game of thrones - dragonstone & the king's road
Dragonstone above Downhill Beach
We all remember the beautiful scenery, when Daenerys Targaryen married Khal Drogo in the first ever GoT episode. The bride and groom receive many gifts. One is a box containing three beautiful Dragon Eggs, from the shadow lands beyond Asshai. Latest here we suspect that soon something mythical will come up - Dragons.
Today we are going to visit the place these dragon eggs come from; the shadow lands beyond Asshai, "Dragonstone". We are heading west along the north Atlantic coast of county Coleraine in Northern Ireland. Our destination is a beautiful 11 km stretch of golden sand, known as Downhill Beach, near the coastal town of Castle Rock. On top of an impressive cliff stands the Mussenden Temple, the location the producers have chosen as "Dragonstone". We recognize the beach and the clifftops as the Dragonstone exterior. We remember scenes such as, the witch Melisandre burning the old gods by night or King Stannis Baratheon drawing a burning sword from the flames. These and many other scenes were shot here at Downhill Beach.
But the location has much more to offer than just the beach. The 18th century coastal estate "Downhill Demesne" on top of the cliff has many hidden gems, like untouched woods, secret gardens, stunning ruins and the iconic Mussenden Temple. This classical round temple was used as a summer library, while today it stands dramatically on top of an amazing cliff, gazing down the coast line. The location invites to wander along the cliff over endless green and through natural woods. It is a perfect place to charge our batteries before we say goodbye to the Atlantic coast of Northern Ireland.
King's Road and dark Hedges
But before we head back towards Belfast we have another famous GoT location on our agenda, the "King's Road". It was here that Arya Stark escapes from King's Landing in season 2, episode 1, disguised as a boy. She is traveling north on the King's Road in a cart together with Yoren, Gendry and Hot Pie who are to join the Night's Watch.
A location called "The Dark Hedges" has served as the set for the Road from King's Landing. This beautiful avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century. It was intended as a compelling landscape feature to impress visitors as they approached the entrance to their Georgian mansion, Gracehill House. As the trees grew large over time they began to bend over the road and their upper branches intermingled creating a shadowy tunnel with a supernatural aura. Up until twenty years ago, only local people knew about the Dark Hedges. In 1998, Northern Ireland’s national tourist board began to use the location to promote tourism.
Today these trees along the road remain as a magnificent sight and have become one of the most photographed tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.