With the amount of eye-rolling I did when I heard that Brooklyn would be getting Girls-themed tours—including, naturally, stops at Grumpy and Roberta’s—you would think that when I heard about the themed tour package for another wildly popular HBO show, I would be similarly dismissive. BUT YOU’D BE WRONG. Dead wrong. Deader than Ned Stark wrong. And that’s really, really dead.
The New York Times reports that there are now Game of Thrones themed tours taking place in Northern Ireland, where much of the show—including Winterfell, Storms End, and the Riverlands—is set. Viator Tours offers GoT experiences in many of the countries where the show is filmed, namely Malta, Croatia, and Iceland. But the majority of the series has been filmed in Northern Ireland and the Belfast tour package, which features a “stop in the town of Cushendun…where Melisandre of Asshai gave birth to her ‘shadow baby’ who went on to slay Renly Baratheon” and a visit “to the Dark Hedges road…with its natural archway of intertwined trees, the road is one of Northern Ireland’s most photographed locations and the place where Ayra Stark dressed as a boy to escape from King’s Landing.” Plus, your private guide will talk to you all about the series, which, honestly, I would happily pay someone to listen to me ramble on and on for hours about my theories on Jon Snow’s parentage or how exactly Joffrey ought to suffer for the wrongs he has committed.
Anyway. Once I got past my initial excitement about the existence of this tour (kidding! I will never get past my initial excitement about the existence of this tour) I read the rest of the Times article, which I highly recommend you do too because it addresses the changes in Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole in the last decade or so, since the end of the sectarian violence between Irish nationalists and British loyalists. “The Troubles” as the decades-long era is known, caused the deaths of well over 3,000 people and created a wartorn land that is perhaps not so very different from the one depicted in Game of Thrones. Well, ok. It was wildly different. No dragons, obviously. Or smoke monsters. But you get what I mean.
Now, however, tourists are flocking in droves to this beautiful part of the country, and the area is seeing a rejuvenation that is as much of a morale and pride booster as it is an economic one. Schools, for the first time in ages, are being integrated so that Protestant and Catholic schoolchildren can learn together. The most deadly, dangerous spots in Belfast are now places where people go to pause and reflect on the dark past, and the hopefully brighter future. And, you know, also on how good it will look to see Daenerys come flying over the city on the back of one of her dragons.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen