For any avid Game Of Thrones watcher/reader, Winterfell is kind of a big deal. It’s where the series (and the Starks) start, and it looks pretty freaking epic.
So, as a huge supporter of Team Stark, I was chuffed to find out that I could actually go stand there. In Winterfell. Wearing furs and cradling my direwolf.
Castle Ward, in Strangford (near Portaferry, famed for it’s aquarium), is the locale being used as the Stark Stronghold, and if you haven’t been there before – you need to go, soon. Love of GoT aside, the place is lovely, and there are parks and a cafe and a gift shop (everyone loves a gift shop) and outdoorsy activities to do. Like canoeing and archery. Fun.
On the downside, you wouldn’t immediately walk in and go ‘OMFG itz Winterfell, liek’, because, well, it only sort of vaguely looks like it if you tilt your head and squint your eyes. I’ve mentioned before that there are a lot of green screens used in filming, and in this case, they build a whole shanty town out of wood while they’re at it.
It is still definitely worth the visit though, even if only so you can go with a friend and take turns shouting ‘THE THINGS I DO FOR LOVE’ while you pretend to shove each other off the tower.
The majority of the filming took place in and around The Barn area, although there are other places used for scenes outside of Winterfell (such as the camp on the King’s Road when Joffery gets Lady killed in season one. Wee git).
On the downside (and there is always a downside), if you do journey all the way there in search of recognizable sets, you will be pretty much on your own hunting them down. I went during the summer, and when I asked a staff member where the best places to go to see the Game Of Thrones sets were, she had to go ask someone else. Who had to ask someone else. Who had to ask someone else, who guessed, and looked grumpy that his precious tourist attraction was being invaded by, well, tourists.
Worth a go, though. Spend the day there. Wear comfy shoes, because it’s a lonnnngggggg walk to see everywhere.
p.s. Useful website, for planning the trip that I have demanded that you take – http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-ward/