The TV series Based on the bestselling Song of Ice and Fire novels by George RR Martin, Game of Thrones is set in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, where rival clans fight for supremacy. Jokingly described as “The Sopranos in Middle Earth”, HBO’s cult hit is now entering its third season, and fans are preparing themselves for more tales of dark intrigue.
The locations Over the past two series, destinations as diverse as Malta, Croatia, Morocco and Iceland have stood in for Westeros and Essos, but the production is firmly anchored in Belfast, where most of the filming takes place. The show has been something of a bonanza for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, acting as an international showcase for local attractions such as the Mourne Mountains, where scenes in the city of Vaes Dothrak are shot; the 18th-century Gothic mansion Castle Ward (www.nationaltrust.org.uk), which doubles as the ancestral seat of power Winterfell; and Tollymore Forest (www.discovernorthernireland.com), a wooded parkland in County Down that makes a perfect backdrop for outdoor action scenes. Such has been the level of interest from fans of the show that a three-day Game of Thrones self-drive itinerary has been developed which takes in major filming locations
(www.causewaycoastandglens.com). The new series will see more action beyond “The Wall” that protects the people of the Seven Kingdoms from the wild tribes of the northern wastelands. Cast and crew decamped to the lavafields around Lake Myvatn and the Krafla volcano in the north of Iceland to shoot these scenes. More fortunate colleagues were sent to the balmier climes of Morocco, where the fortifications of the seaside city of Essaouira stand in for Slaver’s Bay in Essos.
Where to stay The Europa Hotel (www.hastingshotels.com) is one of the smartest addresses in Belfast, hosting heads of state, VIPs and, more pertinently, last year’s Game of Thrones fan convention. Most of the show’s main locations in Northern Ireland are within a two-hour drive.
In Iceland the crew were based at the Hotel Sel (www.myvatn.is) near Lake Myvatn. What it lacks in luxury, it makes up for with its location close to some of Iceland’s most stunning volcanic landscapes.
Essaouira has no shortage of stylish riad hotels and guest houses, many of which have charming roof terraces overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Dar Beida (www.i-escape.com), a retro-styled house in the medina, is a popular base for visiting film crews.
Tara Fitzgerald, who has joined the cast of ‘Game of Thrones’, goes walking with the FT