While I know now what my topic will be for my research paper throughout most of my trip I was in search of a topic. Something that would keep me interested and something that I would want to research. The Game of Thrones tour we did in Belfast, Northern Ireland held potential for that. Assessing the sites, the way the tour worked, and the publicity for it could provide an interesting research paper. I think because I took this tour I can compare Game of Thrones and Harry Potter with the way their sites are accepted or shown in the area. For example as we saw when a site had something to do with Harry Potter, you almost always knew. But with Game of Thrones it was different, yes there are tours and the tour guides can point them out but only one filming location actually “sold out” and had a sign about it. As the tour begins we get on a minibus for our Stones and Thrones tour and leave Belfast behind, our destinations are all along the coast. Our tour guide Shavon is awesome; it’s clear from the beginning. The very first place she takes us is The Wall. She’s constantly explaining how the guards and people who work on set and on the show won’t answer her calls anymore because they know she wants to get a tour in to actually see these places up close. And The Wall has been blocked from view of the main road. It’s about to be a big season for Castle Black and The Wall so they don’t want to give anything away. But if you go around the corner there is a section that can’t quite cover it… and there you are a glimpse at the immense structure from the show. Except it’s not. It’s a big stone wall of course, it’s in a quarry, but it’s not white. Only part of it is, they digitally copy and paste that bit over and over to make the whole wall look white. The location also has Castle Black, the Pit where Brienne fought the bear, and the Lift. The Lift was a particularly exciting find for the set people because it meant they didn’t have to build one, and this one already worked. Alas, filming hasn’t started so no sightings of Jon Snow.
After that we make our way along the coast we go into the hills a bit to see the plateau where Ned Stark beheads the kid from the Night’s Watch in the first episode, and then we see the big valley/field where the scenes of the Dothraki hordes were filmed. Fun fact, if any of the Dothraki’s look unnaturally tan it’s because they are. They’re Irish; our tan is still pale to normal people. So they might look a little funny. Our next stop for the show is the cave where Melisandre gives birth to the shadow baby. It’s a cave that has bumpy textured walls that almost resemble dragons eggs, and a green hue from the ocean air and spray. It was chosen because the set designers didn’t have to do anything to the walls, they were perfect as they were.
As we travel Shavon tells us other stories and interesting things about some of the castles we see and local legends, such as one about a vanishing lake. And when we go through Ballycastle she tells us Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) and Conleth Hill (Lord Varys) are from that area. Out off the coast you can see islands, the Aryn islands. Coincidence? I think not, well actually I have no idea, but it is funny.
Our last two stops for the show are the Iron Islands and the King’s Road. The Iron Islands comes after we’ve stopped at Carrick-a-Rede and before we go on to Giant’s Causeway. It is also the only location that has a board out noting that it was used for Game of Thrones. In fact it has Theon Greyjoy on it showing him standing exactly where you’re standing, as if he were right in front of you. You can see the steps he climbed to get out of his boat, it’s just movie magic is gone and everything is in Technicolor instead of grey and dreary. The King’s Road is Shadow Hedge, a road that is lined on each side with curvy trees that almost connect above your head. Shavon pointed out to us that when we entered the road if we were to keep going that way on the show we would eventually reach King’s Landing. And that was that. The end of the tour, but it took us all day all along the gorgeous coastline of Northern Ireland and we still didn’t see all of the sites possible. My favorite is still The Wall and the King’s Road. They’re iconic and even if the pictures of the wall aren’t that great I still was there. And for readers and viewers, that’s the thing, you were there. You got to be where things happen.
Two of my favorite stops that had nothing to do with Game of Thrones were the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede and Giant’s Causeway. I’d been dying to cross the rope bridge since before I even knew it was in Ireland, I saw the picture online one day and that was it. I had to cross it; it was a major bucket list item. And it did not disappoint. The water was beautiful, all greens and blues in hues that looked like they belonged in the Mediterranean or Caribbean not Northern Ireland. The bridge bounced. It was awesome. As you walked across you could look down and see crevice between the stone island you were going to and the mainland behind you, it dropped down into almost clear water. The worst part was the line; waiting and waiting to not only cross the bridge to the island but back again. And we were on a schedule we still had to get to the Iron Islands and Giant’s Causeway. But we made it and I took a ton of pictures. Everyone else seemed to think Giant’s Causeway was a let down. But I wish we could have spent more time exploring the rocks. They’re shaped so weird, and they make great steps and seats. It really is a wonder, I enjoyed it. To them it was just a pile of weird rocks. Oh well, can’t impress everyone. Carrick-a-Rede just you wait, I’ll be back again.