Grace Dent plays the Game of Thrones - superfan goes on location

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Ahead of the season finale of everyone’s favourite TV epic, our writer dons her cape and tunic to take a real-life tour of where the magic happens

After the penultimate episode of Sky Atlantic’s Game of Thrones last Monday –featuring a grim plot twist and cast member culling I seriously was not expecting – I was left in dark and sombre mood.

My first thought was to fly to Los Angeles, track down the Game of Thrones creators  DB Weiss and David Benioff, and throw a number of shoes and items of putrid veg at their houses. 

Then I wondered about just boycotting the show, thus missing this Monday’s season finale. But this was never going to happen. At the moment, I love Cersei Lannister and Olenna Tyrell more than several members of my own disappointing non-dragon-owning family.  So I took the third – and most exciting – option: I could fly directly to Belfast, where much of Game of Thrones is filmed, and seek out people who understand my Westeros-related pain by joining a location coach-trip.

So, there we were, just myself – Grace of the House Dent – and 30 or so other totally sane superfans from Italy, Spain, Denmark and the USA, trundling along the byroads and dirt tracks of Ballymena, Larrybane and Murlough Bay in a coach for 10 hours, perusing hills and hedges while cooing: ‘This is the Kingsroad! These are the actual hedges Gendry and Arya went past on the cart!’

We are the sort of superfans who will jump out of a coach on the B15 coast road beside Ballintoy Harbour, County Antrim, and become wholly giddy that this location was used in season two when Theon Greyjoy sailed in on his return to the Iron Islands.

Obviously, the harbour will quickly be Instagrammed, Vined and tweeted about so that all our friends back home can share our joy. And we have got friends, seriously. Tons of them. They just haven’t been returning our emails since last Monday, when the goings-on of the Red Wedding sent us into a spiralling, snotty-nosed depression. 

The trip was organised by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Northern Ireland Screen – the people who, in 2008,  schmoozed HBO into using their castles and coastal splendour for the show’s pilot. But they’re not the only ones aware of the business potential Thrones geeks offer, with San Francisco travel company Viator offering tours in Dubrovnik – another location – and Northern Ireland.

The Dubrovnik tour lasts around three hours. But that’s for lightweights really. The Belfast tour – very much like the one I am on – lasts approximately nine hours. I pity the fool who has caught a few episodes and decides to tag along with a Thrones-obsessive partner.

That, for clarity’s sake, is not me. My commitment is so great that I have decided to overlook my general rule about never setting foot on coaches. I like to uphold some standards, and it’s impossible to channel Daenerys  Targaryen, queen of several thousand Unsullied warriors, on a 50-seater coach with a cupboard for a toilet and no loo paper. I have watched Daenerys grow from demur Dany to bold Khaleesi, and not on ONE occasion has she been asked to urinate in a cupboard.

Still, I am chipper. We leave Belfast and head towards the caves at Cushendun, where – as you may know – Davos Seaworth and Melisandre landed at night and Melisandre gave birth to the shadow baby. By this point on the trip I have realised that speaking to anyone is perilous: we’ve all read or watched George RR Martin’s epic tale to varying extents and we are all petulant about spoilers. Yes, Lotte from Sweden, you are very pleasant, but if you accidentally tell me one more thing about Brienne of Tarth I may accidentally cause you to be left on the road-side as we wend our way onwards to the Shillanavogy Valley.

We pass fields where the Dothraki made camp, and the tree where the Catelyn and Bran dream sequence was filmed. We stand on the very bridge where Brienne and Jaime had their swordfight; I Instagram the bridge and receive churlish comments from friends calling me ruder variations of the word nerd. I make mental notes to cut all of these people from my social group and only associate with Thrones convention people from now on.

Then it’s Tollymore Forest Park, where the opening scenes of season one were filmed, and then later at Pollnagollum Cave we get to see the outlaw hideouts of the Brotherhood Without Banners. It’s all great fun, although even I stood a few times squinting at an unremarkable patch of grass thinking: “What on earth am I doing?”

The nice thing is that the tour is wholly untouched by sales or merchandising. The locals treat us like harmless idiots, doing their best not to squash us with tractors as we stand in the middle of country roads pulling noble Stannis Baratheon poses.

I left Dublin at 9.30am and was delivered back – resembling Khaleesi at the gates of Qarth after her time in the wilderness – at 8.30pm. I was tired, hungry and had a flat iPhone battery, but I was a survivor, and that means something. When you play Game of Thrones, you win or you die.

The season three finale of ‘Game  of Thrones’ airs at 9pm on Monday  on Sky Atlantic HD

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable