Northern Ireland Is Promoting Westeros Tourism With These 'Game Of Thrones' Stunts

04/24/2015 04:36 pm ET | Updated Apr 24, 2015
Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO

At some point, every fan of HBO's "Game of Thrones" or George R.R. Martin's series "A Song of Ice and Fire" has fantasized about visiting Westeros, the fantastical continent on which most of the action in the series takes place. The scenery and architecture seems so much more beautiful, and the lives of the Westerosi so much more dramatic and exciting, than they do on plain old Earth.

But for all it's imaginary natural beauty, Westeros affords its denizens lives that are, for the most part, nasty, brutish and short. They face all the calamities faced by Europeans in the Middle Ages, but also clash with dragons, warlocks and ice zombies. Also, Westeros doesn't exist.

One place that does exist: Northern Ireland. And that's where pretty much any outdoor scene in "Game of Thrones" is filmed -- plus many of the interior scenes, too. True, the region has its own tragic history of violence, but at least you won't have to worry about any fire-breathing dinosaurs.

The connection hasn't escaped the attention of many "Game of Thrones" fans, who have already started to visit the U.K. to get a glimpse of the landscape they love from TV. Several companies even offer tours of locations used on the show.

And in recent weeks, Northern Ireland has been looking even more like Westeros than normal. That's because Tourism Ireland, which promotes tourism in both Northern Island and the Republic of Ireland, has been placing "Game of Thrones" memorabilia, such as dragon eggs and sign posts to prominent Westeros locations, in picturesque spots around the island in an effort to drum up excitement among the fanbase.

Since "Game of Thrones" fans become more numerous and devoted with each passing season of HBO's show, there's a good chance this campaign will help boost Northern Irish tourism in the same way that "Lord of the Rings" boosted tourism in New Zealand.

It should be noted, though, that Northern Ireland is just one of four places where "Game of Thrones" is now filmed: Iceland stands in for The Wall and the wilds beyond, Spain stands in for Dorne, and Croatia stands in for King's Landing, Meereen and a few other cities in Essos. So if you care more about the Martells or Daenerys than you do about Sansa or Brienne -- and, hey, no shame in that -- these stunts might not excite you one bit.

Here are a few of the ways Northern Ireland is promoting itself with "Game of Thrones":

  • All over the countryside, there are now signs to various Westerosi landmarks.
    Tourism Ireland
    The Kingsroad, for those of you less well versed in Westerosi geography than this reporter, is the longest road on the continent. It goes thousands of miles north from King's Landing, past the Inn at the Crossroads and the Twins, all the way up to the Wall. Arya traveled about half its length in season 2, disguised as a boy.
  • Here's a signpost for Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon's lair.
    Tourism Ireland
    We have to guess that the raven perched on top of is fake. Gotta be, right?
  • This sign to Pyke is a little confusing honestly.
    Tourism Ireland
    Because Pyke, the capital of the Greyjoy's Iron Islands, is a very small island! Actually, come to think of it, so is Dragonstone. And this sign, at least, looks like it's pointing away from the sea. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?
  • "Game of Thrones"-themed swords have also been popping up near the
    Tourism Ireland
    The pointy end of these sharp objects is luckily facing down.
  • Some dragon eggs have been spotted at a local farmers market.
    Tourism Ireland
    We have questions about this one: Are these fertile dragon eggs, or petrified ones like those Illyrio Mopatis gave Dany for her wedding gift? And why are they so cheap? Sure, they're wildly expensive compared to chicken eggs -- but in "A Song of Ice and Fire," Dany learned that with the money she would get from selling one dragon egg, she could buy a ship or hire an army. They're far more rare and valuable than diamonds.
  • The morning of Friday, April 24, the latest sign of Westerosi life popped up in Northern Ireland: giant's footprints
    Tourism Ireland
    It's a little hard to get a sense of the scale of these footprints in this photo...
  • ...But they're really big.
    Tourism Ireland
    As they should be! The giants of the Lands Beyond The Wall are totally huge -- 20 feet high or more. So they have very big feet.

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