Why I’m ready to bend the knee for The Game of Thrones Studio Tour

A world of pure imagination awaits all who visit this already iconic exhibition at The Linen Mill Studios

LOSE YOUR HEAD: Visitors who have never even seen the series, will no doubt marvel at the magnificence of The Red Keep
LOSE YOUR HEAD: Visitors who have never even seen the series, will no doubt marvel at the magnificence of The Red Keep

Just over a year ago, The Game of Thrones Studio Tour threw its hat into a melee of new attractions on these shores. Few however can hold a torch to this one’s authenticity: don’t forget that the Linen Mill Studios, just off the A1 outside Banbridge, was a key filming location for this global phenomenon. And following a long overdue visit, I can say I’m ready to swear fealty and allegiance to a world class interactive experience that roars louder than a Lannister. 

It’s been around for over 12 years now. But every time I hear the opening theme music of Game of Thrones, my mind still wanders to Westeros. Back in the real world, I’ll settle for bingeing on all eight seasons wrapped up in my weathered Dunnes Stores hooded robe on the couch merely imagining I’m somewhere close to north of the Wall. 

Unless of course you have actually been living north of the Wall, you will know that in 2011, Game of Thrones burst onto our screens like a juggernaut for fans of fiction and fantasy stretching out to all four corners of the earth. Fact is, there’s never been anything quite like it. And whether anything can capture even so much a fragment of its magic in the future, remains to be seen. Contenders now know that GOT set the bar high, very high. It has cemented its place in the annals of televisual history, and there it’s guaranteed to stay.

Adapted from George R.R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels, Game of Thrones still has the power to stir the soul. But asides from prequels, perpetual daydreamers and admirers of the series still crave a taste of that excitement. And I’m happy to report that you don’t have far to go to find it.

Rather, The Game of Thrones Studio Tour is tantalisingly close to the A1. Day trippers can simply park up at The Boulevard and sit back and relax before a shuttle bus transports them to this whole new realm of imagination in beautiful countryside outside Banbridge. There’s also coach transfer packages from Belfast and Dublin.

It’s easy to give all the credit to actors for making a TV series successful. And I’m not taking away from their input. But the Game of Thrones Studio Tour is a revelation in that it’s a true celebration of everyone and everything that made this show what it is. From artists to engineers and directors to costume designers, this exhibition pays tribute to them all making their creative genius tangible to the masses. 

For me, and my sister who has never actually watched the show but now enthuses she will, stepping into the cold world north of the Wall on an unexpectedly warm May Saturday, was a welcome relief. After a ground shaking big screen presentation, ticket holders will step through into a world of pure imagination looked on by menacing white walkers and wildlings. All the fan favourites, including of course the Night King, make an appearance in their full regalia. And Wun Wun the giant is sure to frighten and enthral in equal measure – a particular favourite with the younger visitors that walked in front of us. 

I must confess that I’m not normally a fan of “behind the scenes” detail of my favourite shows. I love the Planet Earth series. But when that last ten minutes or so comes on about how the programme was actually made, I change the channel.

However Game of Thrones is that fantastical, this extraordinary detail must be seen to be believed and it erupts into stunning life here at the Game of Thrones Studio Tour. Imagine it took five to six hours getting outfitted each day as a soldier in the Army of the Dead.

From the frightful icy cold of Castle Black to the warmth of King’s Landing, speaking only in terms of its climate of course, you’ll experience it all here at the Linen Mill Studios.

Fans of the show will however lose their head, in the metaphorical sense only, at the intricacy of the costumes and props on display at the Game of Thrones Studio Experience. Did you know that Margaery Tyrell’s wedding gown was adorned with roses symbolising beauty but also thorns indicating danger? Apt if you can remember how her wedding day to Joffrey unfolded. 

And you don’t have to be a fan of the show to appreciate this stunning display of creativity. The Studio Experience has something for everyone and even the most ardent “I’ve never understood the fuss” will probably leave humbled, perhaps even craving to see the show. Perfect if “you know nothing”. 

The young, and the young at heart, can lose themselves in a number of interactive features. 

I have two young nephews and I can only imagine their delight at dressing up as Brienne of Tarth, measuring up against the Night King or seeing their ghostly visage in The Hall of Faces.

Equally as fascinating of course for two thirty-something-year-olds. 

Unravel the mystery of Dragonstone and House Targaryen before witnessing the majesty of The Red Keep and of course, the iconic Iron Throne. 

On the day of my tour, visitors were invited to enjoy some Dutch courage beforehand with a GOT inspired cocktail or of course, an “I drink and I know things”, non alcoholic beverage alongside a delicious menu in The Studio Cafe positioned at the centre of the tour. There’s also The Lobby Cafe – the perfect spot in which to ready yourself before the tour begins or ends with a tasty treat or caffeine fix.

Then there’s the obligatory gift shop offering a wide range of exclusive merchandise. The perfect place to grab a memento to forever remind yourself of a really great day out. Do you happen to have a rainbow coloured eraser lurking in a drawer somewhere? If you grew up in the 90s, you probably do from a school trip. The difference at the gift shop here, is that the stuff is really very nice. I nabbed some wooden coasters for my new house and a trendy Hodor t-shirt for myself, because why not!

On that note it’s also worth mentioning how friendly and knowledgeable the staff at the studio tour are. They’ll not only “hold the door” for you but are always on hand to help with invaluable insight. The opening video presentation was admittedly loud, wonderfully so by my reckoning, but a younger visitor was covering his ears. Thankfully a helpful chap was on hand with a pair of noise cancelling headphones quicker than a Lannister finishes a goblet of red wine. 

GOT was a global imagining. 

The best creative minds from all over the world gathered together to produce a piece of fiction quite unrivalled. And Northern Ireland is central to that story for most of the series was filmed here. 

The 110,000 square-foot Game of Thrones Studio Tour is therefore a magnificent ode to our starring role. 

Now let us all pay homage to this inspiring success story. 

For tickets and more information go online at