The Dark Hedges. Bregagh Road, Ballymoney, N. Ireland. © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.
This beautiful avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century. It was intended as a compelling landscape feature to impress visitors as they approached the entrance to their Georgian mansion, Gracehill House. Two centuries later, the trees remain a magnificent sight and have become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland. The road is reputedly haunted by a spectral ‘Grey Lady’ who appears at dusk among the trees. She silently glides along the roadside and disappears as she passes the last beech tree. The iconic trees have been used as a filming location in HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones, representing the Kingsroad, the longest and grandest highway in the Seven Kingdoms. (If you haven’t watched the series yet but plan to, be warned that the paragraph below contains a few spoilers!)
When I hosted the first Couchsurfer at my then new home in Belfast, he came with an extra ticket for a Game of Thrones exhibition. A day after we marvelled at the original costumes and paid a virtual reality visit to The Wall, we explored several of the series’ filming locations together, incl. Ballintoy Harbour, where Theon Greyjoy arrives back in the Iron Islands, the Cushendun Caves, where Melisandre gives birth to the shadow baby, and Downhill Beach, where the old gods burn and where we stopped for a picnic, enjoying the amazing view of Mussenden Temple, perched dramatically on a 120ft cliff top, high above the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, we visited the Dark Hedges, where Arya Stark, disguised as a boy, travels north on the Kingsroad after escaping from King’s Landing. [Update] In October 2017, the BBC reported that a traffic ban had begun at the Dark Hedges, and that “any motorist who flouts the ban could face a fine of up to £1,000.”
The video below is a choral version of the Game of Thrones theme, composed by Ramin Djawadi and featured in the final scene and credits of the fourth season’s finale “The Children”.
Thanks again, Matthew, for the great time we spent together! (Bromance!)
Part of the above text was taken from the Discover Northern Ireland website.