Northern Ireland news

Dark Hedges trees felled by Storm Gertrude

 Several trees which make up the famous Dark Hedges in Co Antrim have come down as Storm Gertrude battered the north.
David Young, PA

SEVERAL trees which make up the famous Dark Hedges in Co Antrim have come down as Storm Gertrude battered the north.

The beech trees were planted in the 18th century by a local family, the Stuarts, with the intent of creating a grand entrance to their nearby Georgian mansion, Gracehill House.

Already one of the most photographed natural landmarks on the island of Ireland, the tourist attraction recently achieved global prominence after it appeared on the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.

Photographer Bob McCallion told The Irish News in August that the growing popularity of the distinctive beech tree avenue had become a threat to its very existence.

Mr McCallion said the single track road leading to the Dark Hedges is not suitable for the large volume of traffic, including coaches, that are drawn to the rural location and he believes "sooner or later someone will be seriously injured or killed".

"As well as making the Dark Hedges virtually impossible to photograph on a busy day without cars in the foreground, it is also damaging the road verges and the even the roots of these centuries-old trees," Mr McCallion said.

"You would think someone would have realised the tourism potential of the area and set the wheels in motion for proper facilities like car parking, toilets and crowd control with the appropriate funding?"

The Dark Hedges and other locations featured in the series have seen visitor numbers surge due to the growing popularity of Game Of Thrones tourist tours.

The road is likely to be closed to traffic for the remainder of Friday as Northern Ireland's Roads Service works to remove three fallen trees.

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