Earlier this week, I sent our summer intern (and GOT fan) Laura Gilmore to The National Trust’s Castle Ward in County Down, where she was immersed into the fantasy world of the global phenomenon Game of Thrones ahead of the Winterfell Festival in September. Check out her story here:
Having gained global recognition as the filming location for Winterfell, House of Stark, in series one of the popular HBO programme, Castle Ward is now the location for Ireland’s only Game of Thrones inspired festival. This year, Winterfell Festival will be held at Castle Ward on Sunday 16 September 2018, where the historic estate, cared for by the National Trust, will be transformed into Winterfell, home of the Stark family for one day only.
I set off for the regal location from Belfast and was transported into a veritable fantasy land…. After being appropriately suited and booted in GOT attire, I had the pleasure of joining the Stark family at Audley’s Castle, on the beautiful shores of Strangford Lough, for a glorious banquet lunch. Following this, we took part in a sword fighting masterclass and tried our hand at archery. Each activity was taken by a team of extremely talented and well-trained actors, fully dressed in costume and playing the part to perfection! In-between each activity, the Stark family also explained the intricacies of the set and filming, actors, costumes, and the fantastic tourist pull GOT has created for Northern Ireland. It was immersive and experiential at its best and I LOVED it!
Last year’s event drew thousands of people to the shore of Strangford Lough and this year’s festival has even bigger appeal with a gripping event story line that sees the residents of Winterfell living under a cloud of fear as White Walkers approach the wall.
Through theatrical re-enactments, ticket holders will experience a Winterfell where tensions are high as tales of ancient peoples, once thought extinct, rattle the residents. Throughout the day actors will play the roles of central Game of Throne characters, recreating scenes from George R. R. Martin’s novels at various locations around the estate. Meet The Hound and learn how to wield a sword; see if you can solve Kimmick, Bard to Lord Stark’s riddles; watch Maester Luwin perform a medical demonstrations; hear King Robert regale tales of the Nights’ Watch and follow Jon Snow to Castle Black, avoiding White Walkers as you go.
Visitors can join the crowds and soak up the atmosphere at the King’s Tournament Games where skilled horse riders will perform enthralling film-set stunts and tricks fit for entertaining royalty. Full contact jousting, sword fighting and falconry will add to the atmosphere, creating an unforgettable event.
On the day you’ll experience the sights, sounds and smells of a medieval village and watch skilled blacksmiths, silversmiths, weavers and armourers at work. You will also have the chance to meet Armourer Boyd Rankin (Mikken in Game of Thrones) who will be showcasing a selection of the swords he forged for Game of Thrones.