We’re legit counting down the days until the seventh series of Game of Thrones comes out and our lives are filled with dragons and White Walkers yet again.
There’s still two weeks to go (*cries*) so in the meantime, we indulged our GOT obsession with an incredible tour in the North that brought us right back to where the show first began.
The forests, mountains and moorlands around Northern Ireland were actually transformed into the scenic backdrops for some of Game of Thrones’ most memorable moments. It was here that Sansa and Littlefinger journeyed to the Eyrie, the Starks discovered their Direwolves, and the infamous Red Wedding changed everything.
And now you can do a full-on experience of all the best behind the scenes filming locations, challenge your mates to an archery battle, and pet two of the Direwolves from the show ‘til your hands are covered in fluffy white fur.
There’s a few different options in the area for tours, but I recently channelled my inner GOT nerd with Winterfell Tours, and I have to say it was one of the best days out I’ve had in aaages.
Just two hours from Dublin, the 820-acre walled demesne of Castle Ward, County Down, is one of the most iconic locations in the Seven Kingdoms.
You have the option of several different tours around the estate, including a self-guided cycle tour where you can roam around in your Stark cloaks, or you can opt for a private tour led by an expert guide who reveals on set secrets.
As soon as you arrive at the estate you’re given a choice of either a fetching grey Northern cloak or a member of the Night’s Watch, both with faux fur for the real medieval experience. I went with the grey and felt like Sansa’s stylish lil sis.
Experience the House of Stark at Winterfell Castle
This pretty-as-a-picture site is where you can see first hand the tower where poor Bran fell from, the campsite where Jamie Lannister set up, and of course the home of the Starks – Winterfell Castle.
Even though a lot of CGI was used by the producers to further transform the film sets, once you enter the archway to the main castle courtyard you’ll recognise it as Winterfell.
All the original stone buildings were used in the shots, and eagle-eyed viewers might notice the brothel where Tyrion falls out of in the very first episode.
After popping on our new robes, we then met the real-life Direwolves from the show, Odin and Thor who played Summer and Grey Wind in the show.
They’re Northern Inuit dogs, the closest domestic breed to a wolf, and O. M. G.
Could they be the most beautiful pups you’ll ever see? Eh, yes, 100%. They’re friendly and not at all camera shy, and were involved in the show ever since the scene where Jon Snow finds the direwolf pups in the nearby filming location of Tullymore Forest.
There’s a total of 20 key film locations onsite, and scenes from the movie can be re-enacted if you’re up for a bit of a laugh – they even give you fake swords to make you fully feel like a member of the Stark family.
“Any last words?”, you can say to your mate before plunging a rubber blade into their neck. Or y’know, just wander around and take a load of pics.
A full banquet awaits after the location tour, with a hearty feast of fruit, meats, bread and veggie soup (and red and white wine!) at long wooden tables surrounding an open wood fire in a teepee tent.
We were told that parties of over 150 can be held here, with five tents all joined together for a proper sesh complete with a hog on a spit.
Sounds like unreal craic.
After gorging on all the treats, and chugging down some goblets of wine, we went on to the outdoor archery range, changing into leather costumes underneath our cloaks.
It was lashing rain the day that I was armed with bow and arrow, so I’m blaming that for the lack of bulleyes – defo not on the jugs of vino at the meal beforehand.
Archery is actually MUCH harder than it looks…
And of course: the Iron Throne
Practise your very best power move and strike an Insta-worthy pose as you pretend you’re the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.
If you’re a real Game of Thrones nut you can also go all out and stay overnight in a wooden glamping pod located deep in the forest. I glammed it up instead and had a luxe overnight stay in nearby Slieve Donard hotel; with views of the Mourne Mountains this is the ideal spot to head if you fancy making a weekend out of it.
Whether you’re the show’s biggest fan or just a casual dip in and outer, the scenery in this gloriously green part of our island is worth the trip alone.
I’d recommend heading up while the weather is still reasonably nice, after all – ‘Winter is coming.’ (#sorrynotsorry)