Visit Dunluce Castle: A Game of Thrones Site in Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland has been in the spotlight a great deal more than most medieval castles. Since its construction in the 1500s, Dunluce Castle has been featured on the inner sleeve of a Led Zeppelin album and on the wildly popular HBO show Game of Thrones. Dunluce Castle’s windswept clifftop location has attracted the attention of Scottish chieftains, filmmakers, and rock ‘n’ roll legends.

Dunluce Castle has been thoroughly battered by centuries of relentless wind and rain. Much of the castle is currently in ruins. Still, avid fans of the show Game of Thrones will instantly recognize the exterior of Dunluce Castle as Castle Pyke—otherwise known as House Greyjoy. In Game of Thrones, the Greyjoys were a seafaring royal family who ruled the Iron Islands.

In Game of Thrones, County Antrim served as a convincing stand-in for the Iron Islands, and a digitally enhanced image of Dunluce Castle starred as the dreary Castle Pyke, where the wild child Theon Greyjoy returns after a long absence to seek his fortune. Dunluce Castle also appears as a psychedelic pilgrimage site on the inner sleeve of the legendary rock group Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, Houses of the Holy.

Prior to its run as a glitzy castle that appeared on an album cover and a hit TV show, Dunluce Castle housed various Scottish chieftains, such as Sorley Boy MacDonnell. Dunluce Castle’s remote location atop a steep cliff allowed for the castle’s occupants to observe the flow of goods and resources and stave off invaders. In 1588, a Spanish Armada ship known as La Girona was wrecked during a violent storm near Dunluce Castle. The MacDonnell clan sold off the cargo from the shipwreck and used the proceeds to fund a massive renovation of Dunluce Castle.

Several Belfast-based tour companies offer guided tour packages that include stops at Dunluce Castle. Visitors can tour the castle grounds and see some of the same panoramic views of a vast seascape that Theon Greyjoy saw when he looked out upon his family’s maritime kingdom.

If you’re a die-hard Game of Thrones fan, you can also visit the Dark Hedges, which are located approximately 15 minutes away from Dunluce Castle. The Dark Hedges are an iconic row of gnarled beech trees that are featured prominently in Game of Thrones. A visit to Dunluce Castle and the Dark Hedges will surely leave you feeling like you have been transported to a magical realm.

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