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If you’re on a Game of Thrones tour of Northern Ireland, you really cannot skip a trip to the ancient Inch Abbey ruins.
It featured as Riverrun in series one and is where Robb Stark camps out after the Battle of the Whispering Wood against the Lannisters!
It’s a gorgeous Cistercian Abbey found in Downpatrick, County Down and so it makes a great stop on your filming location tour.
Here is a complete guide to the Inch Abbey Game of Thrones filming location aka Riverrun!
Inch Abbey history
Inch Abbey was founded as a Cistercian monastery in 1180 by John de Courcy who led the Anglo-Norman invasion of East Ulster.
It is believed he built Inch Abbey as penance for his destruction of Erenagh Abbey in 1177. The name comes from the Irish word Inis meaning Island.
Although today we can easily walk or drive to Inch Abbey, in the 12th century this monastery was surrounded by the River Quoile. It was on an island and you had to travel there by boat.
There was a place of worship located on this island before Inch Abbey called Inis Cumhscraigh. But, it was made of wood and was burned down during the Viking Invasions of the 9th century.
The Cistercian monastery was a large complex that housed monks from the abbeys of Lancashire and Erinagh. They had a church, refectories, an infirmary, and even a bakehouse.
Monastic life here was quite basic but they were wealthy by medieval standards. The monastery was dissolved in 1541 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII.
It’s now a romantic ruin beside the River Quoile and is famous for being a Game of Thrones filming location!
Inch Abbey Game of Thrones Filming Location
So, if you’re a fan of the Game of Thrones series you may recognise this Cistercian Abbey from series one.
After Joffrey has taken the throne, he asks Robb Stark to pay him fealty. Robb refuses as he knows his father has been held prisoner at King’s Landing.
Robb calls his bannermen and marches Stark soldiers to go to war with the Lannisters. Robb goes on to win the Battle of the Whispering Wood taking Jaime Lannister as a prisoner.
Robb camps near Riverrun and it’s here that Robb hears from his mother Catelyn that his father Ned has been executed.
So, the Houses of the North and the Riverlands show fealty to Robb and cry out: “The King of the North”! And so starts the beginning of the War of the Five Kings.
All of these camp scenes in Riverrun take place in and around the Inch Abbey ruins. So, it’s the perfect place to visit for Game of Thrones fans if you’re in Northern Ireland!
Things to do in Inch Abbey
Explore the Inch Abbey ruins
So, the main thing to do is to explore the remains of the Inch Abbey ruins. It’s a very easy five-minute walk from the parking area along a flat pathway.
You’ll see lots of signboards telling you the history of the abbey as well as some plans of what it used to look like years ago.
It’s hard to imagine today, but this abbey used to be thriving and was home to lots of English monks. They actually refused to let Irish monks into the order at one point!
The ruins are very romantic with the main area still having the frames of the stained glass windows. There are lots of steps and foundations to explore.
I would leave around 30 minutes to an hour to explore the ruins as the location is so beautiful.
Spot Game of Thrones filming locations
So, of course, many people visit Inch Abbey to relive the scenes at Riverrun during Game of Thrones season one.
You’ll find the spots where Catelyn Stark walks towards Robb who is obviously not impressed with the news about his father’s death. The tree Robb fights with his sword can be found near the river.
You’ll later see the windows of the abbey ruins behind where Robb, Catelyn, and notable members of House Stark have a banquet discussing who should be King of the North. They then declare it is Robb!
There won’t be any Stark banners, camp tents, or soldiers here. But, the ruins are so atmospheric it’s easy to imagine you’re there.
Inch Abbey walks beside Quoile River
There are lots of short walks that you can take from the Inch Abbey ruins here in Down. There is a memorial and graveyard nearby.
You can head towards the Quoile river and you can sit by the banks to get picture-perfect views of Downpatrick Cathedral.
I saw lots of people bring their dogs here for a walk and it’s a popular picnic spot in the summer months!
Visit Downpatrick Cathedral
Did you know that Downpatrick get its name from the association with the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick?
Also known as Down Cathedral, this church is believed to be the place where the mortal remains of Saint Patrick are buried.
The cathedral is a popular tourist attraction as well as a place of pilgrimage. It has been a place of worship for the last 600 years.
It’s well worth popping along to visit whilst you’re in Down County. It’s just a short drive away. There’s even a St Patrick’s Trail you can follow by car to other sacred sites.
How to visit Inch Abbey in Northern Ireland
Inch Abbey is located near the town of Downpatrick which is in County Down of Northern Ireland.
It is in the Lecale peninsula which is around 21 miles from Belfast. It’s around a 45-minute drive from the city centre.
There is an Inch Abbey railway station where you can catch a steam train with the Downpatrick & County Down Railway from Downpatrick.
You can also get the bus from Belfast’s Europa bus centre to visit Downpatrick and Inch Abbey. The 515 bus service will drop you at Inch Abbey road and it’s a 10-minute walk from there.
But, if you’re looking to visit lots of Game of Thrones locations in County Down and you’re not driving, I would always recommend a guided tour like this one that runs from Dublin!
This includes many of the filming locations you can see around the area. These tours are run by expert guides who were extras in the show. They also save you lots of time and money on your holiday.
Inch Abbey address is Inch Abbey Road, Downpatrick BT30 9AT. Click here for a Google Pin!
Inch Abbey parking
There is a small car park located next to Inch Abbey that is completely FREE to park in but spaces are limited.
It’s a quiet area though so I can’t imagine it fills up very quickly. I mostly saw locals and dog walkers here.
Saying that weekends can get quite busy in County Down and this is a popular spot with Game of Thrones fans and coach tours.
I would opt to visit earlier or later in the day to guarantee a quieter visit to the Inch Abbey ruins.
Inch Abbey opening times and prices
Inch Abbey is open 24 hours a day so you’re not restricted when you visit which is great if you’re on a road trip.
But, I would say that there is limited lighting around the area so don’t visit too late at night!
It’s also completely FREE to visit the Inch Abbey ruins and Riverrun
Why not book a Game of Thrones tour of County Down?
If you’re not driving in Northern Ireland, or you just fancy taking a break from driving. I would highly recommend taking a Game of Thrones tour to some of the filming locations.
These tours are very affordable and are run by expert guides who were extras in the show. So, you’ll get to see the filming locations and hear some behind-the-scenes gossip too!
There are four major filming locations located in County Down where you can experience ‘The North’ and Winterfell.
These are Tollymore Forest Park, Inch Abbey, Castle Ward, and Audley’s Field. You can take a guided tour from Dublin that covers them all in one day!
I actually joined the tour for their Game of Thrones trek around Tollymore Forest Park in the morning.
It was great as we got to wear a Stark cloak, see the scenes filmed in different locations on an iPad, and some hilarious commentary too. I would highly recommend it.
Looking for more Game of Thrones filming locations nearby?
If you’re doing a self-guided Game of Thrones tour of Northern Ireland, there are plenty of filming locations you can visit near Inch Abbey.
If you haven’t already, I would download the Game of Thrones Northern Ireland app that has most of them included. You will get iPhone Maps pins to guide you to each location.
There are six more filming locations that you can visit in this area. If you leave early enough you could easily visit them all in one or two days!
Here are all the Game of Thrones locations to visit near Inch Abbey;
River Quoile aka Riverrun
The River Quoile besides Inch Abbey also featured as Riverrun in series 3 episode 3: Walk of Punishment.
After Hoster Tully dies, the responsibility for Riverrun passes onto his son Edmure Tully. The Tully funeral tradition is to place the body in a boat on the river and then set it aflame by an arrow.
Of course, Edmure Tully is terrible at this and so his uncle Brynden takes the reins and lands a perfect blow.
These scenes were filmed in the Quoile Pondage Nature Reserve which is surrounded by the rolling hills of the countryside. It’s a huge place and you could be driving/walking for miles before you find the exact location.
If you wanted to save time, there is actually a Google Pin to the exact Game of Thrones filming location where you’ll see the sign.
Castle Ward aka Winterfell Castle
One of my favourite Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland was Castle Ward which played Winterfell in the series.
We see this castle throughout season one where we are introduced to the Stark Family and the main characters of the show.
This is where Robert Baratheon and his royal party arrive to see Ned Stark. He plans to ask him to become the Hand of the King.
You can also visit where Bran, Jon, and Robb are practicing Archery in the courtyard and Arya bests him with a bulls-eye after getting bored of her sewing.
There are actually over 20 filming locations to find around Castle Ward and Audley’s Field. You can see them all on a Game of Thrones bicycle tour or walking tour.
Or, why not have a go at archery yourself with Winterfell Tours? You get to practice in the exact same place where they filmed these Winterfell scenes in Game of Thrones!
Audley’s Field aka Oxcross and The Twins
If you walk 20 minutes from Castle Ward beside the sea, you’ll eventually come across Audley’s Field where there are plenty more Game of Thrones filming locations to find.
In series 1, we see Robert Baratheon arrive by Audley’s Field. Then in series 2, this field becomes Robb’s camp in the Battle of Oxcross.
It’s here that Robb meets Talissa, who is a healer from Volantis. Whilst she is tending wounded soldiers, Robb falls in love with her and he later asks her to marry him. These scenes happen in Series 2, Episode 4: Garden of Bones.
Audley’s castle also featured as The Twins in Game of Thrones (the other tower and crossing were inserted with CGI).
This is when Theon Greyjoy takes down one of the messenger ravens from Walder Frey’s towers sent to warn about Robb’s army.
You’ll also find the hanging tree here where Brienne comes across three women who were hanged by Stark soldiers.
Tollymore Forest Park aka Winterfell lands
Tollymore Forest Park is one of the most beautiful parks that you can visit in Northern Ireland and it’s a Game of Thrones filming location too.
This park played the lands around Winterfell in The North. It featured in many key scenes during the first episode and series.
You can visit the Wildlings pit in the prologue, where Ned Stark finds the Direwolves and where Jon Snow camps with Tyrion on the way to Castle Black and The Wall.
If you want to see all of the filming locations, I would recommend booking a Tollymore Game of Thrones trek where you get to wear a Stark Cloak and are shown around by an expert guide who was a wildling in the show.
Rowallane Garden aka Godswood
So, the Rowallane Garden being filmed as Godswood is not technically a Game of Thrones filming location but it’s still worth a look if you’re a super fan.
You can visit their lake in the pleasure gardens to see where Ned Stark would have visited to contemplate his big decisions.
The Weirwood Tree won’t be there and there isn’t a distinctive tree that even looks like the whitebark Westerosi tree of the Old Gods.
But, the gardens are owned by the National Trust and it’s a lovely place to visit if you wanted to see it on the way to County Down.
Leitrim Lodge aka North of Winterfell
You’ll find this filming location on the Mourne Way and it takes you on a scenic walk through the Mourne Mountains.
You can walk under Northern Ireland’s highest peak which is Eagle Mountain which stands at 638 metres!
You’ll see this location in Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 2: Dark Wings, Dark Words.
After Theon Greyjoy and the Ironborn take over Winterfell castle, Bran Stark flees along with his brother Rickon, Hodor, and Osha towards Castle Black where they hope to meet Jon Snow.
Quintin Bay aka Castle Stokeworth, Crownlands
If you’re heading to Strangford to visit Castle Ward, you should try to pop over to Portaferry on the Ards Peninsula while you’re here. It’s best to take the car ferry which is really fun!
Not only can you see some gorgeous views you can also visit Quintin Bay, home to Quintin Castle, which was a Game of Thrones filming location.
Quintin Castle is an Anglo-Norman fortress that was built by none other than John de Courcy in 1184!
After Jaime Lannister promises to bring Myrcella back to King’s Landing from Dorne, he visits Ser Bronn of the Blackwater and asks him to help him.
Ser Bronn is walking with his betrothed but Jaime promises a better wife, castle, and lands from Cersei in exchange for his service!
You’ll find these scenes in series 5, episode 2: The House of Black and White.
Where to eat near Inch Abbey
If you’re on a Game of Thrones road trip in Northern Ireland, you could easily plan to eat at one of the pubs that have a Game of Thrones door in the area.
There are actually three of them in County Down and they make great places to stop for food and drink and get your Journey of Doors passport stamped.
If you don’t know about the Journey of Doors, it came about when the Dark Hedges was damaged due to over-tourism.
They repurposed the wood and made some Game of Thrones-inspired doors. They were then gifted to pubs across the country. Many of these were used by the cast and crew while filming.
You can get a Journey of Doors passport and collect stamps at them all. It’s the perfect trail for Game of Thrones fans as they are all near popular filming locations.
Here are the pubs and restaurants you can visit in County Down;
The Percy French – is a beautiful restaurant located in Newcastle serving up a diverse menu of delectable food. It has a great atmosphere and the fireplace makes it so cosy.
The Cuan – this used to be a bit of a Game of Thrones haunt but now it’s changed management so they don’t do any of the Game of Thrones banquets or themed nights anymore. But, you can get wine and food.
Fiddler’s Green – this traditional Irish pub can be found in Portaferry where you need to get the Strangford car ferry. They don’t sell food but you can get a drink. Don’t forget to visit Quintin Bay nearby that featured in Game of Thrones.
Where to stay near Inch Abbey
If you’re looking for a base on your stay in County Down, I would recommend staying in the gorgeous town of Newcastle.
It’s a pretty beach town that is overlooked by the Mourne Mountains, the highest peaks of Northern Ireland!
You could stay in Slieve Donard, which is a luxury hotel on the coast, and visit The Percy French Inn for food that has a Game of Thrones door nearby.
Alternatively, you could stay in Strangford which is close to more Game of Thrones filming locations. The Cuan is where most of the cast stayed while filming in Castle Ward which was Winterfell.
It has changed hands recently so they no longer serve up the Game of Thrones banquets. But, it is still worth visiting for food and seeing the Game of Thrones doors.
Make sure to have your Journey of Doors passports at the ready to get them stamped after your visit.
Inch Abbey FAQs
- Where is Inch Abbey? It’s in Downpatrick in County Down, Northern Ireland
- What was Inch Abbey in Game of Thrones? It was Robb Stark’s Camp in Riverrun during season one
- Who built Inch Abbey? It was founded by John de Courcy in 1180 to atone for destroying Erenagah Abbey in 1177.