On Location: Game of Thrones

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5-20-13 got darkhedges

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – or you don’t subscribe to HBO – then you will be well aware of the epic “Game of Thrones” TV drama series. The show is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin, and “Game of Thrones” is the first book in the fantasy series. Not for the faint of heart, the show combines the drama of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the debauchery of The Tudors, with blood and guts, sex and betrayal, crime and punishment all front and center. Anyhoo… the visually impressive series is filmed in all sorts of exotic locations including Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco, and… my home country of Northern Ireland.

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I believe it was at the end of the second series that the scene above was introduced as the “Road to Harrenhal”. Locals in Northern Ireland know this special place as “The Dark Hedges”, a unique stretch of the Bregagh Road near Armoy, County Antrim. I was fortunate to be able to photograph this intriguing place on a recent visit home, though I believe that a new shiny green fence has been installed along the roadside since I was last there, somewhat negatively impacting the aesthetics. It is a moody place nonetheless, one that is rumored to be haunted by the Grey Lady, a ghostly figure who walks the lane beneath the beech trees.

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Many other scenes from Game of Thrones have been filmed in my home country. The picturesque location above might be recognizable as part of the Iron Islands, but I know it better as the working harbor of Ballintoy. I’ve always known that Northern Ireland was filled with some of the most stunning landscapes imaginable, and it comes as no surprise that the visionaries who brought this series to life chose to film there. The Glens of Antrim, the Mourne Mountains, the Antrim Coast, and Ballintoy Harbor… these are just some of the locations that have been highlighted as the stunning backdrop to what is one of my all-time favorite shows.

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Going home…

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It’s official. The flights are booked. I’m going home đŸ™‚

I’ve been thinking about Ireland a lot lately, but to date I haven’t been able to come up with a workable plan to visit… until now. Combining a holiday present for Sam and a way to scratch the itch I had to return, we will both be flying across the Atlantic later in the spring.

Sam has always been fascinated by his heritage, and if ever asked where he would like to travel to, without hesitation he usually chooses the country I was born in. I think he has been to Ireland a total of three times now, though the first was when he had just turned one year old, so that hardly counts. I can still remember the two of us making that flight home, with him spending a considerable amount of time in the trusty backpack as we did the rounds. I had wanted to get him home so that my aging parents would have a chance to meet him, and although he doesn’t recall anything from that visit, I am certainly glad we made the trip. Lori came on the next trip home when Sam was about eight years old, and five years ago we had the pleasure of introducing the somewhat newly minted Jack (2) to all of his distant relatives.

The photograph above is of Kinbane Castle, built in 1547 and located along the Antrim coast somewhere between the Giant’s Causeway and Ballintoy Harbor. Last time we were home, Sam and I had ventured out on this particular evening in search of some nice light. We had a great time exploring the little cove that this castle ruin rests in, and as the summer sun sank below the horizon we both enjoyed a really peaceful sunset. I think this was the first and last time we saw the sun on that 10-day visit to Ireland, but here’s hoping we will be a little bit luckier with the weather this time around!