Winter is coming.
Today was our Game of Thrones tour to various locations in Northern Ireland. It started with a hot chocolate before joining the rest of the group at the meeting point. We had a small group which was nice – under twenty people.
We all got on the bus and were introduced to our tour guide for the day, Eric Nolan, who works as an extra for GoT (and Vikings). He was super nice, fun to be around, and full of great stories and information about the show and his time on set. He was also involved in the Battle of the Bastards (Season 6 Episode 9) and told us about the super long days of grueling fighting which lasted a month. He said there were about 150 extras, shot and enhanced to look like thousands, and that Season 8 was going to have a scene with 1000 extras… so… that’ll be huge.
There wasn’t much info he could give about seasons 7 and 8, but he did say Miguel Sapochnik would return to direct some episodes for Season 8, which would premiere in 2019. And once GoT ended, the spin-off show/s would start airing very soon after (apparently there could be five spin-offs?!).
Anyway, our tour began by leaving Dublin, headed for the first location, Tollymore Forest. This was the forest where the opening scene of Season 1, Episode 1 was shot, as well as the scenes where the Starks find the direwolf pups. It was a typical Ireland day, wet and cold, but it was a pleasant trek nonetheless. The weather only made the experience more immersive and realistic.
It was cool to see the locations used in the show, but everywhere else was equally scenic, if not more interesting to see.
After the forest, we headed to a small town for lunch and a bit of a break. After our lunch, we got a nice surprise and were able to meet Summer and Grey Wind, the dogs used as direwolves in the series. The family who owns the dogs were also there and told us the story of how their dogs were chosen and some of the extra work they’ve all done. Fun fact: each dog is insured for one million pounds.
Next we headed on to Old Castle Ward, which was used as Winterfell in the first episode, when Robert and the Lannisters visit Winterfell.
There was also a tower which was used for The Twins. There were a few other locations along the way as we trekked up the coast. It was even colder, wetter and windier here, but still an enjoyable hike.
Our final location on the tour, was Inch Abbey, where Robb Stark is crowned King in the North. It was here we were given cloaks and replica steel swords to use and take photos with. They had Needle, Longclaw and a couple others, including Ice.
After photos were done, we headed back to the bus and began the trip back to Dublin. It was a two hour drive, so they played the two best episodes of GoT for us. Oh and as we drove to each location they also played some behind-the-scenes videos and other GoT-related stuff.
Once back in Dublin, we said goodbye and began the walk back to our hotel, eager to warm ourselves and dry off. I did remember there was a highly recommended Vietnamese restaurant close to our hotel (Pho Viet), and suggested we eat there first, as it’d help us warm up.
We each ordered Pho, and it was the perfect meal to fight off the cold. So tasty, and such a huge portion. None of us could finish it, which is rare for me.
And that was it! Overall, a wonderful experience, with some really cool locations. Special thanks to Eric for making the tour memorable and engaging. Next time, you’re singing a song though.