes Dothrak represented a zone of respite and peace. It was here that commerce and fair trade were handled and shedding the blood of any free man was forbidden.
Sandy Brae Real World
While the hulking hordes of warmongering Dothraki probably had little time for biking and hiking, many people in the real world continue to flock to picturesque Sandy Brae for that very reason. Sandy Brae is a scenic frontier that is more evocative of our notions of a sanctuary, which is likely why it made the perfect location for Vaes Dothrak.
Downhill Strand Known World
Fans of the series might remember Downhill Strand as the place where Stannis Baratheon, allied with Melisandre, burned statues of the seven gods and devoted himself to the Lord of Light. In Game of Thrones, this area was known as Dragonstone and it was where Stannis did first proclaim himself the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
The actions of Stannis at Dragonstone not only marked another entry into the actual game of thrones but yet another overtly fantastical element into an ostensibly grounded setting. With the introduction of Melisandre and her unique "talents," the world of Game of Thrones as we know it was forever changed.
Downhill Strand Real World
At seven miles long, Downhill Strand is one of the longest beaches in Northern Ireland, flanked by high cliff faces on one side and the azure sea on the other. Also known as Benone Strand, it is a popular tourist destination and is the recipient of the European Blue Flag and Seaside Award.
Anyone interested in nature will also find plenty to appreciate. And, of course, the beach is also great for families who just want to get away from it all. Indeed, Downhill Strand, while used as the backdrop for darker moments in Game of Thrones, is anything but in the real world.
The Dark Hedges Known World
Fans will recognize this gorgeous avenue for its winding beech trees and by another name – the Kingsroad. It was here that Arya Stark escaped execution at King's Landing via a Night's Watch convoy but, truth be told, many significant things have happened on this major highway connecting Castle Black to the North to King's Landing in the South.
Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister and Benjen Stark all made their journey from Winterfell to Castle Black where the road terminates. And the royal party spent two months – roundtrip from King's Landing to Winterfell – on this very road.
The Dark Hedges Real World
It's hard not to feel a sense of the supernatural, the way the trunks bend and the gnarled branches of these majestic trees reach up to create a tunnel. The name alone – "Dark Hedges" – is enough to conjure feelings of foreboding.
In reality, however, the remarkable trees that flank this path were planted by the Stuart family over two centuries ago and remain a photogenic phenomenon. They were originally intended as a welcome sight to anyone approaching Gracehill House and, to this day, continue to fascinate visitors.
Cushendun Caves Known World
It was here that Davos Seaworth escorted the mystical consort, Melisandre, and her ritual birthed a murderous apparition. As stated earlier, Melisandre's presence in Game of Thrones marked a unique turning point in the series where the medieval story became more open to elements of the fantastic.
As Melisandre summoned the vile creature into being in these very caves, she set in motion a chain of events that led to the elimination of yet another competitor for the Iron Throne – Renly Baratheon. While it aided Stannis, it further complicated matters for Catelyn Stark – wife of the late Lord Ned – and Brienne of Tarth – loyal protector of Renly.
Cushendun Caves Real World
Scenic and mysterious, these dark passages evoke wonder. This likely explains why these caves were chosen for one of the more memorable moments in Game of Thrones. Like many of the caves around Ireland and the rest of the world, the Caves at Cushendun were formed over many millennia. Over the course of 400 million years, both time and extreme weather conditions helped form the Cushendun Caves.
Vatnajökull National Park Known World
It was in these icy climes that Jon Snow did battle with his brother in the Night's Watch, Qhorin Halfhand, near a cliff with a 1,500-foot drop. In order to preserve his infiltration into the wildlings, Qhorin made the sacrifice by attacking Jon and forcing the young Snow to defeat him in combat.
This demonstration allowed Jon to move freely amongst the wildlings, learning their numbers and their tactics as they marched to war against the Wall.
Vatnajökull National Park Real World
A feast for the eyes and the senses, this hiker's paradise made the perfect filming location for the journey beyond the Wall. Despite much of the national park being underneath the icecap of the glacier Vatnajökull, the geography remains vast and diverse.
The diversity of the landscape is due, largely, to the clash of geothermal activity and glacial movements. Patches of vegetation dot the landscape like oases, surrounded by black sand deposits and high ice.
Minceta Tower Known World
Scenes revolving around the House of the Undying were shot here. Fans will remember the haunting and mysterious tower from when Daenerys Targaryen was forced to venture inside. After her dragons were stolen and taken to the high tower, Daenerys was confronted by visions from both past and future the moment she entered.
When she finally enters an antechamber, she finds her dragons chained to a pedestal and confronts the warlock Pyat Pree, who has orchestrated this meeting. Despite an attempt to overwhelm Daenerys with his power, the warlock's plan was thwarted by one of the young lady's most difficult dragons – Drogon.
Minceta Tower Real World
On the Dalmatian Coast in Dubrovnik sits an indomitable fortification and the structure known as Minceta Tower. Built in 1319, the Walls of Dubrovnik – where the tower resides – reach heights of up to 25 meters.
In mid-15th Century, famed Italian architect and sculptor Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi built a new round tower and joined it to the low scarp walls. Work was carried on by Giorgio da Sebenico of Zadar and, by 1464, the tower was completed and became a symbol of the unconquerable reputation of Dubrovnik.
Essaouira Known World
Anyone who has kept up with the show will recognize this port by a different name – Astapor of Slaver's Bay. Slaver's Bay was where Daenerys began her campaign against the forces of tyranny and steadily built her army.
In Astapor, she conquered the city after she purchased the entire population of Unsullied slave warriors and set them against their masters. At Yunkai, she brought the Stormcrows mercenary army to her side and forced Yunkai to release their slaves. She swore she would rule Slaver's Bay and city after city has fallen to her might.
Essaouira Real World
Essaouira is truly an ancient city and has been occupied since prehistoric times. It was even, at one point, a popular anchoring point for pirates. "Essaouira" was not the original name of this city. It went through several name changes including "Migdol" and "Mogador."
Known for its narrow streets, cooling breeze and plentiful seagulls, this serene medina is also the site of the annual pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Chaim Pinto. Essaouira has also hosted the Gnaoua Festival of World Music since 1998.
Lake Mývatn Known World
The nearby Grjotagja cave of Lake Mývatn was where Jon Snow forever broke his vows to the Night's Watch with the help of the cunning Ygritte. Members of the Night's Watch swear to take no wives, hold no lands and father no children.
At this particular time, Jon was infiltrating the wildling tribes that were mustering for a war just beyond the Wall. In order to gain their trust and thwart their attack, Jon was forced to convince Ygritte that he no longer held the vows of the Night's Watch sacred.
Lake Mývatn Real World
Lake Mývatn is the country's fourth largest lake and is situated in northern Iceland and east of Akureyri. Formed over 2,000 years ago by a large basaltic lava eruption, the lake and the neighboring wetlands are home to plentiful flora and fauna.
An annual marathon is held in the summer and there are plenty of other activities for visitors to enjoy. Tourists can rent cars and bikes to see more of the area, and a Viking recreational game and a 10th century dwelling are just some of the archeological treasures to be found in the region.
Aït Benhaddou Known World
Fitting that such a remarkable vista is used for the city of Yunkai where Daenerys continued her epic struggle against the forces of slavery. It was here that Yunkai employed the aid of a mercenary army known as the Second Sons. However, Daenerys was able to lure them over to her side with the help of Daario Naharis.
A leader in the Second Sons, Daario killed his compatriots and gave Daenerys inside knowledge into how to infiltrate Yunkai and defeat the opposition. With this information, Daenerys forced the city to surrender its slaves.
Aït Benhaddou Real World
Aït Benhaddou has served as the backdrop for many classic movies even prior to its use in Game of Thrones. Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here in 1962, Gladiator in 2000 and Alexander was also filmed in this location in 2004.
Tourists can reach Aït Benhaddou by crossing the Ouarzazate River via camel. There, they can wander the narrow streets or climb to the tallest reaches of a granary for a breathtaking view of the entire village. Only a few families continue to inhabit the ksar, but it's said that many of the residents will be more than happy to open their homes to outsiders for a fee. Some will even offer traditional Moroccan art and jewelry for sale.
Thingvellir National Park Known World
Much of Thingvellir National Park was used as the backdrop for the journey shared between Arya and the Hound. It was in these lands that Arya and the Hound would go from being mortal enemies to truly forging something bordering on respect and friendship.
As they traveled together, the Hound would instruct Arya in the ways of war and Arya would constantly challenge the Hound's ways. Together, they made an unlikely pair and saved each other's lives on more than one occasion.
Thingvellir National Park Real World
In the summer, parts of Iceland can really lighten up and get a little green. As one of the most frequently visited tourist destinations for hiking and camping, it made perfect sense to use the location as a scenic backdrop for Game of Thrones.
Historically, Thingvellir was the center of Icelandic culture during the Commonwealth period, and people numbering in the thousands would flock to the area from all over the country. Today, multitudes come to Thingvellir National Park for its rich scenery and activities.
Diocletian's Palace Known World
The opulence of Diocletian's Palace was a no-brainer for serving as Meereen, the city where Daenerys Targaryen continues to wage her war against slavery. While Daenerys was able to seize the city by sending in a group of spies to arm the slaves, her tenure as ruler has been anything but easy.
Since seizing Meereen, Daenerys has had to strike a balance between the harsh justice she has come to know and what is truly civil. Meanwhile, her dragons have grown ever more unruly and she risks them becoming a threat to those whose trust she seeks.
Diocletian's Palace Real World
Diocletian's Palace is over 1,500 years old and took more than a decade to build. The palace was built from local limestone, tufa and brick, but marble, granite columns and Egyptian sphinxes were imported for decoration.
The palace is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) world heritage site and much of Split Croatia tourism industry returns are due largely to this ancient wonder.
Seville Known World
The Dornish city of Sunspear features heavily in the fifth season of Game of Thrones. It is here that the fallout from Prince Oberyn Martell's duel with The Mountain was felt most keenly by Ellaria Sand. It is here that she seethes and plots her revenge against the Lannisters.
Seville Real World
The Alcazar of Seville, Spain is one of the oldest royal palaces in Europe to still house residents. It was where Christopher Columbus met Queen Isabella when discussing the particulars of his second voyage. It's also where a number of movies have been filmed including Lawrence of Arabia.
The garden of Vega Inclan features 20 flower beds divided by fountains and paths, but the Plaster Patio is largely regarded as the most beautiful garden in the palace. The Plaster Patio of the Alcazar of Seville hosts a wide variety of flowers and serves as a prime example of Almohade architecture.
Plaza de Toros Known World
Daznak's Pit is where many fight to prove themselves worthy of life, if not glory. In Season 5, it was where Ser Jorah Mormont fought various brigands and sellswords for a chance to prove himself to the woman he loved. It was also where Daenerys Targaryen was set upon by the Sons of the Harpy – a terrorist group out to kill the Queen.
Plaza de Toros Real World
The Plaza de Toros of Osuna, Spain is the pride and joy of the small Spanish town. For a while, the economic future of Osuna seemed uncertain after a prolonged drought struck the surrounding olive groves, but not anymore. Thanks to Game of Thrones, this city of rustic charm and whitewashed walls has become an even more popular tourist destination.