Whenever a new HBO show comes out, I give it a shot. When I saw the first trailer for Game of Thrones, I was intrigued. When I watched the first scene, I was hooked. To me, it felt like watching The Wire. (No, please don’t go, bear with me for a second.) The Wire, while a show that seemed initially about drug dealers and police, became so much more: A story about a city, how people are connected, how systems work together (or not), how even the small and overlooked can make a huge impact.
Game of Thrones seemed the same. A story about a country, how the houses are connected, how the families work together (or not), how even the small and overlooked (see: cripples, bastards and broken things) can make a huge impact. The action in the first moments of GoT certainly had me shook, but it was the characters and their personal stories that ultimately stole my heart. ? And sometimes tried to rip it right out. ? Thanks for that, GRRM.
So when I saw that Ireland had Game of Thrones Tours that whisked you around to different filming locations, I shipped it. I shipped it hard. And make no mistake, this is not your typical tour. The guides wear full medieval attire, carry iPads to show famous scenes, and everyone’s a huge fanboy or fangirl. Geektacular! On the bus, you watch episodes of the show and behind-the-scenes clips, and when arriving at destinations, you adorn fur-collared cloaks and select your weapon of choice. I didn’t wear my cloak for most of the day as it was 28 degrees and muggy. The day was more suited to breathable Dothraki cottons rather than cozy Stark knits. Here’s how our day in Westeros went down…
Tollymore is Winterfell. Winterfell is Tollymore. Just traipsing through this park reminds you of the northern lands of Stark in the first season. We saw three spots in the forest featured in the show. Oh, and all those people wearing cloaks…yeah, that didn’t last long. It got heated.
The green forest of the White Walkers
Oh, you know, just the exact spot where the first scene of Game of Thrones was filmed. NBD. It looks a lot different. Tollymore is lush and green. Beyond the Wall, not so much. Our lovely guide showed us all the spots, deconstructed that first scene for us and told us that production spent weeks turning this lush, green forest into a snowy, grey creepfest.
Jon Snow’s butt wuz here
And it’s a nice butt. And a popular one too!
The best spot to find direwolf pups
This is where Ned and Co. discovered the six direwolves and gave them forever homes. Some of those forever homes were too damn short IMHO.
Have you ever wondered which direwolf you are? Here’s a quiz! ??? I got Ghost: You may be the runt of the litter, but you grew up strong and fierce. You skulk in the shadows, silent as a ghost, ready to pounce on any deserving enemy. PROTECT GHOST!
Direwolves, crowns and ye olde drinking cups
For lunch, we found our way to the Inn at the Crossroads, which has, unfortunately, been re-branded to The Lobster Pot. While drinking from my horn-o’-plenty spirits and noshing on sheep’s pie, my eyes dart around the room hoping to see Hot Pie with a warm loaf of wolf bread. Didn’t happen. Probably because we were dining under Bolton banners. Blech.
Once our bellies were full, we left the Inn only to cross paths with the original Direwolf puppies, Summer and Grey Wind. They’re now seven, cutie-patooties and, most importantly, ALIVE.
After lunch, we journeyed further north to see Winterfell, aka Castle Ward, a 16th century castle and walk the wooded shores of the Riverlands, aka Strangford Lough.
Winter is coming, yo!
That clock tower there, yeah, that’s the entrance to Winterfell. Obviously A LOT of CGI went into creating House Stark. Also, no weirwood tree. ? Boo
Pretty horse break!
Nothing to do with GoT, but when you see a pretty horse you take a pretty horse break.
The Brienne and Jamie romance tree
Or death tree. Whatevs. This is one of my favourite moments of the series, when Jamie sees how bad-ass Brienne is and how she doesn’t condone bad manners whether you’re a Lannister OR a Stark. SHE ONLY SWORE LOYALTY TO LADY CATELYN, PEOPLE! Gawd, she’s a glorious character.
Who will ultimately win Brienne’s heart??? Clean cut Jamie who loves incest babies, OR wild(ling) and wooly Tormund who wants to make giant babies that will take over the world? I’m hoping Jamie, but Tormund needs some giant lady loving too.
Who knew Walder Frey and his many ugly daughters would be the beginning of one of the most tragic weddings. Doesn’t matter how much you called him Walder, all I saw was Filch. Both shits. One worse than the other. Frey was a gross, demented bugger. At least Filch had a cat.
This 15th century Tower House stood in as one of the towers of House Frey and the surrounding area served as Robb’s Camp in the Riverlands.
“The King in the North!” “Winter is coming!” Not sure which phrase has been uttered (shouted) more in the show. Those northerners, so dramatic and to the point(y-end).
The 12th century Inch Abbey is where Robb began his reign and where we ended ours. This location, close to Castle Ward, is where Robb and Catelyn find out about Ned Stark’s fate and where Robb’s bannermen pledge fealty to him as the “King in the North!” Good thing too, because, wait for it… Winter is coming. DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!!! (Not on this day though, it was a sauna wearing those furs and cloaks.)