If you’re visiting Ireland you might be asking yourself whether or not the Dark Hedges made famous by Game of Thrones are worth seeing.
This is a valid question and one I was debating when planning out my Ireland itinerary.
Even though I’m a Game of Thrones fan I wasn’t planning any of my stops around sets from the hit show and to be frank I’ve heard that most of them end up rather underwhelming.
A lot of what makes it into the final product on television includes heavy editing and computer generated images so what you see in person doesn’t end up meeting those lofty expectations.
I ended up including the Dark Hedges in my Ireland road trip itinerary but figured I could cut it out if I ended up behind schedule or uninterested when the time came. To be frank, I probably would have cut this stop out of my trip until I realized it was perfectly en route to another stop that was a higher priority.
In this post I’m going to discuss everything you should know before planning a visit to the Dark Hedges and help you determine whether or not this is worth the time and effort during your Ireland trip.
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Where the Dark Hedges located?
The Dark Hedges are located in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, near the small village of Armoy. They can be found along Bregagh Road, which is approximately 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the town of Ballymoney and about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the city of Belfast.
The surrounding area is fairly undeveloped so don’t count on having much cellular service while navigating to and from this point of interest.
During my travels through Northern Ireland I made a quick pit stop at The Dark Hedges while on my way to the National Trust sites of Carrick-a-Rede and the Giant’s Causeway. This is a great way to incorporate this stop into your travels without having to carve out a meaningful amount of time.
I stayed in the nearby town of Portstewart at the Cul Erg House & Kitchen during my trip. I really enjoyed my stay at this charming bed and breakfast which is located adjacent to the town’s beautiful seaside promenade.
Although there are other smaller towns situated closer to the Dark Hedges, there isn’t much to do or see until you get north along the coast. If you can’t find anything you like in Portstewart, consider checking out hotel options in Portrush.
Why are the Dark Hedges famous?
The Dark Hedges are famous for their eerie, shadowy beauty and their appearance in the popular HBO series, Game of Thrones. The stunning avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century to impress visitors as they approached their Georgian mansion, The Gracehill House.
Over time, the trees have grown and intertwined to create a natural tunnel-like canopy, making the Dark Hedges a popular destination for photographers, GOT fans and tourists alike.
What was the Dark Hedges in Game of Thrones?
In Game of Thrones the Dark Hedges were used as the filming location for the Kingsroad, specifically in Season 2, Episode 1: “The North Remembers.” The iconic scene features Arya Stark, disguised as a boy, escaping the city of King’s Landing and traveling north with a group of Night’s Watch recruits.
What to expect when visiting the Dark Hedges?
Many of Ireland’s best natural and cultural landmarks involve exploring rugged coastal areas or ancient castles, so I was intrigued that something like the Dark Hedges had made it onto my radar.
Despite this, I wasn’t completely sold on carving time out of my trip to visit what was essentially just two rows of trees that happened to be used as a set during filming for Game of Thrones.
I waffled back and forth on whether or not I’d cut this stop from my itinerary altogether so that I could spend more time along the nearby Causeway Coastal Route. However, when I realized the hedges were almost perfectly along the GPS route my phone spit out for me as I traveled north of Belfast I decided I’d make the stop.
Coming from the south you’ll find a small car park on the southern end of Bregagh Road. I visited during midday on a beautiful June Saturday and didn’t have any issues grabbing a parking space.
Tour companies and most visitors will park on the northern end near The Hedges Hotel. There were noticeably fewer visitors arriving on the southern end, which was quite nice as the hoards of people seemed to be a bit more concentrated on the opposite end from where I was enjoying the hedges.
Once you park on either end, there isn’t much to do here except walk amongst the centuries old beech trees that line the road. It’s a beautiful area to take in, but even if you walk the entire road and take some photos you probably won’t need more than 30 minutes for this stop.
I had a difficult time taking many photos without tons of people wandering aimlessly through the frame so I mostly gave up on that endeavor. If you’re hoping to get some cool photos of the area I would imagine visiting in the early morning or late evening during sunset would help as the tour companies should be absent during these windows.
Is visiting the Dark Hedges worth it?
After visiting the Dark Hedges myself I wouldn’t consider this a must see stop. Of all the points of interest I managed to see during my travels across Ireland, this one ranks pretty low on the list.
However, if you’re traveling to the Causeway Coastal route to check out some of the other, more impressive sites that Northern Ireland has to offer, a quick pit stop here can be justified.
If you’re an avid Game of Thrones fan interested in seeing sets used in the show, or a photographer committed to getting an epic dark and moody shot of the hedges then this stop might rank higher on your list.
On that note, I’d like to bring up one of the MOST worthwhile destinations I encountered during my travels across the island. If you’ve never heard of the Slieve League Cliffs make sure to read the post I published on that area.
Is there cell phone service at the Dark Hedges?
When I visited, cell phone service at the Dark Hedges was limited due to its rural location. I had just enough service to make my GPS navigation work, although barely. Make sure you download maps, directions or anything else you might need before heading off to this area.
Is it free to visit the Dark Hedges?
Yes, it is free to visit the Dark Hedges. There is no entrance fee to access the tree-lined avenue on Bregagh Road. Most of the parking capacity is on the northern end of the hedges. However, there is a small car park situated on the southern end which is where I parked during my visit.
How long does it take to visit the Dark Hedges?
Most visitors coming to the Dark Hedges will only need 30 minutes or so to enjoy the walking path and take some photographs.
There isn’t much to do or see in this area other than this, so unless you’re a photographer committed to getting certain images of the hedges you probably won’t need to budget more time than this.
Are there bathrooms at the Dark Hedges?
There are no public bathrooms directly at the Dark Hedges. It is recommended that you use facilities at the Hedges Hotel before or after enjoying the hedges.
Is there a guided tour option for visiting the Dark Hedges?
Yes, there are guided tour options for visiting the Dark Hedges. Several tour companies offer organized trips to the hedges, often as part of a larger tour of Game of Thrones filming locations or other attractions in Northern Ireland.
These tours typically include transportation and a knowledgeable guide who can provide information about the history and information regarding the site.
What is the best time of year to visit the Dark Hedges?
Spring and summer offer warmer weather and more daylight hours, making it a popular time to visit Ireland broadly speaking. However, autumn brings beautiful fall colors to the beech trees and area surrounding the Dark Hedges, creating a stunning backdrop for photography.
While I think this area would be beautiful to photograph in the autumn, I’d still lean towards planning your trip to Ireland around the late spring or summer to have the best chance at favorable weather and less rain.
Visiting Ireland during the summer also means better weather for taking a boat tour to Skellig Michael Island, road tripping the Dingle Peninsula and experiencing some of Ireland’s best beaches like Dog’s Bay Beach.
If you’re still working on planning your trip to Ireland consider brushing up on my guide to planning a trip abroad or top hacks for saving money on airfare! Those posts include some of my favorite tips, trick and strategies for booking travel that goes smoothly without breaking the bank.
What is the best time of day to visit the Dark Hedges?
The best time of day to visit the Dark Hedges is early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight falls through the trees, creating beautiful opportunities for photography. These times also tend to be less crowded, allowing for a more peaceful experience and better opportunities for taking photos.
During my journey through Northern Ireland I visited this area during midday since I was headed to the higher priority area of Carrick-a-Rede which resides along the Causeway Coastal Route.
I would’ve loved to photograph the beech trees at sunset, but I had already set my sights on hitting the Giant’s Causeway for sunset during my trip.
Check out these activities available in the area
Looking for more ways to fill out your trip itinerary? Be sure to check out the list of activities below from GetYourGuide.
Do I need a reservation to visit the Dark Hedges?
No, you do not need a reservation to visit the Dark Hedges. However, if you plan to join a guided Dark Hedges tour, you may need to book your reservation in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
I didn’t have any issues rolling up midday and grabbing a parking space along the southern entrance to the hedges.
Hopefully this post helps you make an informed decision on whether or not visiting the Dark Hedges featured in Game of Thrones are worth your time!