An earlyish start lead us out into a completely deserted Belfast, the religious roots still mean that the city centre is shut up until 1pm on a Sunday.
Moving on to our first stop, Shanes Castle, just half hour away to check out some more Game of Thrones filming locations. When we arrived we were greeted by a friendly security guard who told us that the site was closed to visitors, although he did let us have a little walk down to the lough. He explained that the site was currently in use, and that filming had and would be occurring that month. So we got to see a real set, scaffolding, fences and everything.
The next stop was Giant’s Causeway, via the coastal road from Port Stewart. The National Trust really want you to pay for your ticket, which includes entry into the appartently excellent visitor centre, and parking. But at £8.50 per person, we decided to park a little down the road at the Heritage Railway and walk, it’s still free access if you don’t use any of the NT facilities. The causeway is covered in tourists but covers a reasonable area, so you do get moments of peace. A lot of time is spent waiting for people to get out of your photos, or dodging out of their though. At £6 for the parking (split between 3) we felt that was a good amount to have paid, but that £8.50 was rather too much, unless the visitor centre was really spectacular.
Next was a quick stop off at Dunluce castle, a great location featuring a castle perched on a cliff stack, linked by bridge to the cliff top. It’s possible to walk around the paid site and check out the castle from below, along with the ‘mermaid cave’ underneath the castle. The way it is makes it feel like I could be in Game of Thrones, an impressive castle in an impressive location.
Balintoy Harbour is a very picturesque little port, nestled in the natural alcove created in the rocks the harbour is built in and on this existing safe zone. Again it’s popularity somewhat mars the experience, but it’s still wonderfully pretty, and is another Game of Thrones filming location. We were hoping to try the cafe, but it had just started to rain, and there simply wasn’t space for all the tourists to cram in there together.
We drove on to the Carrick-A-Rede bridge but the weather and price put us off somewhat. The NT seems to really embracing the popularity of these sites and maximising their profits as well. It would be nice to see them charging a more reasonable amount.
The final stop on our tour were the Dark Hedges, a popular stop before GoT featured them, and an even more popular stop now. However, it was surprisingly quiet. It only takes a minute or two to get a decent pic, and there’s not much more to it than that. It’s far from the coast though, and it looks really cool, so check it out.
From there it was the long haul back through the suburbs of Belfast and down to Dublin. Overall a very good trip, and very good value for money, certainly better value for money than a day tour, although that is booking in advance and splitting costs 3 ways.