Game of Thrones; the NI hotspots

She’s not a fan, nor has she caught one episode of Game of Thrones but that didn’t stop EMMA DEIGHAN from falling in love with the backdrop to one of HBO’s most revered series on a themed taster trip to the Fullerton Arms, Ballintoy…

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The stunning Causeway Coast has long been beautiful before location scouts at GOT became acquainted with it.

Thanks to the show, however, tourists now flock in their droves, from all four corners of the globe, to see a new element of our geological offering dotted along the Causeway Coastal Route.

You could say GOT has elevated our good looks from a respectable 7/10 to very worthy and overdue 9/10 (I’d give it full marks if our weather wasn’t so crap).

Balancing baby with work over the past three years has not afforded me the time to become loyal to any TV series, soap or even close friends if I’m honest. Such are my 24/7 demands.

But even while under my maternal rock, I have been aware that the North Coast has summoned a new dose of attention thanks to GOT and I appreciate that. I’m all for a blossoming tourism industry here and anything that encourages it.

Edition247 was invited to sample some of the scenic spots that have played a role in the show all while enjoying the hospitality of Fullerton Arms http://www.fullerton-arms.com/ recently taken over by couple Sean and Geraldine McLaughlin.

A very pretty trip along our famous coastline with TI Coaches (http://ticoaches.com/) afforded views that do NI proud. A respectable 1.5 hours took us from the stresses of Belfast to the calm of the harbour village that is Ballintoy, an undeniably picture perfect location.

Sean and Geraldine are sitting on a goldmine here. Their venue is the epicentre of the GOT map and one of the stop off points for tourists coming to gander at the show’s fictional locations. After enjoying their hospitality it’s clear that they are well worthy of this attention.

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To begin; hats off to the chef. The menu here is generous and the food, impressively good – think global influences and traditional plates with the full Ulster a must.

You’ll also find a public bar here soaked in inviting ambience with live music adding to its charm and the staff, well expect to meet some new friends. The bedrooms are spacious, spotless and set for big plans as the McLauglin’s put their aesthetic stamp on the joint over time.

One of Fullerton Arms’ biggest attractions of late is its newly donated ‘Door of Thrones’. It’s the sixth door of ten, painstakingly created using wood from trees that were destroyed during Storm Gertrude.

They’re special trees I was told – trees that once formed part of the compelling Dark Hedges –  ‘the spot where Arya Stark, dressed as a boy, escaped from King’s Landing in the company of Yoren, Gendry, and Hot Pie!’ I was told.

GOt Dark hedges

It’s a peculiar tunnel shape carved by nature and planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century and it makes for gorgeous pics. You’ll find it in Armoy and you’ll know when you’ve arrived because you’ll be greeted by accents hailing from America to Asia.

Back to that door though. It’s never shut. People are forever posing beside it for selfies and what not but even if you didn’t know GOT, you’ll still appreciate the artwork as I did.

Hospitality veterans Sean and Geraldine boast a fully stocked bar behind that ornate door with every drink your heart could desire but when in Rome, or Ballintoy, you must venture just a short jaunt away to take in the world-famous Bushmills Distillery (http://www.bushmills.com/distillery/) – where a tour of the triple distilled tipple is well worth leaving the comfort of Fullerton Arms.

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For me, the tasting here was the highlight. If you can stay sober enough to follow the instructions, you’ll be a dab hand at distinguishing the difference between a 10 year single malt and the exclusive 21 year variety and you’ll get a certificate to verify your new talent.

Bushmills distillery

Also on the doorstep of Fullerton Arms is Ballintoy Harbour. Tucked away just off the Causeway Coastal route this endearing nautical attraction is also known as the town of Lordsport in the Isle of Pyke (that’s a fictional GOT site to those not in the know).

A few boats, an imposing cave and a quaint and cute cafe and shop make up the points of interest here. Don’t be fooled into thinking that quantity reflects quality because I could’ve spent an entire day here on the rocky beach thinking about nothing such is its magnetic allure.

Ballintoy Harbour

We were pressed for time on our GOT taster tour but it did what it was supposed to; whet the appetite for more.

For those passionate about GOT, a trip from Carincastle onwards will open you up to a magical mystery tour of some of NI’s greatest organic gifts; worn cliff edges to the haunting silhouettes of Downhill and Mussenden Temple to the ghostly Cushendun Caves. Just make sure you stop off at Fullerton Arms to savour what NI is really all about; great people, food, drink and the mighty craic.

Fullerton Arms