A good night’s rest helped us recover from our Slieve League adventure. Jeff and I are big GoT fans, and we figured we were so close to Northern Ireland and several filming locations that we’d make a day trip out of it.
Mussenden Temple/Downhill Strand
The first stop on our list was Mussenden Temple in Co. Londonderry, which is apparently one of the most photographed buildings in Northern Ireland and was about 2 hours away from our hotel in Donegal. Mussenden Temple overlooks Downhill Strand, a seven mile-long stretch of beach. Downhill Strand was the filming location for Dragonstone in Season 2 when Stannis Baratheon rejected the Seven Gods of Westeros and let Melisandre burn their effigies.
We weren’t able to go into Mussenden Temple, but we were able to walk through the ruins of the castle that once stood near it, and we traipsed around the surrounding estate.
Just 15 minutes down the road from Mussenden Temple was Portstewart Strand, also in Co. Londonderry. This acted as the coast of Dorne in Season 5 when Jaime Lannister and Bronn go to bring Myrcella back to King’s Landing. There wasn’t much to the beach, so we basically snapped a picture and left. The town of Portstewart was pretty cute, though.
The Giant’s Causeway
About 30 minutes from Portstewart is the Giant’s Causeway (not a GoT filming location.) On the way we stopped at Dunluce Castle. We didn’t feel like paying admission to see some ruins, and we were eager to get to our next destination, so we didn’t stay.
The Giant’s Causeway is in Co. Antrim, and is a beautiful stretch of coast that features some really interesting basalt rock formations.
Travel Tip: Unless you really love those audio tours or you’re super curious to go inside the visitor center, don’t bother paying admission. You can do a self-guided tour of all the trails for free; you just can’t go inside the visitor center (don’t worry, the restrooms are located outside of the entrance.)
We spent about 2 hours walking various trails and taking in the surrounding beauty. The folklore surrounding the area is an interesting read. The weather was overcast, but it managed not to rain at all until we were almost back in the car.
About 15 minutes from the Giant’s Causeway is Ballintoy Harbour, which was used as Pyke in Seasons 2 and 6 . The nearby beach was used for the scene where Theon was baptized into the religion of the Drowned God in Season 2. It also doubled as Dragonstone in Season 4 when Melisandre burned Stannis’ bannermen that wouldn’t stop worshipping The Seven. Talk about multi-purpose!
The Dark Hedges
We tried to visit the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which is only 5 minutes from Ballintoy, but they had just closed for the day. That will have to be for next time, too. The sun was starting to set, so we made our way to the Dark Hedges before it got too dark.
PSA: the road says no vehicles, and there’s a parking lot right across the street. For the love of all that is good in the world, “no parking” applies to you, too.
We parked across the street and took the short walk over. (Supposedly that parking lot is just for the hotel, but it was practically empty and no one gave us any grief over it.) The Dark Hedges at dusk were absolutely beautiful. The rude, entitled, and inconsiderate tourists spoiled it a bit, but we got some nice photos. The Dark Hedges were used as the King’s Road in Season 2 when Arya Stark was disguised as a boy on her way to join the Night’s Watch.
It was time to start making our way back to Donegal. We stopped at the Bushmill’s distillery, but they were already closed. As strange as this is going to sound, alcohol may have just saved our lives that evening. After stopping at Bushmill’s, we walked across the street to see if the convenience store had any hard cider. They didn’t have any, so we hit the road. Not far from there we came upon a bad car accident that had just happened minutes before. If we hadn’t made that extra stop, we might have been right in the middle of it.
After making it back to Donegal Town, we picked up dinner at the kebab place again and started packing up to leave the next morning. The end of our trip was looming closer and closer, and I wished we could hit the pause button.
Up Next: The final post–the journey home.
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