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Winterfell ...by bike!

Posted on July 27, 2015 @ 4:21 PM in Mountainbiking

With Game of Thrones fans literally traveling from all four corners of the globe to visit Northern Ireland's iconic 'Westeros' locations, we thought it was about time we sent our very own Game of Thrones fanatic, Sarah Nelson (OutdoorNI.com) to follow in the footsteps of Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage and Alfie Allen to check out the Castle Ward Trails on the shores of Strangford Lough - the place where 'Winterfell' was first brought to life! 

Castle Ward Trails

On the main drive into the National Trust's Castle Ward Demesne, it didn’t take me long to see why this stunning 820 acre site was chosen as the setting for HBO's multi award-winning TV phenomenon. With wide open fields dotted with ancient buildings and the remains of a medieval castle on the horizon it doesn’t take much imagination to transport you into a mystical world of myth and adventure.

Much to my amazement, I was thrown right back into Season One just from picking up my bike hire! Clearsky Adventure Centre is located in the actual courtyard where young Bran Stark was first trained by Jon Snow under the watchful eye of his father and Clearsky's own resident archer, Eddie Hawkins, was on hand to re-enact this famous scene for me! 

Clearsky Adventure Centre Archery

Before I set off, I couldn't pass up on the opportunity to unleash my own dark side and don the 'Hounds Helm' headpiece ...any casting directors reading? Who am I kidding, you couldn't afford me!

Hounds Helm

Conscious that the boys from MountainBikeNI.com had sent me to check out the Castle Ward Trails and I still hadn't actually left the courtyard, I mounted my trusty steed for the afternoon (VITUS Bikes) and set off in search of some more iconic Game of Thrones filming locations.

Clearsky Bike Hire

Following the Castle Trail, I rounded Castle Ward's most northerly headland overlooking the picturesque Strangford Lough which Game of Thrones makers turned into the impressive 'Twins’ over the River Trident. Check out the video below to see this incredible transformation in action! 

As we passed under Audley's Castle (home to Walder Frey's late raven), I continued onto the Boundary Trail which leads past the site of Lannister Camp before reaching Castle Ward's Mallard Plantation. Back to reality, this is a great section of fast singletrack and was probably my favourite part of the trail centre - certainly worth the long steady grind of a climb to get there! 

However with dusk descending I realised that, as much as I enjoyed visiting Winterfell, I didn't fancy spending the night on Baelor Battlefield so I followed Downpatrick Avenue safely back to the trailhead.  

All together I worked out that I rode just under 6km of the Castle Ward Trails and clocked at least eight Game of Thrones set locations. That's one Game of Thrones scene every 0.75km!! Now how many other mountain bike trail centres can claim that?!

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

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