I start to get in character as soon as I arrive in the courtyard of the Castle Ward demesne. This IS Winterfell, after all, ancestral home of the Stark family. It’s where the Stark boys practiced their archery skills, where Eddard Stark welcomed his old friend King Robert, and where events were set in motion that have kept the world glued to Game of Thrones® for seven years.
Northern Ireland is Game of Thrones® Territory and is home to more GOT filming locations than anywhere else in the world, and there’s nowhere better to immerse yourself in the fantasy TV series than right here.
The people at Winterfell Tours are expert at making you feel like you’ve been transported into a world of drama and dragons, and it starts with a costume change.
I pay a visit to Ser William, the Master at Arms and get kitted out with a leather tunic and fur-trimmed cape. My friend opts to wear the Hound’s Helm – a replica of that snarling hound’s head helmet worn by Sandor “The Hound” Clegane in the series.
Now that we’re appropriately dressed, it’s time for a cycling tour around the estate, with our guide Andrew pointing out key filming locations from the series and sharing some of the real history of this ancient demesne on the shores of Strangford Lough.
When we return to the courtyard, we’re sent straight to the archery range. Ser William takes his archery seriously and we get a crash course in the basics of medieval-style bows and arrows.
The satisfaction of managing to simply hit the target in the first place (low expectations starting out) and then getting a bullseye by the end of the session thanks to Ser William’s expert advice (figure out your dominant eye) cannot be underestimated.
We finish off our tour with a beheading. I get to kneel with my head on a chopping block, while my friend gets to do the deed with a fake sword. It’s my very own Eddard Stark moment. And like the North, I’ll remember…