Where are my fellow Game of Thrones fans at?!
When my dad and I traveled to Ireland back in October, checking out the GOT filming locations (really doing all the GOT-related things) was at the top of our list. And luckily, we were able to see quite a bit of them! Perhaps the most exciting stop? Winterfell Castle!
Although we know it as Winterfell Castle, it’s “real world” name is Castle Demesne, and it’s located just under an hour outside of the Belfast city center, in a pretty remote area of Northern Ireland!
We ended up opting for a (very pricey) Uber ride to/from Belfast, but there are also full day tours here which I’d recommend if you (A) have the time and (B) don’t have a rental car, due to it being so far off the beaten path and no direct transportation.
There are a few different activities you can do at Winterfell, but we opted to do the archery experience and cycle tour and had an absolute blast!
Upon arrival, we were shown a really cool video of how GOT used a ton of green screen + CGI technology to build up the Winterfell we see when watching the show. I now totally get why it takes them a while to get the show together. There’s TONS of work done after the original shoot. I mean, TONS. The Winterfell you see in real life is essentially a tower, a courtyard, and some small rooms off to the side.
I’ll admit that it was slightly disappointing that it wasn’t more of a complete castle, BUT that’s the magic of Hollywood, guys. Being able to see how it all comes together really gave me a new appreciation for it!
Our first activity of the day was the archery experience. This was what I was most excited for, because archery is something neither my dad nor I had ever done!
We were first brought to the wardrobe area, where we were given the many layers of traditional Winterfell wear (which obviously keeps you warm because WINTER IS COMING) to throw on over our clothes. These pieces were used by HBO in the filming of the show, so we felt pretty legit.
Once we were suited up in proper GOT attire, we made our way to the archery area, which is in the exact same location you see in season 1, where archery’s being practiced!
Our instructor (who acted as an extra in several episodes of the show – exciting!) taught us the 3 basic moves of archery (stance, nock, draw), let us shoot a few practice arrows, and then the competition began! I’m proud to say I was the winner (even if it was just by a few points)! Archery is SO not as easy as it looks, but is super fun!
You might notice that there aren’t other people around in the background. We actually booked a private lesson to maximize our time at the range, and it was well worth it!
Westeros Cycle Trail
After we changed out of our GOT attire, we geared up for our next activity, the Westeros Cycle Trail. This one was pretty interesting because neither of us had ridden a bicycle in probably 20 years, so we had sea legs for the first few minutes getting used to it all over again (#embarrassing).
This was a self-guided activity, so they gave us a backpack filled with GOT props (in case we wanted to stop for a photoshoot along the way) and an iPad with the map of each filming location and a short clip to watch the scene and/or see how it was pulled together.
Some of the filming locations we saw along the way?
- Castle Window that Bran Stark falls from
- Tree that Robb Stark & Talissa get secretly married under
- Forest path where Tyrion whistles and walks
- Castle from Walder Freys ‘The Twins’ & Red Wedding
- Cottage of Winterfell brothel
- Field of Baelor Battle
I was pleasantly surprised to see that so many episodes (both old and newer) were filmed here, considering in the show the characters are traveling all over the place. In reality, there might’ve been a few steps between a scene shot in season 1 and one in 6!
We found the iPad incredibly helpful in visualizing the scenes since obviously there was no setup as we cycled through the area. Nonetheless, it was still beautiful scenery to take in. I can totally see why they chose this location to film!
Overall Thoughts on Winterfell Tours
While we only had a few short hours at Winterfell, I can’t recommend it enough! It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip and something we’ll always remember – especially our fancy GOT costumes and shooting arrows!
I do wish we had a little more time to explore and try out some of the other activities, like meeting the direwolf dogs, glaming GOT-style, or embarking on one of their extensive private tours… but that’s just an excuse to plan another trip back one day!
Are you a GOT fan? Which activities would you be most interested in doing at Winterfell?