The Dark Hedges – All You Need to Know! – Northern Ireland

A 250 year-old road made world famous by Game of Thrones

Just a 15 minute drive out of Ballycastle on the Causeway Coast, The Dark Hedges shot to fame when they were chosen as a location for the Game of Thrones’ King’s Road. Even though their appearance in Game Of Thrones is a momentary one, County Antrim’s Dark Hedges have captured the imagination of Game of Thrones fans worldwide.

The Dark Hedges

You will have no doubt seen some of the many stunning photographs that catch the trees in a mysterious light, or in the mist, or in the snow, or a storm and so on. It is important therefore to manage expectations so that if you are visiting on a sunny day your experience might be a little different. Having said that, even without the filters and zoom lenses, the Dark Hedges are still quite magical!

These stunning beech trees were planted to line the entrance drive, now the Bregagh Road, to Gracehill House which was built around 1775, about 250 years ago. Over the years, the branches grew over the road and became intertwined, creating a magical tunnel that is quite atmospheric, whatever the weather or time of day

Preservation of the Dark Hedges

Although the trees became world famous with their appearance in Game of Thrones in 2012, they have been long recognised as being of importance and in 2004 a Tree Preservation Order was placed on The Dark Hedges. After that, in 2009, The Dark Hedges Preservation Trust was set up to preserve and enhance these ancient trees which turned out to be a fortunate move as nobody could have imagined what was to come!

The Dark Hedges Game of Thrones Signboard
The Dark Hedges Game of Thrones Signboard shows the scenes from the series

As these trees are now old age pensioners, of the original 150 trees fewer than 90 remain, and those remaining are considered ‘past maturity’ with branch breakages common. In October 2017, in the interest of public health and safety and the preservation of the trees, the Dark Hedges section of the Bregagh Road was closed to all vehicular traffic. This is good for the trees, but also good for everyone’s enjoyment of the Dark Hedges as now you can walk the road in relative peace and quiet.

Gracehill House today

Gracehill House is an elegant house and still stands today. It was built by a man named James Stuart and named for his wife, Grace. The estate itself is said to have originally been a gift from King James (Stuart) I of England, VI of Scotland, to a cousin. Over the years the estate came under different ownership and until recently the house served as the club house for Gracehill Golf Club. The Hedges Hotel, where you are advised to park, and the Bell Tower Restaurant were also part of the original estate, however it seems that currently all properties are ‘temporarily closed’ although you can still park at The Hedges Hotel.

The Dark Hedges
Taking a walk and taking in the magic

Getting there and parking

Many coach tours include a quick trip to The Dark Hedges in their itinerary which, to be honest, is all you need. This means that if you are driving independently, it might not be worth a long journey out of your way. However, if you are travelling the Causeway Coast then it is a minor detour worth taking!

Our tips:

  • Dark Hedges
    To get exclusive enjoyment of the Dark Hedges you will definitely need to come off season, mid week and early or late in the day – but then you’ll probably be fighting for space with other mood photographers!

    Parking is free and advisable at The Hedges Hotel  (139A Ballinlea Road, Stranocum, Ballymoney BT53 8PX).

  • When driving there remember that you cannot drive down the Dark Hedges section of the Bregagh Road so your SatNav will get it wrong. For this reason, follow the brown tourist signs from the A44 Armoy Road directing you to The Dark Hedges as these will guide you to  the carpark side of the Bregagh Road/Dark Hedges.
  • From the carpark it is just a two minute walk to the north end of the Dark Hedges. The Dark Hedges section itself is about 0.6 miles / 1km long.
  • The best time to visit? If you want arty photos then of course visit early or late in the day when the light might be more moody. If you want exclusive access to the Dark Hedges then time your visit in the off season months, a weekday or early or late in the day. Another tip is to be patient as most people come for just a short time and then they are off again. However, you can still enjoy the experience with other folk around and in fact one of the most charming things I noticed was a lady, presumably a local resident, walking her little dog. What an amazing place to come for your daily walk!
  • You can also get to The Dark Hedges on public transport using the 178 bus that runs between Ballycastle and Coleraine, alighting at Clintyfinnan from where it is a 1 mile/20 minute walk to the  southern end of The Dark Hedges. Learn more – Translink journey planner
The Dark Hedges - a professional shot
The Dark Hedges – a professional mood shot

Other Game of Thrones filming locations and attractions

Authors: Katie McGregor, David Donnelly


Advertisement - Search flights for best prices

Inspiration, Tips, What's On, New Articles

Simply unsubscribe when our info is no longer useful