The Dark Hedges: Their History, Game of Thrones Link + Why I Wouldn’t Visit Again

the dark hedges game of thrones
Photo via Tourism Ireland

Ah, the Dark Hedges… sure, didn’t it appear in that episode. You know the one. Where yer man was leggin’ it about the gaff in a cloak…

OK – I’m going to level with you here.

I’ve never watched Game of Thrones. 

To be honest, I wouldn’t know Jon Snow if he lived in my attic.

I have, however, at one point or another ended up at many of Ireland’s Game of Thrones filming locations.

One of which was the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland.

To be completely honest – I didn’t think they were worth visiting (scroll to read why).

What you’ll get from the guide below

  • An insight into why I wouldn’t bother visiting them again
  • Their history
  • The Game of Thrones link
  • Photos and videos galore
  • Make sure to read out guide to 57 of the best things to do in Northern Ireland

The Dark Hedges: A big aul overcrowded anti-climax

the dark hedges ireland
Photo by Matthew Woodhouse

After wanderlusting over photos of the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland online, I decided the see what all the fuss was about and made the journey up from Dublin.

This was nearly 2 years ago, now!

If you’re thinking about doing the same journey, make sure to spin along the Causeway Coastal Route on your way.

We arrived at the Dark Hedges at around 10:00 on a Friday morning.

When we walked up the road and the avenue of trees came into view, it became immediately evident that the photos that we had seen online, although absolutely brilliant, weren’t a true reflection of what you see with the naked eye

Here’s a pretty accurate image of what we saw on the day (via Google Maps).

Dark Hedges Ireland

Many of the photos we had looked at online used long-zoom camera lenses to make the road appear more unique than it actually is in real life.

Does that mean you shouldn’t visit?

Absolutely not.

Personally, though, I wouldn’t go back and I wouldn’t recommend that people go out of their way to visit.

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll probably get a buzz out of seeing the Dark Hedges for yourself.

If you didn’t watch the series, the chances are that you won’t regret giving this one a miss.

Note: If you visit while the trees still have their leaves, the avenue will look more impressive

The Dark Hedges history: It all started with a seed

the dark hedges ireland
Photo by Arthur Ward

In 1775, a man named James Stuart constructed a stunning Georgian estate around two and a half miles north of the village of Stranocum.

He decided to christen the mansion Gracehill House, after his wife Grace Lynd (talk about brownie points).

Although the estate was an impressive spectacle in itself, the family wasn’t happy.

They decided that in order to make the drive up to the mansion more formidable, they needed to do something about the avenue that visitors took to get to Gracehill House.

the dark hedges game of thrones
150 Beech trees line the avenue: Photo via Tourism Ireland

They decided that 150 beech trees would be planted along the avenue.

Over the years these trees grew to enclave the Bregagh Road, creating what we now know as the Dark Hedges.

The Grey Lady

dark hedges grey lady
Photo by John Miskelly via Tourism Ireland

I’ve no shame in admitting that you’d have as much luck getting me up that road after dark as you would a double-decker bus.

Ghost or no ghost!

The fact that the road is supposedly haunted by a Grey Lady makes it even less likely.

According to local legend, after nightfall the Grey Lady glides along the Bregagh Road, drifting between the ancient beech trees and vanishing from sight once she passes the last tree on the avenue.

Some locals believe she’s the ghost of a maid from the nearby house who died under mysterious circumstances many centuries ago.

Dark Hedges Game of Thrones Link

game of thrones dark hedges

If you’re a fan of the insanely successful HBO series Game of Thrones, then you’ll probably recognise the Dark Hedges as The Kings Road.

The avenue features in Season 2, Episode 1: On the King’ s Road.

You might remember when Arya Stark escaped from King’s Landing.

She joined the Night’s Watch in a cart and travelled north on the King’s Road while disguised as a boy.

If you’re a fan of the series, the below map created by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board should help you find more Game of Thrones filming locations in Ireland.

game of thrones map ireland

Getting to the Dark Hedges

You’ll find the Dark Hedges along Bregagh Rd, Ballymoney, Antrim.

If you’re driving, there are coach/car parking and toilet facilities at the Hedges Hotel which is only around a two-minute walk away.

Frequently Asked Questions

We originally published this guide a couple of years back.

Since then, we’ve had 70 or 80 emails from people asking questions about the Dark Hedges.

Here are some of the more frequently asked questions.

Where are the dark hedges

You’ll find the Dark Hedges along Bregagh Road between Armoy and Stranocum in County Antrim. They’re handy to find. Just pop the name into Google Maps.

Do you have to pay to see the dark hedges?

Nope. There’s no cost associated with visiting the Dark Hedges. If you’re driving, you can park at a free visitor car park at the Hedges Hotel. It’s a handy 3 to 4-minute walk from the hotel to the hedges.

What episode is the dark hedges in Game of Thrones?

The Dark Hedges is one of the iconic locations used in Game of Thrones. They make an appearance in Season 2, Episode 1: On the King’ s Road in the scene where Arya Stark has escaped from King’s Landing.

How old are the dark hedges?

The Dark Hedges were planted over 250 years ago after James Stuart, who recently constructed a Georgian estate nearby, had 150 beech trees planted to make the entrance to his home more impressive.

What kind of trees are the dark hedges

The 150 trees that line the road at the Dark Hedges are big beautiful Beech Trees that were planted in and around the year 1775.

Why is it called the Dark Hedges?

So, I’ve spent the past 25 minutes trying to find out why they’re called the Dark Hedges. I’ve gotten lost down several wormholes – and I’m no closer to an answer. If you know, please pop a comment in the comments section below.

And that’s a wrap. Have you visited the hedges? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

1 COMMENT

  1. Thought that myself keith, went see them to see what all the hype was about, defo not like in the pictures,gray lady!, blue lady! , blue nun!, grew up listening to all the tails about up around there and ballycastle, now i did see a banshee or 2 ? lol, wasn’t a laughing matter at the time if you know what it means to see one, maybe just coincidence but seeing to and why is the strange thing,tell you some other time about it?.
    P. S.
    ive never watched GOT either?

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