HBO’s “Game of Thrones” returns for its sixth season on Sunday, April 24. Super fans can channel the Seven Kingdoms with a driving trip around Northern Ireland, where much of the show is filmed. We round up the highlights of what to see and where to stay.
1. DOWNHILL BEACH (Dragonstone)
This 11k stretch of sand in County Londonberry stood in as Dragonstone in Season Two, where the Seven Idols of Westeros were burned by Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre. Beyond the beach, the spot is home to the ruins of Downhill Demesne, an 18th century mansion built by Earl Bishop Fredick Hervey; the 17th-century Hezlett House, one of the oldest thatched cottages in the region; and the Mussenden Temple, perched on the cliff edge overlooking the Atlantic.
Stay: The Downhill Beach House is a restored Victorian villa overlooking the beach, with direct access via a footbridge. While you’re there try your hand at blokarting, a bit like sailing only with a cart on land.
2. LARRYBANE (The Stormlands)
GOT fans will recognize this beautiful coastal spot in County Antrim as the home of Renley Baratheon’s camp in Season Two, though most visitors come to the region to experience theCarrick-a-Rede rope bridge, a 66-foot-long suspension bridge that links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. Stay:Whitepark House, a charming circa 1730 house turned bed-and-breakfast situated on the North Antrim coast road above one of the prettiest beach in Northern Ireland, Whitepark Bay. Start the day here with breakfast in the sun-soaked conservatory and a stroll through the house’s gardens.
3. DARK HEDGES (The King’s Road)
This avenue of beech trees in County Antrim was planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century to impress guests as they made their way toward the family’s mansion, Gracehill House. The road is among the most photographed spots in Northern Ireland, now more than ever thanks to its use in the first episode of Season Two (“On the King’s Road”) when we see Arya Stark on the run and traveling north with others looking to join the Night’s Watch. Stay: The Hedges Hotel is just a short stroll away from Dark Hedges and a fun pick for GOT fans thanks to its restaurant, bedecked with medieval memorabilia like suits of armor, shields and swords.
4. CASTLE WARD HOUSE AND DEMESNE (Winterfell)
This 18th century house and its extensive grounds serve as the setting for the Stark family’s home of Winterfell. Visitors can explore the 820-acre walled demesne, which features a sunken garden and paths that wind their way through woodland and open onto the shores of the Lough. GOT fans can even opt to play archer at a replica of the Winterfell archery range. Stay:Potter’s Cottage is located within the castle’s grounds in the working farmyard near the Lough shore. End the day curled up with a drink around the cottage’s fireplace.
5. AUDLEY’S CASTLE (Robb Stark’s Camp)
Named after its late 16th-century owners, the Audleys, this three-story tower house was sold to the Ward family in 1646 and used in 1738 as the focus of the long vista along Castle Ward’s artificial lake, Temple Water. Explore the castle on two wheels with the “Game of Thrones” cycle tour — “Robb’s Trail” takes bikers to Audley’s Castle where Jamie Lannister was held captive in Seasons One and Two. Its hillside location offers sweeping views of Strangford Lough, where the scene in which Brienne brings Jamie Lannister ashore in a canoe was filmed. Stay: Reserve one of the fiveSlievemoyle Cottages set on 56-acres of hill farm. We like the Mill Cottage, which has retained original features from its former life as a corn mill, like quarry tiled floors, exposed stone, deep windowsills, and vaulted ceilings. French doors open to an outside dining area and wildlife trails.
6. TOLLYMORE FOREST PARK (The Haunted Forest)
Despite its scary GOT counterpart, this park in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains is actually quiet tranquil, with 1,600-acres of forest plots ranging from giant redwoods to eucalyptus. The Shimna River runs through the park where it’s crossed by 16 bridges, with grottos and rocky outcrops located along its banks. Stay:The Slieve Donard Resort & Spa in nearby Newcastle stands on six private acres, bordered by a stretch of beach on one side and the Royal County Down Golf Links on the other. Be sure to save time to visit the hotel’s spa for a soak in the pool, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea.