Welcome to Westeros, the Kingdom of the North… If you’re a Game of Thrones’ fan, you will probably know that many of the filming locations for the Northern Territories of the series are in Northern Ireland. Tollymore Forest is one of their ongoing set and it’s stunningly true to what you can see on screen. Tollymore forest Park was the first state forest park in Northern Ireland, established on 2 June 1955. It is located at Bryansford, near the town of Newcastle in the Mourne and Slieve Croob Area – about 1 hour drive from Belfast. It covers an area of 630 hectares at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. The Shimna River flows through the park and it is crossed by 16 bridges, the earliest dating to 1726. The name Tollymore (Tulaigh Mhór) is derived from “large hill or mound”, referring to the two hills located within the forest. Their official names have been recorded as Slieve Neir (possibly from Sliabh an Aoire, meaning “the mountain of the shepherd”) and Slieve Snaran (from either snarvan, meaning to creep, or snarban, meaning a cataract). The forest has also been used as a filming location for the film Dracula Untold.

Today, Jeff and I went there for a visit and we were not disappointed. The forest has four walking trails, signposted by different coloured arrows. The longest is the “long haul trail” at 8 miles (13 km) long. We chose the “river walk” (red trail), about 6.5 km long. The forest has some suggestive landmarks, such as its gates, scenic stone steps crossing the river in different points, and its bridges. We were lucky enough to see the forest in all the colours of Autumn. The environment is peaceful and relaxing… The trees absorb all the sounds and therefore we were surprised to see people apparently coming out of thin air. This blissful silence is only broken when you get close to the filming set: the voices of the actors and the noise of their battles can easily be heard from a distance.

Our walk lasted about three hours and we enjoyed every bit of it.

Of all the parks and forests we have visited so far, Tollymore Forest Park wins them all. This is a must – Game of Thrones addicted or not.

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