Game of Thrones Experience – Northern Ireland
Friday, 4 February sees the opening of the first in the world, Game of Thrones Studio Tour in Banbridge, Northern Ireland. Game of Thrones is the reason one in six visitors come to Northern Ireland with over 25 of the filming locations here. Now, there is another way to experience this epic series providing 70 hours of drama for people across the globe.
The studio tour has original sets and the actual costumes, props and weapons from the series allowing visitors to see the minute attention to detail and exquisite craftsmanship that helped create the phenomenal eight seasons. There are interactive experiences enabling visitors to relive the iconic show, look behind the scenes and discover how these real-life sets and visual effects came together to shape Game of Thrones.
This is not just for Game of Thrones superfans though they will love it. This is for movie-lovers (yes, I’m aware it’s technically a TV series), for anyone who can appreciate craftsmanship, the art of film-making or want a fascinating day out.
Give yourself at least two hours to enjoy the studio tour. There are two cafes and, as you would expect, you will exit via a sizable gift shop. It’s only half an hour from the centre of Belfast though make sure you leave enough time to park at the car park (The Boulevard in Banbridge) and get the 15 minute shuttle bus to the entrance. There are coach tours from Dublin and Belfast, see here.
At time of print, entrance tickets must be pre-booked and cost £39.50 (Adult), £27.50 (Child aged 5-15) with family and coach packages available (see website here). This includes the shuttle bus to the entrance.
Where to Eat – The Hillside, Hillsborough
The Hillside in the village of Hillsborough in Co. Down is a rustic pub with roaring wood fire welcoming diners and drinkers. The aroma of the burning wood wafts through the air. This is a charming gastro pub catering for all, including families. I ate tender pork belly bites with fresh salad to start and a tasty chicken burger with crispy chips. Tasty, filling and without fuss. Perfect.
It is just 15 minutes outside Belfast and just off the A1 (main route from Newry to Belfast) and also just 15 minutes from Linen Mill Studios, home of the Game of Thrones Studio Tour. For flights heading from Belfast, this could be a nice overnight add-on before or after a holiday or even a weekend away.
Given the pub has been around for an impressive 270 years, it clearly knows what it’s doing.
Where to Stay – Haslem Hotel, Lisburn Square
I stayed overnight at the newly opened Haslem Hotel, located 20 minutes by car from the Game of Thrones experience. Located in the heart of Lisburn Square, the boutique hotel benefits from a prime location next to shops, eateries, a wellness centre next door and an artisan market on the weekends.
It ticks all the boxes including welcoming, informative staff, a trendy bar with a great cocktail menu and a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Breakfast of poached eggs with avocado & sourdough bread was freshly made to order. Fresh orange juice was served & coffee was a proper barista cappuccino.
Many thanks to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board for hosting the trip. Stay tuned to Travel Times for interviews with cast and crew members!