The North Remembers (April 2019)
I'm a frequent visitor to the little Northern Irish village of Strangford, Co. Down (my aunt lives there) and one of the joys of visiting is the fact it's become a bustling centre of tourism for Game of Thrones fans - nearby Castle Ward is a filming location for Winterfell, home of the Starks. I actually only started watching the show a couple of months ago but now I'm totally into it (currently watching Season 7) so I get a great buzz from seeing all the locations practically on my doorstep.
Usually when I visit Castle Ward there'll be at least one bus load of fans, all dressed up in costume, and learning the finer points of archery in the courtyard that features in several episodes of the series.
This weekend when I was down there was a particularly large group of fans there. They all looked quite sinister, standing with their backs towards me, like they were involved in some kind of secret ceremony.
Castle Ward aka Winterfell. It really doesn't look much like this in the show, as the long-distance shots are CGI, but several close-up scenes were shot using the buildings you see here.
Even the tour buses are in on the act! That's a direwolf, for anyone not familiar with the show.
This mysterious wigwam in the grounds of Castle Ward is part of the tour. I'm guessing that it's supposed to be some kind of Dothraki (Nomadic horsemen in the show) tent.
Last time I saw it smoke was coming out of the top...who knows what weird rites go on inside..
The Iron Throne! Or a version of it, anyway - there seem to a few of them floating about. This was at Castle Ward a few years ago. When Jaime Lannister had floppy hair.
This is Audley's Castle, right beside Castle Ward. It's appeared quite a few times in Game of Thrones, especially in scenes featuring army encampments (I recognised it in one episode as the site of Rob Stark's army - there's a field right below it where all the tents were).
Apparently it's also the tower that Bran was climbing in the very first episode. And we know how that ends...sorry, no spoilers...
The direwolves that feature so prominently in Game of Thrones are actually huskies owned by a local family. They can often be seen in the centre of Strangford, patiently enduring the attention of another busload of tourists. And you can buy a cuddly toy version of them, if you so desire.
They seem to be quite docile, despite their fearsome reputation in GoT. CGI is used to make them look a lot bigger than they actually are.
This is inside the local shop in Strangford which, in addition to a fine array of birthday cards, now has a whole section devoted to Game of Thrones merchandise. It's an incredible phenomenon.
Hey, it's another Iron Throne! This one is in the little fishing village of Ardglass, who's connection with Game of Thrones seems to be extremely tenuous. I think maybe the owners of the direwolves come from here. Or something.
This was made of plastic (I had a sit in it, and it felt solid enough). Beside it was another one that was made of what felt like polystyrene. I didn't try sitting on that one.
This was in the same slightly ramshackle arts centre in Ardglass as the Plastic - sorry, Iron - Throne in the previous picture. To be honest, I don't know why that hideous sofa is sitting there, but the learing un-dead person hovering behind wouldn't entice me to see there for very long.
Anyway, I've now started into Season 7 of Game of Thrones and am frantically trying to avoid reading any spoilers before the final season comes out next week...