The Coolest Garden Destinations From Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is a force unto itself. Much has been written on the way HBO’s oft controversial show has transformed the landscape not only for fantasy (by proving it can be a genre with mainstream appeal) but for television at large. With its lavish, high-budget sets, Game of Thrones, like Lord of the Rings before it, has inspired a whole new generation of nature-based tourism. In honor of the premiere on April 24th, we’ve compiled our favorite gardens and outdoor spaces featured on Game of Thrones thus far, as we look forward to being amazed by all that the new season has in store.
Tollymore Forest Park, Beyond The Wall & The Wolfswood
In the opening scene of Game of Thrones, a group of brothers from the Night’s Watch is murdered by White Walkers while scouting beyond the Wall, setting the dark, often gruesome tone of the fantasy series. The eerie horror is a far cry from the scene’s cheerfully named location in Tollymore Forest Park, situated in Northern Ireland. Later in the episode, the Stark children discover a dead direwolf and her six, still living pups in the Wolfswood (also filmed in Tollymore Forest Park). In addition to its association with Game of Thrones, Tollymore is known for its “garden follies” and as the source of oak used for the interiors of the Titanic.
Dark Hedges, The King’s Road
In the first episode of season two (“The North Remembers”), we watch as Arya Stark is carried away from King’s Landing towards the Wall. Disguised as a recruit for Night’s Watch, she hopes to eventually reunite with Jon Snow. But with the craggy branches along the King’s Road looming overhead, viewers realize such a happy resolution will never pan out. The real life location for this particularly solemn stretch of the King’s Road is aptly named Dark Hedges and is located in Northern Ireland. The trees were originally planted in the 18th century to line the entrance of Gracehill House, a Georgian mansion turned golf and event space.
Lokrum Island, Qarth
Just off the coast of Dubrovnik in Croatia is Lokrum Island, a forested refuge of holm oaks, black ash, pines, and olive trees. On Game of Thrones, the island stands in for parts of the sinister city of Qarth throughout the second season. Lokrum’s mystic, legendary Benedictine monastery appears in Season 2, Episode 5 (“The Ghost of Harrenhal”) as the gardens of Xaro Xhoan Daxos. The island is also home to a botanical garden and free roaming peacocks, whose showy opulence is in keeping with Qarth’s.
Trsteno Arboretum, The Gardens At King’s Landing
The Trsteno Arboretum, located in Croatia along the coast of Adriatic sea, is featured in a number of episodes as the gardens of King’s Landing, a favorite spot for plotting and secrets. In Episode 2, Season 3 (“Dark Wings, Dark Words”), Sansa reveals to Lady Olenna and Margaery the depths of Joffrey’s malice and cruelty. Varys, Master of Whispers, also takes advantage of the gardens, conspiring with Lady Olenna against Little Finger in Episode 4, Season 3 (“And Now His Watch Has Ended”). The arboretum itself has probably seen a great many secrets in its time– while its exact age is unknown, the arboretum has been around since at least 1492.
Gradac Park, The Purple Wedding
Located in Dubrovnik, Croatia (the setting for a number of other King’s Landing scenes, including Cersei’s walk of shame), Gradac Park is the venue for Season 4, Episode 2’s gratifying Purple Wedding. On the show, the space is filled to the brim with illustrious performers, influential guests, and plenty of wine to honor Joffrey Lannister and Margaery Tyrell’s marriage– though the union is most memorable for its brevity.
Fortress of Klis, Meereen
The real-life Fortress of Klis is the venue for Daenerys’s epic victory in Meereen during the closing scene of Episode 4, Season 3 (“Breaker of Chains”). In the next episode, “Oathkeeper,” the medieval fortress becomes a site of divisive morals, as Daenerys exacts her punishment on the Great Masters by crucifying them along the fortress’s defenses. The real life location, situated in the vast countryside near Split, Croatia, dates back to the 7th century and is now overgrown with plants.
Thingvellir National Park, The Bloody Gate & The Riverlands
A site of historic importance to Iceland, Thingvellir National Park is also the location for one of the most agonizing moments in season four. In the eighth episode (“The Mountain and the Viper”), Arya and the Hound arrive at the guarded entrance to the Vale of Arryn seeking Arya’s only presumed living family, Lady Arryn. The two discover, however, she has died three days earlier. Arya and the Hound leave again, unaware that Sansa is living in the Vale’s castle on the other side of the gate. The two sisters have been separated since before their father’s death in first season; each assumes the other is dead. After leaving, the Hound and Arya make their way across the Riverlands, much of which was also filmed in Thingvellir.
Villa Sheherezade, Illyrio’s Mansion
Villa Sheherezade is a private seafront palace located in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and on Game of Thrones stands in for the lavish home of merchant-prince and devoted Targaryen supporter Illyrio Mopatis. In Season 5’s premiere (“The Wars To Come”), Varys and Tyrion Lannister discuss the future of the Seven Kingdoms on the villa’s balcony overlooking the Adriatic Sea (on the show, the Narrow Sea), as the plots of Westeros and Essos become more and more entwined, and new alliances form.
Alcázar de Sevilla, Water Palaces of Dorne
In the fifth season, viewers are finally introduced to Dorne, the southern most lands of Westeros and the most independent of the Seven Kingdoms. Prince Doran Martell, bound to a wheelchair by gout, spends most of his day looking out onto his beloved water gardens, taking in their beauty and observing the pleasure of those who enjoy it. As the setting for the Martells’ private home and seat of power, Alcázar de Sevilla provides a lavish backdrop, ideal for all the family drama, ill-fated love, and vengeful conspiring that unfolds there.
St. Dominic Monastery, Garden At The Red Keep
The garden at St. Dominic Monastery in Rabat, Malta is the setting for Cersei Lannister and Eddard Stark’s iconic confrontation in Episode 7, Season 1. Cersei famously drops the title of the show when she cooly reminds Eddard, “In the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” The scene marks the beginning of Eddard’s fall from grace, which culminates in his public execution a few episodes later at the hand of Joffrey– the first death of a major character, but (as has become the Game of Thrones signature) certainly not the last.