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If you are visiting some Game of Thrones filming locations then you must visit the Dark Hedges Northern Ireland.
It’s a beautiful avenue of gnarled beech trees that looks like something from a Gothic fairytale and were planted in the Georgian era.
Today, Bregagh Road is famous for featuring in Game of Thrones as the Kingsroad which will take you to King’s Landing in Westeros.
Here is how to visit the Dark Hedges Game of Thrones filming location and everything you need to know!
What is the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland?
The Dark Hedges is a beautiful lane called Bregagh Road in Northern Ireland that has a series of beech trees on either side of it creating a tree avenue.
These ancient trees were planted by the Stuart Family over 350 years ago and they hang over the road with their gnarled branches!
It was designed to impress visitors as they made their way through the Georgian estate to Gracehill House.
The natural phenomena have since intrigued visitors for centuries. It’s now one of the most photographed destinations in Northern Ireland.
Why are they called the Dark Hedges?
It is quite funny to think of these beech trees as ‘hedges’ as it means something completely different!
But, there are some theories as to why and how they got their curious moniker.
The first would be that these beech trees on either side of the road block out the light and create darkness along the road.
Admittedly, it isn’t as dark along here nowadays due to some of the trees being cut down due to damage and creating gaps.
But, originally there were over 150 beech trees in the Georgian era that were clustered together to create a dark tunnel.
The other theory is that there is a spooky legend associated with this place about the Grey Lady!
Dark Hedges legend
There is a local legend about the Dark Hedges that they are haunted by a ghost called the Grey Lady!
She’s a spirit that travels from tree to tree on Bregagh Road and vanishes when she reaches the very last of the beech trees.
Some people believe that she is a maid from Gracehill House and others believe that she’s the daughter of James Stuart often called ‘Cross Peggy’.
Safe to say, it’s best if you avoid visiting this place at night – unless you want to meet her of course!
Dark Hedges history
The large estate has a royal heritage that dates back to the 17th century as it was owned by King James I.
He gifted the land to his cousin, but he drowned on his passage over to Northern Ireland. It then passed on to his grandson William Stuart and remained in the Stuart Family thereafter.
James Stuart built Gracehill House in 1775 and he decided to name it after his wife Grace Lynd.
The family decided to plant over 150 beech trees on the estate to act as a grand entryway to impress visitors travelling to their family home.
Could you imagine how impressive this would look when you approached by horse and carriage back then?!
Today, Gracehill House and the estate are privately owned. Part of it has been transformed into a golf course.
This tree avenue now has just 90 beech trees but is still one of the most photographed locations in Northern Ireland and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
It’s also grown in popularity by featuring in the award-winning HBO Game of Thrones TV series.
Dark Hedges Game of Thrones filming location
Many people want to visit the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland as they are featured as a filming location in the HBO Game of Thrones series.
They appeared in Game of Thrones as the Kingsroad which leads you to King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros!
In Westeros, the Kingsroad is a pathway between King’s Landing and the Neck with plenty of inns along the way.
This tree avenue appears in series 2, episode 1 “The North Remembers” when Arya escapes from King’s Landing dressed as a boy.
She joins Yoren, Hot Pie, Gendry, and other prisoners who are to join the Night’s Watch at The Wall.
Where is the Dark Hedges located in Northern Ireland?
The Dark Hedges is located on Bregagh Road which is part of the wider Dark Hedges Estate.
This is located near a small village called Stranocum in Ballymoney, County Antrim.
It’s a twenty minute drive from the Giant’s Causeway and an hour’s drive from Belfast. It’s also a three hour drive from Dublin.
Dark Hedges address is Bregagh Road, Stranocum, Ballymoney BT53 8PX. Click here for a Google Pin!
How to visit the Dark Hedges
There are many ways to visit the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland. It completely depends on your preferences and how much time you have.
The easiest way would be to drive as part of a road trip but there is the option of booking a guided tour or using public transport as well.
Driving to the Dark Hedges
By far the easiest way to visit the Dark Hedges would be to drive over there as it’s in quite a remote place.
It’s a great pitstop to make as you drive over to the Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast.
Plus, it’s only a twenty-minute drive from the Giant’s Causeway if you’re already in the area.
You’ll find the Dark Hedges Estate on Bregagh Road which can be accessed on the B147. This can easily be reached off the A26 heading to Coleraine and the A44 heading to Ballycastle.
There will be signs pointing you in the direction of the Dark Hedges Estate as you get nearer.
There are plenty of popular attractions near the Dark Hedges such as Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Ballintoy Harbour, Dunluce Castle, and the Giant’s Causeway.
So, it’s easy enough to fit in a visit to the King’s Road on your Northern Ireland road trip!
Dark Hedges parking
You’re not allowed to drive down Bregagh Road to see the Dark Hedges! You must park up in the dedicated parking area and walk over to experience them.
As you approach Bregagh Road on the B147 you’ll find a brown tourist sign pointing to the parking area.
The Dark Hedges car park is located on Ballinlea Road in Stranocum. You can use this Google Pin to locate it.
It’s then only a short five-minute walk to the Dark Hedges passing by Gracehill House. There will be plenty of signs to direct you over to the hedges.
Book a Dark Hedges tour
If you’re not driving whilst travelling in Northern Ireland, it may be easier to book a guided tour that includes the Dark Hedges.
This will save you both time and money on your holiday rather than trying to work out transport.
There are many Game of Thrones tours that run from either Belfast or Dublin that will take you to the Dark Hedges and the Giant’s Causeway as well as other filming locations.
Most likely, you’ll be driven to Bregagh Road in a coach and be given ‘free time’ to explore the hedges.
Dark Hedges by public transport
Using public transport to visit the Dark Hedges wouldn’t be something I would personally recommend. But, it is possible if you’d rather not book a group tour.
There is no dedicated bus stop or train station at the Dark Hedges. But, you can take a bus or train then switch to a taxi or walk from there.
From Belfast, you can take a direct train to Ballymoney and then take one of the local taxis from the station. The drive will be around 10 minutes.
Or, you could take a train from Belfast to Corelaine and then switch to the 178 bus service heading to Stanocum and walk to the Dark Hedges.
Finally, you could get the 218 bus from Belfast to Coleraine and then switch to the 178 bus.
In all of these choices, the journey will take around 2 and a half hours to get there from Belfast.
Personally, I’d say that booking a guided tour would be far easier and less hassle than navigating public transport to get here. But, it’s entirely your choice.
How long do I need to visit the Dark Hedges?
The Dark Hedges road is only around half a mile long, so you could easily walk the entire thing in around 10-15 minutes.
But, I would personally allow around 45 minutes to an hour to visit the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland.
This is so you have enough time to park up, walk over to Bregagh Road, explore the hedges and take lots of photos. You’ll need some patience if you don’t want lots of people in the background.
There is a café onsite as well where you can buy hot drinks and homemade treats throughout the day.
Dark Hedges opening times
The Dark Hedges is on a public road and it is open 24 hours a day so you’re not restricted on when you can visit!
This is perfect as I would recommend visiting early in the morning if you wanted to visit without the crowds.
The Dark Hedges is one of the most visited attractions in Northern Ireland and so you can expect it to be extremely busy throughout the day.
Is it free to visit the Dark Hedges?
Another great thing about visiting King’s Road from Game of Thrones is that it’s completely FREE.
You don’t need to pay a penny to visit and so it makes a great stop on a Northern Ireland road trip.
Even the Dark Hedges parking is entirely free. So, there is no reason not to go!
When is the best time to visit the Dark Hedges?
As before, the Dark Hedges of Northern Ireland is one of the most popular attractions to visit in the country.
It’s always a good idea to avoid the peak season of summer and opt for a shoulder season like spring or autumn. It’s also a lot quieter in winter and you get the chance to see it all foggy!
It can be very busy in peak times like the weekends and public holidays.
Also, it can be filled with Game of Thrones coach tour groups from either Belfast or Dublin if you visit in the late morning or early afternoon.
Personally, I would try to visit the Dark Hedges as early as you can on a weekday.
You could opt to visit later in the evening around sunset. But, when I did this, it was still very very busy!
How to avoid the crowds at the Dark Hedges
As Bregagh Road is one of the most photographed locations in Northern Ireland, you can expect this place to be popular throughout the year.
If you wanted to visit the Dark Hedges for photography, you probably already know that visiting at sunrise is going to be the best time before other tourists wake up to explore.
Also, you should visit on a weekday that isn’t in the summer months. Spring or Autumn seasons are great choices with a mix of pleasant weather and fewer visitors.
But, I will warn you now that even when sunset is at 5 am in spring – there will be other photographers with you on your visit trying to capture this scene.
Although in these photos I look ‘alone’, there were 3 others with tripods here behind me at 6 am in October.
However, this still is the best time to visit in my opinion as there will be fewer people around. By 10 am, the Dark Hedges can be heaving.
You may get lucky and have it to yourself. But, if not, there are lots of bends and bumps in the road that can block some of the other visitors out.
In my opinion, both ends of the road are amazing for photography. But, I would have a zoom lens on hand to capture it or use ‘x3’ on iPhone.
Why don’t the Dark Hedges look as great in real life?
One of the things I hear people say ALL the time is that the Dark Hedges doesn’t look as great in real life as it looks in photos or as the King’s Road in Game of Thrones.
Some people build this place up in their heads as something from a gothic fairytale and are disappointed when the reality doesn’t live up to their expectations.
The trees are very spread out along the road which may come as a surprise for many. There are also a lot of large gaps between them.
Plus, the Dark Hedges has experienced significant damage since filming due to over-tourism.
Some of the trees that were originally here were knocked down by a tour bus that tried to drive through. Hence, the no driving rule through the Dark Hedges now.
Another thing is that the way the Dark Hedges look in photographs/videos is about the perspective of the camera.
You’ll quickly realise that if you take a photo of this road in a normal setting or wide angle setting it’s not going to look as ‘full’.
That’s why I would recommend using a zoom lens to capture this road or the ‘x3 zoom’ option on your iPhone!
Don’t let the opinions of others put you off visiting. It is SO worth stopping here if you’re a Game of Thrones fan. I mean, it is the Kings Road of Westeros for crying out loud!
Although it did look different from the photos, I still found the Dark Hedges to be completely magical and was living my best Gothic fairytale life ;)
Dark Hedges Game of Thrones Door
One bittersweet thing about the beech trees being knocked down at the Dark Hedges is that it started the Journey of Doors trail.
Some clever artists repurposed the wood and created some Game of Thrones Doors which you can find in pubs dotted around Northern Ireland.
Make sure to grab your Journey of Doors passport in Belfast to get it stamped as you visit each one.
These pubs are all near popular filming locations and make great places to eat or drink on your filming locations tour.
There is a Game of Thrones door at the Dark Hedges. The door was originally at Gracehill House Hotel near the golf club and then it moved into the Dark Hedges hotel which has just reopened!
On my visit, I was so disappointed as it was closed at the time. I had collected ALL my stamps but this one. I guess this means I have an excuse to go back!
Where to eat at the Dark Hedges?
If you’re not deciding to visit the Dark Hedges at the crack of dawn, there is a café that opens near the car park.
It’s called The Pantry at The Dark Hedges and is a brand-new coffee shop that serves up hot drinks and homemade treats throughout the day.
It’s the perfect place to stop for some food or a pick-me-up after your walk down King’s Road.
Where to stay near the Dark Hedges
If you wanted to limit your travel time to see the Dark Hedges at sunrise, the ideal place to stay would be the Dark Hedges Hotel near the car park.
It has just reopened after switching hands and has plenty of spacious rooms onsite to spend the night.
The hotel is just a short walk away from Bregagh Road and it’s perfect if you value your sleep!
There is a terrace and a restaurant onsite where you can eat in the evening as well as a continental buffet to wake up to in the morning.
Dark Hedges FAQs
- Are the Dark Hedges worth seeing? YES, 100%! They are beautiful and it was one of my favourite locations in Northern Ireland.
- What is the Dark Hedges called in Game of Thrones? The Dark Hedges is the King’s Road which leads you to King’s Landing!
- Can you drive through the Dark Hedges? No, it is not allowed to drive through the Dark Hedges. Its residents access only. You should park up in the dedicated car park and walk over.
- What city is the Dark Hedges in? It’s not in a city. They are located in Stranocum which is a small village in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
- How far is the Dark Hedges from the Giant’s Causeway? It’s 12.7 miles or 22 minutes drive!
- How old are the trees at the Dark Hedges? 300 – 350 years old.
Visit more Game of Thrones filming locations nearby
If you’re heading north towards the Causeway Coastal Route, you’ll find the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge which was the inspiration for Pyke’s rope bridge.
Nearby is Larrybane Quarry which was Renly Baratheon’s Camp. Also, you’ll see Dunluce Castle ruin which was the filming location for Pyke Castle.
You can visit Ballintoy Harbour to see Lordsport, the main port of Pyke in the Iron Islands. You’ll remember scenes from Theon Greyjoy’s baptism to reaffirm his allegiance to the God of the Sea.
Don’t forget to pop by Downhill Beach which doubled up as Dragonstone and the Mussenden Temple.
Although they didn’t use the Giant’s Causeway in Game of Thrones, no visit to Northern Ireland would be complete without a stop here.
It’s a magical, sacred and ancient place with some 40,000 black basalt columns that lead into the sea.