The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland: Kings’ Road in Game of Thrones
The Dark Hedges is one of the most famous attractions in Northern Ireland: a long country road surrounded by intertwined trees forming one of the most evocative walks, attracting visitors from all over the world. A few years back, Dark Hedges was a place known only by a few people; today it has become an unmissable place among those who decide to visit Ireland and/or Northern Ireland. In this article you will find all the information you need to plan a visit to Dark Hedges, including places to stop and eat and sleep to fully enjoy the whole area.
Where is The Dark Hedges
Dark Hedges is located in the middle of the Northern Irish countryside and because it is a normal road in transit, it is not marked as Dark Hedges but with its real name. It is called Bregagh Road and is located between Armoy and Stranocum. The GPS recognizes it as Dark Hedges, so if you wanna use the most common name you won’t have any problem.
The legend of The Dark Hedges
The avenue of beech trees dates back to the time of the Stuart family who decided to plant a series of trees in such a way as to impress all the guests who were reaching their noble residence, the Gracehill House. Like all the most fascinating areas of the world, a legend has also been formed over the years. It is said that the spectrum of Lady Grey is wandering in the trees during the night and during the days of grayness and haze, crossing all the way and then disappearing behind the last tree. According to some it is the ghost of a maid of the estate that died centuries ago, while according to others it is the spirit of a deceased buried in an abandoned and unobtainable cemetery, located in one of the fields near the road. Whatever the legend you choose to follow, apparently on Halloween night Lady Grey is part of the host of tormented souls who choose Dark Hedges as a place to walk.
Dark Hedges in Game of Thrones
The Dark Hedges took on worldwide fame after appearing in the first episode of the second season of the Game of Thrones, as a backdrop to the passage of Arya Stark disguised as a boy who runs through it with Yoren, Gendry and Hot Pie while escaping from King’s Landing.
In the scene of the television series, the road is perfectly recognizable, despite some adjustments in the post-production phase. The popularity gained by the road thanks to Game of Thrones has made Dark Hedges so crowded as to generate problems for residents and those who must cross the road every day to go to work or just live (this article by the Telegraph explains everything).
In fact, until a while ago, the whole street was full of tourist buses, cars and vehicles of any kind which, disregarding the rules of good manners, disfigured the landscape, putting the beauty of the place at serious risk. To overcome these problems, two spaces have been set up for parking cars and vehicles, at the beginning and at the end of the road, which allow tourists to park and get off on foot. This did not avoid environmental disfigurements of various kinds (trees engraved with phrases dedicated to GOT, phrases of love and so on) and the need for residents and owners of the lands facing Dark Hedges to place bans visible to those who go beyond the limits. Prohibitions that today, if overtaken, trigger high fines.
The Dark Hedges: reality vs fiction
Following its immense popularity, Dark Hedges is now a place that despite being extremely fascinating can also be quite disappointing. Hordes of people flock to a picture (not counting all those who participate in tours dedicated to Game of Thrones, dressed as the characters of GOT taking the road to get a souvenir image lazy photo John Snow style), there is almost always people and due of a strong hurricane (Storm Doris) some of the trees have been plucked leaving large patches. This causes a huge discrepancy between reality and fiction: a professional eye and a lot of patience are necessary to take a picture as it should be. The right time may never come between light and too many people, but an expert and some wait can definitely help. This is the image lazy photo that Giuseppe took on our last trip to Dark Hedges and that did cost several hours of waiting and many shots to throw:
Dark Hedges in 2010: more imposing and intertwined trees and no traffic, not only for photographic purposes (Photo courtesy of Tourism Ireland)
When to visit The Dark Hedges
Depending on your needs and itinerary, I recommend planning a visit to Dark Hedges in two moments of the day: in the morning at dawn or in the afternoon at sunset. Dawn, when the light begins to arrive and from the fields can rise the fog, it is probably the best time to see Dark Hedges with few / zero people, sharing the landscape only with some adventurous photographer and taking some really unique photos like this, taken by Giuseppe some time ago:
At sunset, the light begins to fall and may not penetrate between the trees. In addition, the tourist buses often make stops in the area at sunset, thus making every hope of enjoying Dark Hedges vain with the calm it deserves. Try to avoid the central hours of the day, from 11 am to 14 pm, because it is the time of greatest overcrowding, especially in high season.
Where to stay near The Dark Hedges
In the immediate vicinity of Dark Hedges there is only one hotel that is easily recognizable by the name written on the roof, but a few minutes by road there are several facilities. Between these:
The Dark Hedges Hotel: the closest hotel to the tree-lined path, with a good number of rooms and a bar. Perfect for those who want to enjoy the area without running. Click to see the hotel and book.
Dark Hedges Cottages: perfect for those who want to stay close to the road and at the same time have flexibility in terms of organization. Click to see the hotel and book.
The Fullerton Arms: a few minutes drive away from Dark Hedges, the perfect place to rest and enjoy good food. Inside, one of the doors dedicated to the Iron Throne made of Dark Hedges wood after the fall of the trees. Click to see the hotel and book.
Bayview Hotel: the perfect solution to get around the Causeway Coast and see everything, including Dark Hedges. Click to see the hotel and book.
Where to eat near The Dark Hedges
The area around The Dark Hedges is not so full of restaurants and places to eat as you might think, and many of those located in this area have special times. Among those that I recommend you write down, even if in some cases require a few minutes by car, there are:
- Bushmills Inn in Bushmill
- Harry’s Shack at Portstewart
- Ramore Restaurant in Portrush
- Red Door Tea Rooms in Ballintoy
- Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy (where one of the doors of Game of Thrones is also located)
- Mary McBride’s in Cushendun (where one of the doors of Game of Thrones is also located)
What to see near the tree-lined path
The Dark Hedges is usually part of a larger tour of Northern Ireland that includes, among other things:
The Giant’s Causeway: discover more by clicking here;
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge;
Dark Hedges’ tours from Dublin
It is not unusual to find groups of tourists who decide to treat themselves to a walk to The Dark Hedges during their stay in Dublin. Tours usually start very early in the morning and include several stops in Northern Ireland, all perfectly planned to allow visitors to get a taste of the beauty of this part of the country.
If you’re read this guide, you’re now ready for your trip to The Dark Hedges. If you’re looking for more information for your trip to Ireland, read
We know how to give you these tips on Ireland, as real experts of the place, and of which we write often (more here) because we have moved to Dublin for a long time and we work in the tourism industry, helping tourists who want to organize a trip to Ireland. So, ours are not guides on Ireland based on a holiday but based on knowledge and experience. If you need more information please contact us by email and we will be happy to answer your questions and help you if you want to come to Ireland and are looking for personalized tours, travel ideas or just tips. You can also find us on social media: on Instagram (Veru and Giuseppe), Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Check also: How to travel to Northern Ireland after Brexit
[All pics are copyright by Giuseppe Milo]