We wouldn’t want to visit Westeros and Essos, the fictional continents in Game of Thrones, even if we could (even weddings aren’t off limits for bloodshed). But for fans of the HBO show, its exotic setting can leap off the screen sans medieval maelstrom when you whisk off to these castle-themed hotels in the fantasy series’ filming locations.
By far the filming hub for Game of Thrones is the Emerald Isle. In County Down, many of the woodland fight scenes are played out, and the National Trust’s Castle Ward there stands in as Winterfell, the Stark family home. You can’t overnight in Ward, but you can at the monumental Ashford Castle in Connaught, County Mayo. It may be a ways from the main locations, but it fits the theme to a T, i.e. there’s a Dungeon Bar for beer-drinking and you can learn the art of falconry.
Doune Castle in Central Scotland was used in the pilot episode, and to simulate a similar experience, head west of there to mystical Loch Lomond’s Cameron House. The castle accommodations feel very Winterfell-ian with stone towers outside and dark, broody hues inside. Instead of swords, take up your clubs for golfing one of two courses, Wee Demon or the Carrick. After you’ve done battle with the ball, one of 17 spa treatment rooms await.
Pint-sized powerhouse Daenerys Targaryen built her army this season among the real Moroccan port of Essaouira. There, the Heure Bleue Palais, a traditional Moroccan riad, puts you right in the action (rather, where the action was). Though for a twist, the rooms boast African, British colonial, Oriental or Portuguese décor.
Some of the pilot episode of Game of Thrones was filmed in Ouarzazate, serving as Pentos, one of the Free Cities and the site of Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s nuptials. There, stay within the adobe walls of the Dar Ahlam hotel in a suite or villa, or opt for one of their two-person tents in the desert, just as the Dothraki newlyweds did.
If Marrakech is as far as you’re willing to go to get Game of Thrones-y, Selman Marrakech will give you that palace feeling, being grand inside and out. But the highlight is its own stable of Arabian horses, which you can hire out to ride to make seeing the sights feel a little more medieval.
Streets in Mdina, Malta were those of King’s Landing and parts of Essos in the first season, and there The Xara Palace, a Relais & Chateaux property, puts guests at a stunning vantage point above it all. On a hilltop, you’re amongst ancient fortifications in a 17-suite, 17th-century palace, fit for a you know what.
Replacing Malta in the second season, Dubrovnik is where the city walls of King’s Landing come to life. In the heart of the Old Town, The Pucic Palace is the place to put down temporary roots, as you explore the culture and architecture. While there, keeners should sign up for one of Viator’s three-hour Game of Thrones walking tours, where you “visit Lovrijenac Fortress to learn about the evil exploits of King Joffrey, follow in the footsteps of Ayra Stark and hear insider gossip galore about the popular series.”