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According to George RR Martin, the author behind the fantasy series, Hadrian’s eponymous construction was the inspiration for The Wall, which separates temperate Westeros from the frozen lands beyond (which presumably means Scots were the inspiration for the wildings and white walkers…). But HBO found its vision of northern Westeros across the Irish Sea, with the rolling hills and rugged coastlines of Northern Ireland.
Among the most notable filming locations are Downhill Strand, a seven-mile beach overlooked by Mussenden Temple, which is visited by Stannis Baratheon and his frequently disrobed companion Melisandre (“for the night is dark and full of terrors”), the oft-photographed Dark Hedges, a spectacular collection of beech trees that line a road near Stranocum, County Antrim, and the little seaside village of Ballintoy, which becomes Pyke, capital of The Iron Islands, in Game of Thrones.
Full-on tours of “Winterfell”, featuring 20 locations, start from Castle Ward, a National Trust property that filled in for the ancestral home of the Stark family in season one.
For Game of Thrones fans, Dubrovnik is King’s Landing, capital of Westeros, and its constant presence since series two has only heightened the appeal of a city that already creaks under the weight of tourist numbers. There are recognisable locations galore in the heart of the crowded Old City, including St Dominika Street, used for numerous market scenes, Stradun, along which Cersei Lannister takes her walk of penance, Minceta Tower, the highest point in Dubrovnik, and Fort St. Lawrence.
Gradac Park, on the outskirts of the historic centre, is the setting for the comically villainous Joffrey Baratheon’s wedding feast and subsequent comeuppance, while the atrium of the abandoned Hotel Belvedere is where Oberyn Martell suffers a grisly ending in season four. Farther afield is Trsteno Arboretum, which dates back to the 15th century – it stars as the bucolic Red Keep palace gardens.
Other key Croatian sites include Diocletian’s Palace in Split, which becomes the former slave city of Meereen, Trogir, which appears as Qarth, “greatest city that ever was or will be”, and Kastel Gomilica, otherwise known as Braavos.
Those otherworldly landscapes beyond The Wall are actually just a three-hour flight from London. Producers made do with artificial snow in season one, but have relied on the wilds of Iceland ever since. Lake Myvatn, near the town of Akureyri, is where Mance Rayder’s wildling army makes camp in season three, while the nearby cave of Grjotagja is where Jon Snow and Ygritte sleep together. Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier, also appears.
Series six has seen Spanish locations take a prominent role, with Bardenas Reales in Navarre, Castell de Santa Florentina in the town of Canet de Mar, Castle of Zafra, found on a sandstone outcrop in the Spanish province of Guadalajara, all making debut appearances.
However, Spain has already featured in previous seasons. It fills in for warmer climes of Dorne, the most southerly of the seven kingdoms of Westeros, and the lands of Essos, across the Narrow Sea. The bullring of the Andalusian town of Osuna becomes the fighting pits of Meereen, the Alcazar of Seville is the perfect substitute for Sunspear, the capital of Dorne, and its Water Gardens, while Cordoba’s Roman Bridge becomes the Long Bridge of Volantis.
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Before the producers found Dubrovnik, the fortress city of Mdina, in Malta, was King’s Landing.
The Azure Window, a rock arch off the coast of Gozo, is seen during the wedding feast of Daenerys and Drogo in season one.
Fans of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator will recognise both Ait Benhaddou and Ouarzazate.The neighbouring Moroccan towns appear in Game of Thrones too, as Astapor and Pentos, respectively.
Seaside Essaouira is where Daenerys meets her loyal army of Unsullied for the first time.
Serious fans might complete their odyssey with a trip to Doune Castle in Scotland. Previously seen in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it was used in the pilot episode (never actually screened to the public) for exterior shots of Winterfell.
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