If you know have been a regular reader of our blog, then you know we love to do and see as much as possible when on a cruise. Our stop in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Celebrity Eclipse cruise was no different. As a huge fan of the Game of Thrones HBO series, I was voting for one of the tours that visits several of the filming locations. The Princess never watches the show, but after comparing all of the options, she was onboard for doing a Game of Thrones Tour in Belfast. After spending a full day with our tour guide, we can honestly say even if you have never watched one episode of the show you will have a great time on this tour.
Game of Thrones Tour in Belfast, Northern Ireland Review
Planning Our Trip
As overplanners, once we decided on doing a Game of Thrones in Belfast we began researching to find all of the sites that are featured in the show. Along with the featured locations, there were other notable sights that we wanted to visit as well.
After contacting a few different tour operators the team at Black Taxi Tours Belfast suggested that we book a private tour with them. They do offer their own Game of Thrones tour. Although, with a private tour, we would get to see and do more. This would allow us to get to all of the landmarks the Princess was adamant we visit, like the Giant’s Causeway.
Plus, for our party of four, the price to have a private tour was only £12.50 pounds more per person. These costs were still about the same as the cruise line’s tour, which did not go to all of the locales we wanted to visit.
Booking online was simple and easy. Norman, the owner of the company, was responsive to our emails and with a small deposit, our tour was booked a few months in advance of our cruise. The remainder of the balance was paid directly to our driver the day of the tour.
Getting the Tour Started Early
The email instructions indicated we would meet our tour guide next to the ship within 30 minutes of the ship docking at the port. For this port of call, the ship was scheduled to dock at 7 am. As prudent cruisers, we were both up, packed, room serviced consumed, and ready to get off the ship by 6:45 am. Meeting our family around 7 am we were walking toward the gangway when we heard the announcement the ship was cleared.
We walked right off the ship at about 7:15am to be greeted a tall gentleman in a black coat holding a sign with our name. Greeting our driver Cyd for the first time we let him know we wanted to do and see as much as possible in the 7 hours we had.
He was happy to oblige and we set off on a tour that encompassed everything we asked to see and more! Cyd was a stout and friendly gentleman with a discernible Northern Ireland brogue. He was informative, honest, and we would certainly recommend you request him as your tour guide if you take this tour.
Getting Ahead of The Crowds
Given we were off the ship early, Cyd suggested we alter the order of the tour slightly, to stay ahead of the buses and other private tours. So, we took an hour or so ride along the Antrim Coast on the Coastal Causeway route.
It was a cloudy and overcast day. Of course, this is the type of weather you expect in the region, with intermittent rain and some nasty gust of wind.
Arriving at our first stop before 8:30 am was Duncle Castle. For fans of the series, you might recognize this 15th-century castle as the House of Greyjoy, ruler of the Iron Islands.
Currently, the castle was not open for touring, with some renovations occurring. It wouldn’t of mattered as it was quite windy and even if the attraction was open, I doubt they would have let us out to the small island the castle inhabits.
After our five-minute photo op, we headed toward the Giant’s Causeway about 15 minutes or so down the road.
This popular tourist attraction wasn’t even open when we arrived. So, we headed down the steep hill to snag photos of the natural wonder without any other visitors. We were down there for about thirty minutes when the shuttle bus arrived. We paid the few pounds it cost to take the ride back up the hill. A quick stop in the visitors center and we were successful the first people to see the magnificent natural attraction for the day.
This would be the series of events for most of the day, as we timed the day almost perfectly to get to many of the most visited sites before the other tours
Seeing More Than the Game of Thrones Locations
During the travels to our next stop, we hopped out of the van for a quick photo of the remains of Dunseverick castle, which is also featured in Game of Thrones.
At several of the more popular stops, signs exist showing you how that area was featured in Game of Thrones. At other stops, we had to trust Cyd when he mentioned a particular scene was shot at a certain location.
During the next thirty minute drive, we photographed additional scenic shots of the coastline. The next stop was the Carrick-a-Rede bridge a 66ft rope bridge that links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede.
Due to the weather conditions, we were not able to cross the bridge. But, we did take the couple kilometer walk there and back to get as close as we could. This national park offers some lovely walking trails if you have extra time or the weather is more agreeable. For us, we had other locations to see during this brief stop.
There is a little cafe at the park. This was the perfect place to grab a snack and some warm coffee to keep us going. Down the road is an overflow parking lot. Normally, this is not that interesting, but this former stone quarry is the home to several scenes from the show. Known as Larrybane, it is the location of Renley’s camp near Storm Ends.
In a battle scene at this location is where the character Brienne of Tarth is introduced in the series. Between the bridge and quarry, we spent an hour taking pictures and reminiscing about the show.
The next stop on the tour was Ballintoy Harbor which was about 5 minutes. At this point, it was becoming midmorning, and there were more tourists and visitors beginning to descend on these landmarks.
This location is also well known as it is the main area set for the Iron Islands. With several scenes throughout the series shot here and along the small beach off to the side. Comparing the actual landmark to the scenes from the television show give you a greater appreciation for the “movie magic” that goes into creating the series.
Taking our pictures for about 10 minutes or so we hopped back in the van. It was about 11 am with a few more sights on our list. Making a great time, Cyd recommends we take a slight detour to visit the Bushmills Distillery. It was essential on our way to our next stop. How could I say no to testing out some whiskey?
Doing an abbreviated whiskey tasting and purchasing a bottle, we made it to our next stop on the tour around noon. This might have been the most impressive sight of them all, the Dark Hedges. Even before the Game of Thrones, this public road was a popular tourist photo op.
Now, with these eerie growing trees also doubling for the Kings Road in the series, this occasionally used road has become more popular. Still, we were able to get a few good photos without anyone in them.
We walked from our tour’s drop off point up the road, to meet him on the other end. It was raining (again) so we were starting to get a little soggy, and making a mess of our drivers van!
Leaving the Dark Hedges we made another quick stop at the Cushenden Caves. These caves and adjacent waterway is the location of one of the pivotal scenes of season two.
Fans of the show will know what the scene entails, so no need to get into the details.
Getting to See More of Northern Ireland
Having seen all of the sights we requested, except one, it was now only 1:15 pm. We had over two whole hours left to see more of Northern Ireland. Our tour guide suggested we take a drive along the coast. This would get us to the last stop as well as still give us time to get to see the Peace Walls and parts of downtown Belfast.
Throughout the drive, he gave us some more history of the areas and country. Occasionally, we would stop to snap a photo. Although, the weather at times was pretty terrible, so geting to see the countryside from the warm dry van was enough for most of us.
At some point during the ride we slowed down and be turned to show us the last location. we were at Carncastle, a small village. Point to a hill he showed us where the first sign of the first episode of Game of Thrones was filmed.
After all, we had witnessed, it was a bit anti-climatic. Still, it was on the Princess’ list, so we were able to see it.
Returning to the city he drove us around a few of the cities areas including Shankill Road in the Protestant area. Likewise, he took us to Fall Road in the Catholic area. By now, it was a bit after 3:30 pm, so we cut through a few side streets and were back at the ship for 3:40 pm.
Our Game of Thrones tour had taken us to all of the well-known sights, as well as several other stops. It was really like three tours in one! Even our aunt who was traveling with us said that we really know how to plan a shore excursion.
I guess having the cruise blog is worth something, right?
Have you visited Belfast, Northern Ireland on a cruise? Have you taken a Game of Thrones tour on the island? Drop us an anchor below with your experiences on this memorable port of call.