Game of Thrones Studio Tour Review: A Fascinating Treat for Fans of All Ages – Sarah Scott


Just over a decade ago a show aired that would forever change the face of television and the public image of Northern Ireland.

Game of Thrones was a global phenomenon, a juggernaut that rocketed its stars to stratospheric fame and the world found itself looking at our little country in a new light.

Back in 2010, it’s safe to say the screen industry here was still in its infancy, but HBO’s decision to base the majority of filming for its latest show in Northern Ireland was key to transforming the sector. in what we see today.

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Spotting some of the world’s biggest stars shooting their latest projects on the streets of Belfast is now commonplace with the likes of Kevin Hart, Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman making Northern Ireland their home of late.

The story of how we became the rising star of filming locations is intrinsically linked to Game of Thrones and its unprecedented success.

The cameras may have stopped rolling on the biggest TV show in the world, but the buzz surrounding Game of Thrones is set to go on and on as fans continue to devour every detail and new enthusiasts are born, especially with the imminent release of the prequel, House of the Dragon.

And there’s no better place to appreciate and experience the real magic behind the show than one of the filming locations that just got turned into the Game of Thrones Studio Tour.

Linen Mill Studios, outside Banbridge, was one of the show’s original filming locations and is now a fan’s paradise with everything from costumes and props to actual set parts telling the story of the way the series came to life.

My husband and I have been fans of the show since the beginning. He started looking at it first and tried to get me on board. I was skeptical at first, I didn’t think a fantasy series would be my thing – but from the first episode, I was hooked.

So when the opportunity arose to explore what the series left behind in Northern Ireland, I jumped at the chance.

Best of all, the tour is family friendly, so we went with our young son to take him behind the scenes and show him how a TV show comes to life. An excellent training experience given the opportunities available to us within the industry.

He was just very excited to see dragons and knights with swords – it was a win for everyone.

The setup is as slick as you’d imagine for something that’s been endorsed by HBO.

The tour begins with a green screen photo op, always a big hit in the age of social media, before being ushered into a room that projects an introductory video for the tour.

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Clips of the show flash past you as cast member Nathalie Emmanuel recounts the show’s success before the secret entrance is revealed.

This section is quite noisy, but staff are on hand with earmuffs for toddlers or anyone with sensory needs who might find this too much.

This is a self-guided tour, so you are free to explore and go through each section at your own pace. The amount of things to see is amazing. Thinking back, I already want to come back because I know there are pieces I missed or overlooked.

Every part has been well thought out, even the temperature changes as you go through the tour that starts in the north and ends in the south of Westeros.

The staff on site are very helpful and clearly big fans of the show who are keen to talk about their favorite parts of the tour, with many having even performed as extras and ready to open up about the secrets they shone during the filming.

I’ve been to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford before, but there’s something more intimate and special about what’s on offer with the Game of Thrones version.

One of the sets that fans will recognize
One of the sets that fans will recognize

There’s a real pride you can feel from those who work here, a passion to share their love of performing and a joy in seeing how it’s transformed the screen industry here and put us on the map. You just can’t beat that spark that people have here and it really makes the experience what it is.

As you go through the tour there are many interactive activities which our son loved. From creating your own house crest to battling the White Walkers with a bow and arrow and putting your face in the Hall of Faces.

Take advantage of interactive elements
Take advantage of interactive elements

The TV show itself may not be suitable for the whole family, but the tour brings out the best elements of the show for everyone, which means kids can enjoy it.

One of the surprising aspects of the visit was the good food offered in the restaurant. Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss on-site dining at popular attractions, as some are certainly less than impressive.

Hot and fried wings
Hot and fried wings

But the Game of Thrones Studio Tour restaurant is on another level. The space itself is very modern with a nice bar for those in the mood for a drink, and the menu is not what you’d expect with food with a little twist.

I opted for the hot and spicy wings with chips, while my partner opted for the fish and chips and our son the fish fingers and chips. Now he’s a hard to impress customer, so when he sat down and happily ate his meal, we were over the moon.

Waiting for his dinner
Waiting for his dinner

The meal was delicious and a special shout out for the fries as they were my idea of ​​heaven on a plate, just perfect. Again the staff were super friendly and helpful and made sure our son had a high chair and anything else to make our dining experience enjoyable.

They also have a very good offer of family meals, lunch and a soft drink for two adults and two children for £38.

Refueled and ready to go, we set off again to explore the rest of the tour.

For me the highlights were the interactive experiences, watching my son giggle or watching his mouth open as he approached the heads of giant dragons and knights.

More interactive elements
More interactive elements

The number of people it takes to bring a show like Game of Thrones to life is mind-boggling, the amount of detail that has gone into every costume, every weapon, and the various sets. You get a real understanding of this on the tour.

The legacy the show leaves in Northern Ireland is one we should be hugely grateful for, not just for what it has done for the screen industry, but also for tourism.

It changed the game.

It has previously been reported to have brought in £251m to the economy since production began in 2010. Other figures suggest that 350,000 people come to Northern Ireland each year just for Game of Thrones, i.e. one in six leisure visitors.

Part of the exhibition
Part of the exhibition

So Game of Thrones may be over, but it lives within the walls of the studio tour and it’s something we should all appreciate, even if you haven’t watched the show.

It gave us the opportunity to change the conversation around Northern Ireland, change the headlines and build on something new.

So be sure to take some time and bring the family to marvel at the role our country has played in creating one of the greatest shows in the world.

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