There are many kingdoms in the fantasy landscape of ‘Game of Thrones’, but which real-life locations were used to film them?
With Game of Thrones, it’s a well-worn truth that no cast member is indispensable, and the same has also been true for locations. Few have lasted the course from first shoot in 2010 and most of them are in Northern Ireland. All interiors for Season 8 were shot at the usual HQ, Paint Hall Studios in Titanic Quarter in the city’s dockyards. This includes an exterior of the Red Keep of King’s Landing, which Thrones-watchers have seen variously ablaze and covered in snow (that’s the Ice and Fire covered, then).
Over the years Northern Ireland has also hosted location shoots varying from the dusty heat of Dothrak to the dank forests of Godswood, but this time it’s stuck to its main role as the grim North. Magheramorne Quarry, on the shores of Larne Lough to the north, pictured above, has long been home to Castle Black and The Wall, final defence against the invading White Walkers. It’s seen plenty of action for Season 8 but there’s some suggestion this time it’s as Winterfell, the home of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and the Starks.
Winterfell’s usual site, since it moved from shooting at Castle Ward, overlooking Strangford Lough to the south, was on a purpose-built site at Moneyglass, north-west of Belfast, and that too has been busy for Season 8. Both sites were employed in creating what will be the biggest battle scene yet seen in the show, shot over 55 consecutive nights and also encompassing Saintfield, the area south of Belfast that hosted the spectacular Battle of the Bastards in Season 6.
With winter here, the other location that has seen most action is Iceland, until now home to scenes set north of the Wall. In the past, locations all over the island have been used, most memorably the cave in Grjótagjá in the north-east, pictured above, where Jon Snow and wildling Ygritte (Harington’s real-life wife Rose Leslie) enjoyed their tryst.
In Season 7, the epic battle with the White Walkers was filmed by Kirkjufell (known in the show as “the mountain like an arrow head”) on the north coast, on the southern Svínafellsjökull glacier and the otherworldly black sand beach at Reynisfjara, near Vík on the south coast.
Spain will also make a brief reappearance. Previously it’s played the highly Hispanic land of Dorne (filmed chiefly in Seville) and last season Dragonstone, home to Daenerys, was shot in the dramatic peninsula of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, north-east of Bilbao, pictured above. This time round the only return has been to the Anfiteatro de Itálica at Santiponce, close to Seville, a ruined Roman amphitheatre which appeared in Season 7 as King’s Landing’s Dragonpit, where the many pretenders to the throne came together.
Finally, Game of Thrones’ best-known real-life location, Dubrovnik, pictured above, will return as the capital King’s Landing. The sea walls and stone palaces of the absurdly pretty Croatian city made perfect ready made sets, so it’s no surprise several of the series’ key actors were spotted shooting there last year. Additionally, a facsimile of one of the city’s landmarks, Blaise Cathedral, has been built in the Belfast studio lot. This being Game of Thrones, only a fool would bet on it surviving to the final episode.