I recently had the pleasure of immersing myself in the world of Game of Thrones.
After tirelessly searching for the perfect gift for a 21st birthday, I found The Harry Potter Studio Tour - a wildly raved-about day which grants Potter fans the opportunity to fulfil their wizarding fantasies for the day.
I am a Potter fan, but Game of Thrones is the best series I've watched (and continue to watch) so far.
Queue google search for, "Game of Thrones Tour, UK."
Turns out these tours really exist!
Unlike the Harry Potter Studio Tour which is limited to London - The Game of Thrones tour offers fans the chance to choose which fantasy continent they'd like to visit - Westeros, Essos, or Sothoryos - with real-life filming locations including Ireland, Iceland, Spain and Croatia.
The tour I came across was the Belfast location tour, which mainly consists of the locations of Winterfell - this is classified as Northern Westeros in the series.
Other tours include the location of King’s Landing which takes place in the Old Town of Dubrovnik in Croatia, Reykjavik in Iceland and Dublin which shows other locations of Winterfell that aren’t seen on the Belfast tour.
Not only do these tours offer the chance for fans to become fully immersed in their favourite fictional world, but the scenic beauty of these locations is enough for non-fans to enjoy too.
During the Belfast tour, we explored some real hidden gems of Northern Ireland that we probably never would have discovered ourselves.
We even had a stop-off at Giant’s Causeway, although this location isn’t in GOT, it is a must-see when visiting Northern Ireland, so our tour guide dropped us here where we also grabbed a bite to eat at The Nook - a quaint country pub.
On average, these tours take between 10-20 people on their 9-hour tours, however - as we visited in early December, the turnout was a lot smaller, with there being only 3 of us to enjoy this blistering cold Northern Ireland tour.
A perk? Yep.
This gave us more of a hands-on, intimate experience as we got more time to spend at the locations and even got an extra location to visit!
We had a quick stop off at the location of Castle Black, which isn’t a location named on the tour as you can’t go into it.
You can, however, view ‘The Wall’ which does have a considerable height to it, but of course, the real deal isn't a magnificent slab of ice that we see in the series.
Instead, the wall has a small patch of white paint on it where the post-production team add the snow and ice using CGI - giving the wall its grand height and stance to keep the enemies at bay.
To view the backdrop of Winterfell seen in Season One, Episode One, we travelled 700ft above sea level where the grass had been lightly sprinkled with snow.
The scene was set. After all, winter is coming.
In Season Two, Episode 4 - Melisandra, the Red Priestess, gave birth to the shadow assassin which kills Renly Baratheon. This location was interesting to visit as we were able to explore the actual caves where she gave birth as Ser Davos watched in horror.
The next location visited was featured in Season Two, Episode Three.
In this scene, Brienne of Tarth asks Renly Baratheon for a place in the Kingsguard at his tournament.
This large quarry contributed nicely to The Antrim Coast and Glens and provided a scenic viewing spot once we walked further up to view the beautiful landscape.
Our next tour location was at the harbour where Theon Greyjoy attempts to get a boat from the Iron Islands to return to his home of Pyke.
This location isn’t always available to view on the tour, especially in large groups as the coach cannot fit down the narrow one-way country road which lead us to this area.
Another advantage of a small and rather poor turnout for this December tour.
We headed to our final stop at The Dark Hedges, AKA, The Kings Road.
The eeriness of the intertwined trees was fascinating to see and definitely brought the tour to a worthwhile close.
This location was closed for a number of 8 weeks during the filming of Ayra Stark escaping Kings Landing through the Kings Road.
Only ten seconds of footage was aired from this tedious filming session - just a small example of the effort and timescale needed to produce such a jaw-dropping series.
As beautiful as the locations were, the experience was only completed by our knowledgeable tour guide.
The tour guides for these experience days are usually extras on the show and this was true for our guide, too.
HBO’s agreement for using these locations in Belfast is that any extras in their show must be local people from Northern Ireland.
Our tour guide was impressively knowledgeable about the show and the history of the locations visited along the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland.
If you’re a big GOT fan, I’d highly recommend this tour. It's a great day out, and a fantastic chance to experience the hidden beauties in Northern Ireland.
I recently visited Dubrovnik in Croatia and channelled my inner Cersei Lannister as I strutted along the Walls of Dubrovnik, AKA Kings Landing.
A truly beautiful town to explore and one of my new favourite places of all time.