The picturesque Dark Hedges tree tunnel, formed by the overhanging and intertwined branches of beech trees that line either side, was planted in the 18th century in an effort to spruce up the nearby Gracehill House, a Georgian mansion. Amateur and professional photographers have long been drawn to its eerie beauty, and Dark Hedges is now a popular pilgrimage site for fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones, having been featured in the show.
Many visitors see the Dark Hedges as part of Game of Thrones–themed tours, which typically depart from Dublin and Belfast, and include stops at other filming locations such as Larrybane (the site of King Renly’s camp near Storm’s End), Ballintoy Harbour (the setting for Theon's return to the Iron Islands), and Cushendun Caves (where Melisandre birthed her shadow baby). The Dark Hedges are also a regular photo stop on full-day Northern Ireland tours from Belfast and Dublin, which focus on the region’s star attractions, such as the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Giant’s Causeway and the nerve-testing Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Guided day tours from Belfast usually last eight to nine hours, while day tours from Dublin can last up to 14.
- Wear warm layers, as the Dark Hedges and other nearby attractions are outdoors.
- Game of Thrones fans can opt for tours devoted to the sites most closely associated with the popular TV series, including the Dark Hedges.
- Be careful when taking photographs—the road is still a functioning thoroughfare and vehicular traffic has right of way.
How to Get There
The Dark Hedges are located in County Antrim, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Belfast. The easiest way to get there is via a guided tour, but it’s also possible to drive to the site from Belfast in just over an hour. If driving, leave your car at the roadside parking area on Bregagh Road or at the nearby Hedges Estate Hotel and walk from there so as not to ruin other visitors’ photographs.
When to Get There
During busy summer months, it can be difficult to capture the Dark Hedges without another sightseer, car, or coach coming into frame. Try going in early morning or late afternoon when fewer people are around.
The Legend of the Gray Lady
Like many historic sites in Northern Ireland, the Dark Hedges are said to be haunted by a ghostly figure. The phantom, said to be a woman dressed in gray, is believed to stroll the avenue at twilight. Believers say she is searching for her burial site, located in an unmarked graveyard nearby.